Blog: Firm can’t be sued for using info from offender registry
A California employment-screening company had a right to quote information from the state’s sex-offender Web site and cannot face liability for furnishing such information to a prospective employer. A California appeals court decided March 23 that a trial court had properly ruled that the state’s anti-SLAPP law could be used to dismiss a lawsuit brought by an individual mentioned on the sex-offender Web site.
William Mendoza sued ADP Screening and Selection Services Inc. in California state court under a provision of the state’s sex-offender law that prohibits the use of information on the sex-offender site for employment purposes. Mendoza contended that ADP violated this law by telling a prospective employer about information from the site.
All states have what are called Megan’s Laws, named after 13-year-old Megan Kanka, who was killed by a previously convicted sex offender who lived near her home. These laws require states to list the whereabouts of sex offenders, often through online sex-offender registries.
ADP argued that it had a constitutional right under the First Amendment to republish such information and that republishing does not constitute “use” of the site’s information within the meaning of the law.
ADP filed an action under California’s anti-SLAPP law, which is designed to weed out frivolous lawsuits that chill the exercise of protected speech.
The California appeals court affirmed the trial court decision in its ruling in Mendoza v. ADP Screening and Selection Services.
When a motion is filed under the anti-SLAPP law, a court’s first task is to determine whether a party has engaged in protected activity. The appeals court noted that “providing employment-screening reports is a constitutionally founded, protected activity within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute.”
The court then found that ADP should prevail because the statute Mendoza sued under was not designed to punish those who simply republish information from the Web site. Rather, according to the court, the prohibition was designed to prevent employers from using the information. The appeals court concluded that Mendoza’s “cause of action, if any, lies against his prospective employer,” not ADP.