Is There a Doctor in the House?

Times Company Accused of Privacy Violations

Since filing the amicus brief, Moy says, he has received appreciative calls from "two or three" physicians employed by industry, who told him "there are cases where they felt pressured to do things that they felt were not consistent with ethical standards."

The Times' defense draws heavily on a case known as Wieder, in which the court reprimanded a law firm for firing a lawyer because he had contacted the authorities to report unethical behavior by another member of the firm. In court documents, Times lawyers argue that the Wieder case is a narrow exception that only applies to lawyers working for lawyers, but not to doctors working for media companies.

The controlling legal principle, they say, is New York State's "employment at will" doctrine, which dictates that a decision to employ someone for an indefinite period of time can be terminated by either party at any time for any reason. If the lower court ruling in the Horn case is allowed to stand, Times lawyers and at least one dissenting judge believe, it could create an "ever expanding big tent" of ethical-minded litigants, consisting of "hundreds of thousands of professional employees" from CEOs to commodities brokers to corner pharmacists. And that, the Times suggests, would have a profound economic effect on state businesses. Zuchlewski calls this argument "hysterical."

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