Employee fired for allegedly selling prescription drugs sues employer for defamation

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jan. 5, 2010, 1:51pm

MARSHALL � While working as a floor hand on an oil rig in Harrison County, Chris Gleaves closed a door on his hand and fractured two fingers.

A few days later, he was terminated on allegations he was illegally selling or distributing his pain medication. When Gleaves attempted to gain unemployment benefits, he claims he was denied and told it was because he was fired for being on PCP.

Alleging defamation and defamation per se, Gleaves filed suit against Unit Texas Drilling LLC, Unit Drilling Co. and Unit Corp. on Dec. 16 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

According to the complaint, Gleaves made a claim for unemployment benefits through the Texas Workforce Commission on Jan. 27, 2009, but was denied. He alleges that employees of Unit Texas Drilling notified TWC that he was terminated for "being on PCP."

Gleaves states that he had taken a drug test and passed, and claims he did not sell or distribute his pain medication to anyone.

The plaintiff argues that the defendants published false and defamatory statements without regard to the truth and that those statements injured his reputation and occupation. In addition, Gleaves claims the false statements exposed him to "public hatred, contempt or ridicule or financial injury" and impeached his "honesty, integrity, virtue or reputation."

Gleaves states that the nature of this defamation will continue as he attempts to gain new employment and is required to repeatedly publish and adddress these false statements.

The plaintiff believes that the defendants "deliberately, intentionally and maliciously" conspired to defame and injure him and is seeking punitive damages from the defendants.

"Such conduct is so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be considered atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society," Gleaves argues.

He is seeking damages for pecuniary injury, embarrassment, humiliation, mental pain and anguish, emotional distress and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Jury trial is requested.

Dallas attorney Robert Chaiken of the law firm Chaiken and Chaiken PC is representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge T. John Ward will preside over the litigation.

Case No 2:09cv00386

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