Most charges - except the crucial ones - have been dismissed in a 1989 federal suit by a woman who claims she was fired by Northwest Pipeline Corp. because of discrimination.
U.S. District Judge David K. Winder refused to dismiss charges by Dorothy D.S. Yu that she was fired because of illegal discrimination by the company. But after a hearing on motions by the attorneys, he did dismiss her allegations of breach of employment contract, breach of duty to fair dealings, defamation and interference with contractual relations.Born in China, Yu, 51, was fired by Northwest Pipeline on May 16, 1988, after working for the company for more than nine years. At the time of her dismissal, she was the office administrator.
On May 6, 1988, the company's corporate librarian discovered a document on or in Yu's desk. The document, from the personnel department, listed the degrees, major fields of study and universities attended by company employees.
Yu's duties "did not involve access to any documents generated by the personnel department," Winder wrote.
Damaging the integrity of or compromising the confidentiality of corporate information could result in dismissal, according to a Northwest Pipeline standards handbook that was posted on the bulletin board.
A company official began an investigation on May 11, 1988. "During the investigation, admitted the personnel document was in her possession and that she had obtained the document from . . . an employee in the records department," Winder wrote.
Yu told company investigators she had placed the document in her desk drawer because it contained an inaccuracy about her education, which she wanted corrected. The records department employee admitted he gave the document to her. Both were fired, with the cited cause being that they had violated the company rule on confidentiality of corporate records.
Yu sued, contending the company discriminated against her.
In a hearing, her side "presented evidence that a few years prior to plaintiff's termination, a younger, white, native-born male who violated company confidentiality policies was not terminated," the judge wrote. "Plaintiff also has presented evidence that she was equally or better qualified than the persons selected for the other positions for which she applied and was rejected."
In the court's opinion, that was enough to raise a factual question about whether Northwest's reasons for failing to promote her, and for discharging her, were a pretext or based on legitimate reasons. So the question of discrimination remains to be settled in the case, while all other claims were dismissed.
On her allegations of defamation, Winder wrote that the charge stemmed from Northwest's telling Utah Job Services and various Northwest employees she was fired for violating the confidentiality of company records.
"It is undisputed that any allegedly defamatory statements made by (two company employees) were communicated pursuant to the company investigation of the circumstances surrounding plaintiff's possession of the personnel document," Winder ruled. "The recipients of the information, selected Northwest employees and Job Service, had a corresponding interest in hearing the information."