Case Study: Belanger V. Swift Transportation, Inc.

893 Words2 Pages

Belanger v. Swift Transportation, Inc. is a case concerned with the qualified privilege of employers. In this case Belanger, a former employee of Swift Transportation, sued the company for libel in regard to posting the reason for his termination on a government data website accessible to other potential employers. Swift has a policy of automatic termination if a driver is in an accident, unless it can be proved that it was unpreventable. When Belanger rear ended another vehicle while driving for Swift the company determined the accident was preventable, while Belanger maintained it was not. Upon his termination Swift posted on a database website for promoting highway safety that he was fired because he “did not meet the company’s safety standards,”
Belanger claimed that qualified privilege did not apply to Swift in this case as the information was not given directly to another employer, but published online in a from where people other than the particular perspective employers he was interviewing with could access it (Arterton, 2008). The argument was made that a more accurate description of the reason for termination would occur if Swift was in direct contact with the other employers rather than simply having the vague description which cast Belanger in bad light. The website in question, known as DACS, is regularly used for trucking agencies during the hiring process and upon accepting a job at Swift, Belanger agreed to allow the company to provide the website with his employment history information, and not only are their options to contact employers about employee records, but employees have the ability to add comments to these records. (Arterton, 2008). Considering that Swift’s statement of why Belanger was fired was true and that Swift had permission from him to publish such information, along with Belanger’s opportunity to comment on the record in question and the ready ability of potential employers to contact Swift for more information make Belanger’s case against Swift’s qualified privilege difficult to
Swift, while truthful, through the vagueness of their comment on Belanger’s termination harmed his chances of employment and could have provided a clearer statement as to the specific reason he was fired. By giving the circumstances of the accident Swift could allow employers the ability to determine if the accident was preventable. A different system of determining the fault of an accident could also be a wise decision on Swift’s part, rather than assuming guilt unless proven otherwise. While Swift does appear to be at some level of fault, the fact that they ask employee permission to post on the website and do so to increase highway safety shows that they do have ethical standards. Yet, Belanger had alternatives to suing, as he could have obtained a copy of Swift’s record of the incident to allow employers to look at the situation for

Open Document