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Ex-State Employee Sues Over E-Mail

October 9, 2001

Amber Taylor claims she went through every employee's worst nightmare: A manager's letter that detailed her problems on the job and disciplinary actions taken against her was mass e-mailed to hundreds of her co-workers.

After learning the entire staff at the Utah Tax Commission had somehow received the embarrassing e-mail, Taylor says she was so humiliated that she quit.

Now the Salt Lake County woman has filed a lawsuit in 3rd District Court against the two commission employees she says were responsible for the alleged mass electronic mailing. She is seeking at least $250,000 in damages for invasion of her privacy.

"We don't know whether this was done intentionally or accidentally, but obviously someone shouldn't have done it," said Taylor's attorney, Brian Barnard. "When your boss tells you this or that, you don't want everybody to know."

Barnard said the lawsuit, which names commission Human Resource Analyst Jan Hebert and Assistant Director of Taxpayer Services Stan Allen as defendants, is the first of its kind in Utah.

"I'm not aware of any invasion of privacy litigation at all dealing with e-mails," he said. "The concept of invasion of privacy is not new; it's just applying that concept to modern electronics."

A commission spokeswoman declined to comment on the pending litigation, but the state Division of Risk Management rejected Taylor's claim on July 12. The claim is a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit against the state.

The suit stems from a May 9 verbal confrontation between Taylor and one of her supervisors. The incident was related to Taylor's job performance, and "mutual unpleasantries were exchanged," according to the complaint.

Taylor was called into a different supervisor's office the next day and given a letter of intent to impose discipline, the suit said. When she also was told she needed to undergo counseling or be fired, she agreed to the counseling.

Shortly after the meeting, Hebert handed Taylor a card stating a counseling appointment had already been made for her, said the lawsuit.

On May 15, Taylor requested and was granted two weeks leave from work. Two days later, Hebert prepared a letter of reprimand at the direction of Allen, the suit said.

Hebert then e-mailed the letter, which contained personal information about Taylor, including other work-related incidents and the counseling requirement, to every commission employee, the lawsuit alleges.

Taylor learned about the alleged mailing from a co-worker.

The lawsuit contends Hebert either intentionally or recklessly e-mailed the letter to commission staff.

The complaint also contends Allen failed to supervise Hebert in the preparation and e-mailing of the letter.


BY ELIZABETH NEFF THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, Copyright © 2001, The Salt Lake Tribune


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