A Facebook post by the daughter of a Florida educator cost the father $80,000 out of a larger settlement of an employment discrimination suit against a private school.
“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver,” said the Facebook post by the unidentified college-age daughter of Patrick Snay. “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
Snay had sued the Miami-based Gulliver Schools Inc. for age bias and retaliation under Florida law when his contract was not renewed as a headmaster. In 2011, Snay and the non-profit school group reached a confidential settlement providing Snay with $150,000 in back pay and attorney’s fees. The agreement included a strict confidentiality provision, providing that if Snay or his wife violated the provision, an $80,000 portion of the settlement would be “disgorged.”
Snay later explained in a deposition that after signing the settlement, he felt a need to tell his daughter about it, because she had attended the private school and was retaliated against because of the lawsuit.
“So we knew what the restrictions were, yet we needed to tell her something,” Snay said in a court proceeding.
That turned out to be a mistake, though, when Snay’s daughter posted her Facebook message. (According to court papers, Snay never said the settlement meant he won his case, and his daughter didn’t actually go to Europe the next summer.)
Gulliver Schools soon notified Snay that he had breached the confidentiality agreement by telling his daughter, and that it would not pay $80,000 of the settlement. One concern of the school was that many of the daughter’s 1,200 Facebook friends were associated with Gulliver and thus learned of the settlement.
A state trial court held that the disclosure and the Facebook post did not violate the confidentiality provision.
But in a Feb. 26 decision in Gulliver Schools Inc. v. Snay, a three-judge panel of the 3rd District Florida Court of Appeal ruled for the private school.
“Before the ink was dry on the agreement, and notwithstanding the clear language of Section 13 mandating confidentiality, Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do,” the state appellate court said. “His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent, advertising to the Gulliver community that Snay had been successful in his age discrimination and retaliation case against the school.”
[Hat Tip to The Wall Street Journal Law Blog.]
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.