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Defamation suit filed by psychiatrist over publicized comments

Employees in San Diego certainly have a right to protect their interests when they believe that their employers and co-workers are engaging in illegal, unethical or disrespectful business and workplace practices. However, employees must be sure they handle their workplace complaints appropriately in order to avoid legal trouble or additional obstacles for mishandling their complaints.

The same is also true for employers in California and throughout the country, though. When employers fail to follow proper protocols and violate employees' privacy rights while conducting investigations of employees or making public comments regarding incidents involving employees, employees may be able to take legal action by filing a defamation lawsuit against their employers or former employers.

Recently, a psychiatrist filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Human Services and two other defendants for violating his rights as an employee by illegally disclosing information about an investigation the employee had been involved in. The psychiatrist claims that the Department of Human Services disclosed information that should have remained private while the employee was being investigated for mishandling a violent patient. This information defamed the employee's reputation, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, the psychiatrist had worked at a state hospital that provides treatment to mentally ill and dangerous patients. On Nov. 15, 2011, one of the psychiatrist's patients had threatened to kill workers at the facility. The patient was restrained and employees locked the patient in his room in order to prevent the patient from harming workers. However, the psychiatrist was later fired for allegedly handling the situation in an inappropriate manner.

The employee's firing was investigated by the state, and while the investigation was going on, the state and hospital officials made public comments about the incident that should not have been disclosed due to data privacy laws. These comments harmed the psychiatrist's reputation, the man's lawsuit claims. After the investigation of the incident and a subsequent investigation were completed, it was discovered that the hospital's policies were lacking and that the psychiatrist was not responsible for how the patient was treated after the violent outburst.

By filing the defamation lawsuit, the psychiatrist may be able to obtain compensation for damages resulting from his employer's wrongdoings, and he may also be able to restore his reputation. Fortunately, the psychiatrist was able to find another job after he was fired.

Source: MPR News, "Psychiatrist files defamation suit over criticism of incident at Minnesota Security Hospital," Madeleine Baran, March 7, 2013

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