Legal Hotline: Release of Fired Employee Name

  • Feb 08, 2018

Q: A borough fired an employee at a public meeting without disclosing the name. The council voted using the employee number only and cited concerns about employee privacy to support its position. Isn’t the agency required to release the names of the employees who are the subject of official action and termination?

A: Yes. The public comment provision and minutes requirements of the Sunshine Act require disclosure and recording of the names, and the Right to Know Law makes the employees’ names, salaries, and length of service a public record as well as the agency’s final decision regarding termination and demotion.

Section 710.1 of the Sunshine Act requires agencies to provide a reasonable opportunity for meaningful public comment at each public meeting, and prior to all official action.

Without the names of employees being terminated, the public has no opportunity to give meaningful comment prior to the vote, and the plain terms of the Sunshine Act’s public comment provision are ignored. Furthermore, section 706 of the Sunshine Act requires meeting minutes to contain the substance of all official actions. If the meeting minutes do not contain the names of the employees and the action taken by the board, they do not provide an accurate record of the meeting, raising Sunshine Act compliance issues.

Finally, section 708(b)(6)(ii) of the Right to Know Law makes certain employee information public, including name, salary, and length of service. These records would include the employees’ names, as well as beginning and ending dates of their employment. Further, section 708(b)(7)(viii) makes public the agency’s final decisions regarding demotion or discharge.  The law does not require agencies to release the reasons for their decision, but the fact that a public employee was fired or demoted is a public record. 

As always, this is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Please contact your newspaper’s private attorney or the Legal Hotline at (717) 703-3080 with questions.

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