Young, dumb and fired/layedoff I'm not even sure they know

I've started talks with another lawyer just as advice (she's a friend; finding someone to handle my case). However I figured i'd give this a shot and maybe someone would be interested. I worked for Fuel North America (www.fuelna.com) an interactive advertising agency. It's parent company is MVBMS (www.mvbms.com) and I was the system administrator for Fuel North America. Recently because of the status of the market and a supposed merger with another company who will rename nameless there have been layoffs. This is to be expected and I don't have a problem being layed off as I'm only 22 and go to school; it's not like I have kids or anything. Earlier this morning I was called into a meeting infront of 3 people at the parent company whom I've never met. I'd assume they were security I will keep names out of this for now. They began to tell me how I pulled a video cable for the security camera out of the server room on sunday (I was in the room with an unauthorized party, that was never explained that "I" was the only one allowed in the room and that I couldn't have other parties authorized or not with me). The video they showed off me going into the room with unauthorized parties show exactly what took place except that the video stops when we go behind the cages, there are no black-outs, no fuzzy pictures no nothing. The video showed to me is an AVI file, and basically it looks like they just stopped it there. Also, to get into the server room you need to swipe a card and use a key and to get out you need to swipe a card. It's not as if I don't know I'm being watched. I'm the system administrator I spent alot of time in that room, thats my job as a system administrator, thats what I was hired to do. As for having an unauthorized party in the room it was never explained to me that it was grounds for dissimal. The unauthorized party happens to be a friend of mine we were in the area, showed him around and left promptly there after to go eat.

So now I'm suspended with pay "pending investigation" based on the investigation I would like to conduct my own I would also like to sue them for libel should this go on my record. As a system administrator not being provided trust for the machines I administrate will damage me in the future. They also have my personal property, my laptop and other things, I would like to know what amount of time is reasonable for them to give me my personal property back? Also I'm gonna need a lawyer but I'm 22 and this will definitely damage me in the future but I'm not rich. They are now telling employees, friends not to talk about anything. I feel this is a cover up for something bigger and I'm not sure; I don't know if it's racially motivated or they just wanted to get rid of me. I'm willing to give all my winnings to a good lawyer so long as I get my rep back.

Thanks for listening and thanks for having a website like this.

1 answer  |  asked Mar 20, 2002 7:25 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
It's not defamation yet

Actually, I can understand your employer's reaction to your having a friend just tag along with you in a sensitive area. You may have meant nothing by it, but I think any employer with a big computer operation like the one your employer has would have reacted the same way.

I think you'd be better off admitting to your employer that you didn't realize you were doing anything wrong, but now you understand the basis of their concern.

At this point, you have no defamation claim, for a couple of reasons. One, truth is an absolute defense. The fact of the matter is that you did breach security, maybe unknowing, maybe with no intent to cause harm, but you nonetheless breached security. Second, even if we assume that employees are saying things about this incident which can be considered defamatory, if the communications all take place inside the employer, the communications are probably at least qualified privileged. You might be able to overcome the privilege, but that would be very difficult to do.

Note that simply because a statement about you may be negative, that does not make it defamatory. Defamation is basically a seeming statement of fact which is false and injurious. An opinion, even a strongly negative one, is not defamation.

If you are fired and find yourself having a very difficult time finding a new job, it may be because of a negative reference from your former employer. There are services that you can find on the web which will check those references for you. If the negative reference rises to the level of defamation, then you might be able to sue.

But note that defamation suits are hard to win. To begin with, you have to know exactly what was said. That's why its important to have the references checked.

Note that there is no record out there on you. Your employer may have a personnel file on you. But that is rarely, if ever, passed on to anyone else. The likelihood is that this mistake will not haunt you for very long.

As for getting your personal property back, if worse comes to worse, you can get that back by starting a replevin action in court.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Mar 21, 2002 09:55 AM [EST]

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