Alaska Structure, Inc. v. Hedlund, No. 90284-4 (view WELA’s memo)

In Hedlund, the Defendant (employee) had previously worked as a Sales Coordinator for the Plaintiff, supplying tents to the United States military.? The employee made several postings regarding Plaintiff on an Internet job site forum, ? is a web site designed to be a resource for job seekers, and includes job postings, salary averages, and a forum where employees and applicants can discuss a company’s work environment.? The employee posted comments about the Plaintiff which were unfavorable, and the former employer focused on one particular posting which addressed a subject that was allegedly covered by a confidentiality agreement that the employee had previously signed.? The Plaintiff brought suit against former employee for having allegedly violated the prior confidentiality agreement.

The employee claimed that the posting was made on a public forum and moved to strike the claim under the state anti-SLAPP statute, RCW 4.24.525.? The trial court, Judge Yu (now Justice Yu), found that the statute applied, dismissed the claim, and awarded the former employee reasonable attorney fees and costs and a statutory required penalty in the amount of $10,000.? The Plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the former employee’s conduct did not involve a matter of public concern, was not free speech, and was therefore not protected activity under the statute.? “[T]he legislature did not grant a party immunity from liability for the consequences of speech that is otherwise unlawful or unprotected.”? The Court declined to extend California case law protecting consumers of products “to someone who signed a confidentiality agreement potentially limiting his right to speak on certain issues.”? “The issue here is a simple contractual issue – whether or not Hedlund violated a contract he signed with his former employer.”? The employee petitioned for review by the Supreme Court.

WELA filed an amicus curiae memorandum in support of review.? WELA first reiterated its position that the anti-SLAPP statute was unconstitutional, but recognized that those issues had not been raised and would not be reached in this case.? Assuming the statute’s constitutionality, WELA argued that the internet posting was analogous to consumer protection reviews and did present an issue of public concern.? WELA also argued that the statute (unlike the California statute) applies to any claim “however characterized,” and that a judicially created exception for confidentiality provisions is contrary to the clear language of the statute.

WELA’s memo was drafted by Jeffery Needle and Jesse Wing.? The Supreme Court has deferred consideration of the Petition for Review pending its decision in Dillon v. Seattle Deposition Reporters, which challenges the constitutionality of the anti-SLAPP statute.