Defamation is a common term that we hear in the news regarding celebrities and their reputation or character, but we also see it in the workplace. Defamation of character in the workplace is a serious allegation that should not be taken lightly. In recent years, we are seeing an increasing number of employees make defamation claims against their employers or former employers when bringing other types of discrimination or harassment lawsuits. However, determining if a statement was indeed defamation of character can be quite difficult. It is important that you hire an employment lawyer if you believe something you heard or read about yourself constitutes defamation.
In a nutshell, defamation of character is a false or unprivileged statement – written or verbal – that intends to cause an individual damage or bring their character into question. There are two different types of defamation: libel (written defamation) and slander (verbal defamation). Let’s take a closer look at each before moving on:
- Libel – When an individual or entity makes a false or unprivileged statement in writing, print, picture, effigy, or some other type of fixed representation, he may be guilty of libel. These written statements may display feelings of hatred, contempt, or ridicule and will cause the victim to be shunned or avoided. Libel in the workplace may also hurt an individual’s occupation and threaten his job.
- Slander – On the other hand, slander occurs when an employer or other employee makes verbal statements that intend to bring harm or injury to an employee in regards to his occupation. In the workplace, slander is far more common than libel. In many cases, slander occurs when an employee is accused of an inability to perform the duties of their trade, profession, or business.
Now that we have a better understanding of the two types of defamation of character in the workplace, let’s look at a few common examples. In order to prove workplace defamation, the plaintiff must be able to prove that either libel or slander brought them undue harm and the person making the statement were negligent, in the very least. It is incredibly difficult to prove that these statements and other workplace conduct were harmful to a person’s character, which is why you need a good Frisco labor and employment attorney. Here now is a look at some common instances where defamation may occur in the workplace:
- Opinions and Facts – This is a tricky one, as generally speaking statements expressed as an individual’s opinion are not defamatory in nature. And in order for a factual statement to be considered defamation, it has to be false. However, if the information that is conveyed by the speaker is false and has no reasonable basis, then you may be able to sue for defamation of character.
- Rumors – The majority of rumors are not considered defamation, however, if the rumor created a hostile work environment or hurt an employee’s career, they may be considered defamation.
- Performance Reviews – While critiques are undoubtedly part of yearly performance reviews, when an employer makes defamatory statements that are clearly motivated by something other than constructive criticism, it may be a case of defamation.