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Allen M., Esq.
Allen M., Esq., Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 19222
Experience:  Employment/Labor Law Litigation
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I'm a minister. My wife had an emotional affair online. When

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I'm a minister. My wife had an emotional affair online. When she ended the relationship her online friend threatened to inform church leaders of her actions. He demanded 1000.00 for her silence. We both went to church leader for protection and resolution. We both were put in front of a private investigator on separate occasions to be deposed about anything she could have shared to this man that could be damaging. We both promised complete confidentiality and church leader to insure confidentiality was never in room either time during our deposition (btw we were blindsided w deposition. Never asked for permission to depose). At high level of trauma we both shared very private information. Again being assured by investigator information would be kept at high level of confidentiality. Unfortunately confidently was not kept. Church least we went to for protection brought us both back and let us know he commended us for being truthful. I questioned confidentiality agreement which we felt was breeched. Church leader reassured confidentiality going forward. We voluntarily stepped down.
Since then have learned firsthand church leader voluntarily shared our information without our knowledge or permission to new pastor. The new pastor has referenced he knows and wish he did not. Unfortunately he has used this information to quietly manipulate and now pushing us out. If new pastor shares (reason to believe he has but definitely know firsthand he spins truth in my presence w board) the information could damaged my reputation with regard to future ministry positions after 30 yrs (which I'm currently searching since resignation) and more importantly could be final straw in my marriage (21 yrs) which is more concerning. Not willing to take action at this moment but need wise counsel for protection. Thank you in advance. Very stressed at moment.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Allen M., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for trusting your question to JA today. I am a licensed attorney with over a decade of law practice and over 20 years of experience in the legal field. I’m happy to be of assistance.

You have a few legal problems here that would make this very difficult to resolve. First, a verbal promise of confidentiality is nearly impossible to enforce. There is no automatic confidentiality attached to those things we say at work, even when part of an investigation. While I understand that it is too late now, it would have been better to have something in writing. Then you'd be able to sue for breach of that agreement. Here though, you don't have an agreement. You have a verbal promise, which can be contractual, but which only you and the other party know the terms...and if your statement to a jury isn't more convincing, you'd lose that argument (as you bear the burden of proving there was an agreement and they breached it).

And you have to be able to prove that to have anything here, because no other law would make this situation illegal in any way. You don't have to be forewarned of a deposition. You can simply refuse to speak during it if you don't want to do it. They don't have to give you any particular notice it is coming. Comments about what you said and what happened are not defamation of character, because for there to be defamation the statements have to be false. A true statement can never be defamation, so truthfully repeating your statements, no matter how damaging, is not illegal.

You need to try and memorialize the confidentiality agreement in writing in some way. I would send them a communication, through a letter or email, stating what you were told were the terms of confidentiality and that you feel they are not following those terms. That gets what you believed in writing. If they respond, it is very possible that they'll respond in a way that adopts some, if not all, of the terms you state. THEN you have a written set of terms with some form of agreement from them that those are the accurate terms. That would make any sort of breach of confidentiality claim very strong.

If you have any further questions, please let me know. I invite follow up questions, so use REPLY for those. If you have no further questions then good luck going forward and please do not forget to rate my service with a top-three rating so that I receive credit for working with you today. Also, feel free to request me in the future, if you have questions concerning a different matter.

Expert:  Allen M., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hello, I wanted to check in and make sure that there was not any additional information that you required after the response I previously provided to you. If you need further assistance, please use REPLY and ask me for any additional information you may need. If not, take care and have a great day.