A tipster who alerted a state agency to potential fraud involving unemployment benefits sued Thursday after her identity was mistakenly revealed to the man she turned in, leaving her fearful for her safety.
Michele Meier’s lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development alleges that a data breach put her and her child at risk of retaliation. According to the lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court, Meier has a child with the man she accused of fraud and there has been a history of domestic violence in their relationship.
Meier’s lawsuit, which seeks at least $50,000 in damages, says she alerted the agency earlier this year about the possible fraud “in full confidence that her report would remain anonymous.” She had supplied her name, phone number and e-mail address. Those details were part of a record subsequently released to the man she complained about.
Since then, the lawsuit says Meier has had reason “to fear for her safety and well-being” and has suffered from severe emotional distress.
A department spokeswoman, Madeline Koch, had no immediate comment.
Meier’s attorney, Patricia Stotzheim, said that the information breach was devastating to her client.
“She would not have turned him in had she known,” Stotzheim said.
After the man told Meier he knew of her role, she twice contacted the agency to find out what happened. The court filing says an agency official chalked it up to a clerical error.
The lawsuit does not identify the man or the extent of their relationship. Stotzheim would only say that her client and the man are parents of a child. The attorney wouldn’t elaborate on mentions in the filing of physical and emotional abuse in their past.