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John
John, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 4523
Experience:  Exclusively practice labor and employment law.
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Is this language (taken from the employee manual of a small

Customer Question

Is this language (taken from the employee manual of a small nonprofit organization) legal and enforceable?
"It is the policy of Freedom Project that employees may not disclose confidential information belonging to, or obtained through their affiliation with Freedom Project other than to persons who have legitimate need for such information and to whom Freedom Project has authorized disclosure of which signed consent would be normative. Employees shall use confidential information solely for the purpose of performing services as an employee of Freedom Project. Employees must exercise good judgment at all times to avoid unauthorized or improper disclosure of confidential information. Conversations in public places such as restaurants and elevators should be limited to matters that do not pertain to information of a sensitive or confidential nature."
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  John replied 1 year ago.

The language in the policy is legal and enforceable assuming it is consistently and equally applied to all employees. A company, non-profit or not, has the right to protect its business. Where the matter becomes less clear is what is considered "confidential" - in other words is it truly something that company has a right to expect be kept private or is it otherwise common knowledge and not confidential at all. Further, if such a policy is not consistently and equally applied to all employees, then the inference arises that it is used to discriminate against certain employees over others.

To directly answer your question - no it is not per se illegal, but the facts and circumstances behind its application may render its usage illegal.

Expert:  John replied 1 year ago.

I believe this answers your question. However, if you need clarification or have follow-up questions regarding this matter, I will be happy to continue our conversation – simply reply to this answer. If you are otherwise satisfied with my response, please leave a positive rating as it is the only way I am able to get credit for my answers. Thank you, ***** ***** wish you all the best with this matter.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the prompt reply. I thought. it might be helpful to provide additional background information. I was employed full-time by Freedom Project, a 501c3 22 months at an annual salary of $40,000 per year. I was informed by the Executive Director that I had violated the Confidentiality policy of the organization. The executive director explained to me that she heard I had talked with Zack, a part-time staff member. During that conversation she claims that I "inferred" Zack wasn't hired for a full-time position because the person who was hired, was a friend of another employee. The executive director further explained that this statement was very hurtful to Zack. I explained to the executive director what I actually told Zack -- that he shouldn't take the rejection personally, because I believed the decision was based on the fact that the person who was hired had more education that Zack and that the executive director (who made the final hiring decision) has high regard for higher education. I also mentioned to Zack that the newly hired full-time employee and "his friend" both graduated from the same Masters of Social Work program at the University of Washington; this information is publicly posted on each of their LinkedIn profiles. Although I was on the initial interviewing team, I was not told that either of these pieces of information were confidential. The executive director also told me that talking to Zack about the hiring process was a violation of our confidentiality policy and a a serious breach of ethics, which was the basis for my termination with just 2 weeks' notice.
Expert:  John replied 1 year ago.

I see. Clearly that wasn't a breach of confidentiality - there is nothing confidential about any of this. So the question then arises, was the director's decision illegal or in violation of your contract of employment despite it not being because of a breach of confidentiality. If this employer is at will (meaning there is no contract or policy that states the employer must have a just cause for termination), the director really wouldn't need any reason to terminate you - but in reality they need a legitimate business reason because people aren't generally fired for no reason. If you were fired for no reason or a reason that seems contrived like this, then an inference may arise that you were discriminated against illegally.

If the employer is a "just cause" employer, then clearly they broke that contract in your termination because the termination was not accurate or part of their stated policies.

Expert:  John replied 1 year ago.

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