Andino v. The Jewish Home for the Elderly of Fairfield County Inc.
If the employer's allegations are published, a worker wrongly accused of theft can possess a cause of action for defamation. In 1994, the defendant hired the plaintiff, Juana Andino, as a certified nurse's assistant. Andino continued to study and became a registered nurse. Andino alleged that she suffered from retaliation, after another worker accused the defendant employer of discrimination, and Andino was called to testify. In 2009, Andino filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. Andino allegedly suffered retaliation, after the CHRO complaint settled. Allegedly, Andino was accused of theft and discharged, when she asked her supervisor why a pharmaceutical cream was not used as directed and pulled the tube from her pocket. Andino allegedly was accused of stealing the pharmaceutical cream. Andino denied that she stole a patient's medicine and sued, alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendant employer moved to strike Andino's defamation count, because she failed to name a specific person to whom the allegedly defamatory statement was made. Records established that a manager forwarded the allegedly defamatory statement about the plaintiff's discharge for alleged theft to two individuals. Andino's complaint adequately alleged defamation, and the court denied the defendant employer's motion to strike. Andino's complaint adequately alleged extreme and outrageous conduct, to state a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress. "Termination of employment based on a false allegation of theft by a nurse of patient medication," wrote the court, "is extreme in degree, outrageous in character and intolerable in a civilized community." Andino's complaint, which alleged she was discharged because she reported that a pharmaceutical cream was not administered properly, did not adequately allege a violation of public policy, as expressed in constitutions, statutes or court decisions. The court granted the defendant's motion to strike Andino's wrongful-discharge count. "In the absence of an explicit statutory mandate, constitutional provision, or judicial determination that prevented the termination," wrote the court, "the delivery of proper patient care was not a judicially recognized public policy."