Deaile v. General Telephone Co. of California

In Deaile v. General Telephone Co. of California (1974) 40 Cal. App. 3d 841, plaintiff's superiors disseminated to supervisors and then to hourly employees the reasons for plaintiff's forced retirement which had to do with her use of sick leave on false pretenses which the employer likened to theft. The court concluded that the joint interest privilege applied because, "the undisputed evidence shows that all recipients of the allegedly libelous communications were in the employ of defendant and worked at the same facility which plaintiff had managed, or were plaintiff's superiors. Furthermore, the factors surrounding plaintiffs forced retirement were only disseminated in an effort to preserve employee morale and job efficiency. Under these circumstances the recipients, as well as defendant, were 'interested' persons within the meaning of former section 47, subdivision 3, of the Civil Code." (40 Cal. App. 3d at p. 846.) The court was careful to point out that "the privilege . . . may be lost if the defendant abuses the privilege by excessive publication or the inclusion of immaterial matters which have no bearing upon the interest sought to be protected . . . ." (Id. at p. 847.)