(CN) – San Bernardino County breached a confidentiality agreement not to reveal that an employee was resigning due to her extramarital affair with a union president, a California appeals court ruled.
Elizabeth Sanchez was considered a “rising superstar” among county employees. She negotiated a contract with the sheriff’s deputies’ union.
Later, she began a relationship with the president of the union, James Erwin. Both were married to other people at the time.
Sanchez claimed the relationship was not a conflict of interest, since there were no more labor negotiations between the two.
However, her supervisor insisted that she resign. She agreed, provided that both sides sign a confidentiality agreement that neither would disclose the reasons for her departure.
Despite the agreement, word leaked out almost immediately. Supervisor Dennis Hansberger and other county representatives were quoted in newspaper articles as saying that Sanchez resigned due to a conflict of interest over an improper relationship with Erwin.
Sanchez sued the county for breach of contract, fraud, slander, invasion of privacy, and other claims. The trial court sided with the county on all claims, but the Riverside-based 4th District Court of Appeal concluded that the county had breached the contract.
“In the absence of a statute that required the county to make the disclosures that it did, we cannot say that the County’s agreement not to make such disclosures violated public policy,” Justice Richli wrote.