Darrell Sams and Diana Cheek v. Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart terminated long-time department managers Darrell Sams, age 48, and Diana Cheek, age 41, from its London, Kentucky store for taking frequent and excessive breaks in violation of Wal-Mart’s Break and Meal Period policy. Both Sams and Cheek were aware that Wal-Mart’s policy allowed only two paid 15-minute breaks per shift and that additional and extended breaks violated the policy. Sams and Cheek claimed that Wal-Mart and their supervisors defamed them by stating both on their Exit Interviews and during their unemployment compensation hearings that they were terminated for excessive breaks resulting in “theft of company time.” Their Complaint also asserted claims of age discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The trial court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims on summary judgment. Sams and Cheek appealed only the dismissal of their defamation claims. Agreeing with the trial court, the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that the alleged statements were true and, therefore, not defamatory. Moreover, the Court held that the statements were privileged as their intra-company communications and part of quasi-judicial proceedings. Accordingly, the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment and the case was dismissed in its entirety.