A US man sacked after 16 years working for the same energy company is suing the firm after it dismissed him for making anonymous comments on an internet messageboard.
He is taking action against Allegheny Energy for misuse of legal process because he claims they filed a "John Doe" suit only in order to discover his identity, not to support further legal action. Clifton G Swiger of West Virginia is taking the action with the support of lobby group Public Citizen.
In November 2003 the energy firm filed a subpoena against Yahoo! to discover the identity of a poster called "ayeyawn" on a messageboard which was highly critical of Allegheny management. Ayeyawn, or Swiger, accused Allegheny management of "turn(ing a) respectable Blue Chip into a POS (piece of sh*t) he criticised the company's racial sensitivity programme saying: "We were force fed 'love thy n*gger' with [Allegheny Energy's] DIVERSITY program. Yet another brainstorm that was going to bring on tremendous growth, high dividends, and astronomical profits!"
Clifton Swiger worked for Allegheny Energy but posted the comments in his own time from his home computer. Allegheny Energy claimed the action was justified because he could have been a high-ranking employee even though he described himself as a "non-exempt" or hourly paid worker.
In November 2003 Yahoo revealed that Swiger was the person behind ayeyawn. In early December 2003 Swiger was told that because the ayeyawn account was registered by his wife the company believed he had made the posts and his use of a racially-offensive term breached company guidelines so he was indefinitely suspended without pay.
Allegheny Energy faces action for abuse of process, wrongful use of civil proceedings, invasion of privacy and wrongful discharge.