Male CNA who wears women's clothing can pursue charges that nursing home defamed him

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A Texas certified nursing assistant can continue to pursue charges that his former nursing home employer has made false, defamatory statements about him in the job referral process, a federal court recently ruled.

The male CNA, Tony Rivers, “routinely wears a female wig, makeup, jewelry and women's clothes,” according to court documents. He alleges that he was harassed while working for Johnson Custodial Home Inc. and Legacy Care Centers Inc., doing business as Maggie Johnson Nursing Center in Austin. Ultimately, he was fired based on trumped-up charges of resident abuse, Rivers claims. He has not been hired subsequently because the defendants are giving potential employers defamatory information about him, the lawsuit contends.

The defendants argued that their statements should be protected under a Texas anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law. The law is intended to protect people's ability to speak out on matters of “public concern” without facing burdensome and expensive litigation meant mainly to silence complaints or other forms of speech.

The communications between the defendants and Rivers' potential employers were private and therefore not protected by the anti-SLAPP law, District Judge Sam Sparks ruled.

Even if the communications were covered by the statute, the defendants did not prove that they were about matters of public concern, he added. Although Texas law does say that employer disclosures about workers may benefit “the public welfare,” this does not mean all employer statements rise to the level of “matters of public concern,” Sparks wrote.

A spokesman at Maggie Johnson told McKnight's he could not comment on the case at this time.