Mignon Hofmann, a former information security officer at San Francisco State, filed a lawsuit claiming that she was fired by the university in an attempt to sweep a 2014 hack involving significant exposure of student records “under the rug.” The student records that were involved in the breach included both financial records and password reset functions. Hoffman claimed that while there had been minor cases during her time at the university, the alleged 2014 hack was the most severe case she had ever seen.
The suit was filed in January in San Francisco Superior Court. Hofmann accused San Francisco State and the Board of Trustees of California State University of both wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation. According to court documents, Hofmann is seeking over $1 million in lost pension, lost earnings (past and future) and emotional distress.
While the University did confirm that there was a “security incident” and that “information that was publicly available was potentially accessed,” they denied that there was a breach of personal data claiming that as such, students were not notified and there is no cause for concern. Both the university and the Board of Trustees of CSU have issued a general denial of all allegations connected to the case.
Experts in the field acknowledged that situations in which IT professionals are fired to avoid breach disclosure as required by California state law do exist, but that it’s very difficult to determine or estimate how common the occurrence is because most are settled out of court in order to avoid the public discussion and entering of information on the public record.
In order to determine the validity of the case, the court will need to determine the extent of the breach and the information involved as both sides are making claims that vary widely from each other.
If you need to discuss California labor law or wrongful termination in more detail with an experienced southern California labor law attorney, please get in touch with Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik as soon as possible.