Woman wins lawsuit over JPAS report

#1

A New Jersey software engineer has won a lawsuit filed against her former employer for filing a false report in JPAS which cause her to lose her security clearance

CAMDEN – An Evesham woman who sued her former employer with a handwritten complaint four years ago has won a $3.5 million verdict.

Anna Baran claimed a Moorestown defense contractor, ASRC Federal Mission Solutions, made a “false and defamatory” statement about her to a federal agency, causing the former software engineer to lose her security clearance, court records say.

According to the details, the company placed a report into JPAS which was later proven to be incorrect. However by the time the report was found to be false, the woman had lost her clearance.

Woman wins $3.5M verdict against former employer

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#2

Interesting . . . I have a lot of connections to that facility . . .

#3

This will probably be overturned on appeal. Just about every federal circuit court of appeals follows Becker vs. Philco where the 4th Circuit held that a contractor has an absolute immunity against defamation of an employee because of reports made to the Government as required by the NISPOM.

#4

However . . . If the report was knowingly FALSE, it wasn’t required by the NISPOM . . .

#5

@willam-henderson let’s say the report was not knowingly false when they entered the info into JPAS or wherever… but if they later found that the allegations were unsubstantiated, would they have an obligation to enter that information as well?

#6

As I understand it ASRC Mission Solutions Engineering (MSE) employee, Rose Wells told MSE FSO Fran McKenna that MSE employee Anna Baran (plaintiff) allegedly made statements to Wells that Baran intended to go get a rifle and return to MSE and shoot 3 employees. McKenna reported the matter as an Incident Report via JPAS and notified MSE HR. MSE HR interviewed a few people to try to determine what happened. HR was satisfied that terminating Baran was the correct action.

The NISPOM requires that “Contractors shall report adverse information coming to their attention concerning any of their cleared employees. Reports based on rumor or innuendo should not be made.”

Notwithstanding the “rumor or innuendo” instruction contained within the NISPOM, the Becker Court nonetheless recognized a contractor’s lack of discretion in reporting actual as opposed to merely “suspected” adverse conduct, and that “the obligation [to report adverse information] embraces both true and false accusations, both substantial and insubstantial suggestions, perhaps even encompassing rumors.”

In the Baran case the allegation was neither rumor nor innuendo. An allegation is not a rumor if the source of the allegation is known. In this case an employee, Wells, made the allegation directly to the MSE FSO. The NISPOM does not require the FSO to investigate the accuracy of the allegation. That’s the responsibility of the Government. Unless it could be proven that McKenna knew the allegation to be false, McKenna had no choice but to report the allegation via JPAS. IMHO, if Wells was a KMP at MSE, then MSE might be liable. Otherwise, Wells is liable, but not MSE.

Normally if new information surfaces, an FSO is supposed to submit via JPAS, but that become a bit unclear after the individual has been separated from the company in JPAS.

#7

If a report is required and the reporting knew, and was advised, the report had false information and didnt correct it, isnt that really bad regardless of the affect on a individual. Like negligence in reporting or something like that?

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#8

It boggles my mind how anyone–much less a legal professional–can look at a case like this and conclude the employer didn’t do anything wrong.

#9

pawngobbler,

I didn’t say that MSE did nothing wrong. I don’t know about all aspects of the case. I was commenting on that portion of the lawsuit regarding defamation premised on the JPAS Incident Report. Unless the MSE FSO knew at the time that Wells’ allegation was false, the FSO was required by the NISPOM to submit an Incident Report via JPAS and as a matter of law under those circumstances has absolute immunity to a claim of defamation.