Los Angeles Defamation Lawyer
What Is Workplace Defamation?
Defamation is any false statements made with the intention of harming another person’s reputation. This is illegal. When it happens at work, employees need to know their rights and options for legal recourse. Defamation is a crime and has the potential to ruin an individual’s reputation or personal relationships. Defamation claims are serious, so it is vital for individuals to secure reliable legal representation. Contact a Los Angeles defamation lawyer at Mathew & George to learn more.
Defining Defamation in the Workplace
Defamation in the workplace is one person publishing or speaking a false statement about a coworker or someone else, which hurts the reputation of the subject of the statement. Workplace defamation can refer to many different words and/or conduct. Removing a worker from the building using a security guard, for example, could spread the impression that the employee is guilty of a crime – even if this is not true.
Workplace defamation can come from anyone at work, including coworkers and customers. Anyone who makes slanderous statements about someone else in the workplace could be guilty of workplace defamation. It can sometimes be difficult to recognize the source of defamation, especially if the rumor has spread throughout the office.
Defining Employee Defamation
Employee defamation refers specifically to an employer harming an employee through defamation. An employer may make a false, defamatory statement about an employee to hurt the person’s chances of getting another job, for example, or in retaliation for whistleblowing. Employee defamation could lead to damage to the employee’s professional reputation, wrongful termination, and loss of future earning opportunities. If you have been the victim of employee defamation from an employer, you may have grounds for a civil lawsuit against the employer.
Two Types of Defamation
Defamation takes two forms: libel and slander (California Civil Code §§ 45 to 47).
- Libel describes any written defamation
- Slander describes verbal defamation
Both can potentially harm the targeted individual’s reputation, and as such, both carry severe penalties. Defamation in the workplace is most commonly attributed to false information about the circumstances of a former employee’s departure or termination from the organization. As a result, this can hurt the person’s employment chances at another job and can cause quantifiable harm.
Elements Required to Prove Workplace or Employee Defamation
It is possible to obtain compensation and restitution for workplace defamation with the right actions as an employee. If you believe a coworker or employer has released defamatory messages about you, start building your case right away. Speak to an attorney to discuss your rights and compensatory opportunities. A successful defamation cause of action could provide financial remedies for your losses. A workplace or employee defamation case needs five key elements to succeed in California.
- Defamatory statement. The defendant (the employer or coworker) must have made a false statement of fact that qualifies as either libel or slander. You need proof of the defamation, such as a copy of the email or an eyewitness testifying that he or she witnessed the defamation take place. Remember, negative opinions about you do not constitute defamation.
- Defamatory statement about the employee. The defamation must have been about or been in reference to you, the plaintiff. You cannot file a claim for defamation against someone else, since this likely would not affect your workplace reputation. The statement must have been about you.
- Third-party involvement. An employer stating something defamatory about you, to only you, would not constitute defamation. If only you and the defendant heard or read the statement, you will not have a case, since others never heard the defamatory statement about you. The defendant must have spoken or published the defamation to someone other than you.
- Intent to harm or damage reputation. The defendant must have had the intent to harm you or damage your reputation by making the defamatory statement. Your lawyer will need proof that the defendant negligently, intentionally, or maliciously issued the statement about you at work.
- Finally, the workplace or employee defamation must have caused you real, compensable damages, such as wrongful termination, demotion, lost wages, or lost earning opportunities. Without damages, you will have no reason to seek a lawsuit against your employer or coworker.
It may be possible to hold someone accountable for workplace defamation without any special damages, if you have a case of defamation per se. A per se case involves types of libel or slander that harm the plaintiff by general professional disqualification. Even if you did not suffer any economic losses, the defendant may be liable for defamation if it injured the plaintiff’s professional reputation. Examples of per se defamation include spreading rumors that the employee committed a crime, has a communicable disease, lacks ability in the profession, or committed adultery.
Is an Opinion Defamatory?
There are a few other important considerations you should take into account when it comes to defamation. First of all, an opinion does not count as defamation. In order for a court to consider comments defamatory, they must be an assertion of fact. That means that the person saying or writing the comments must present them as truth and not personal opinion.
Additionally, the defamatory comments must be published. “Published” in this sense does not necessarily mean printed or released en masse – it simply means that there has to have been an audience for the comments. Comments made privately between two individuals do not count. The comments must cause harm or influence to others aside from the people making and receiving the comments in order to meet the criteria for defamation.
Defamation in the workplace is a personal injury. It is an intentional act that results in harm or damage. This means you can pursue a Los Angeles defamation lawsuit against an employer or coworker who makes or has made defamatory comments about you. However, you must be able to prove that the comments resulted in measurable harm, such as:
- Jeopardizing the person’s future employment
- Harming the person’s employment chances elsewhere
- Degrading the person’s relationships with coworkers, supervisors, peers in the individual’s field, business partners, or customers
Defenses Against Los Angeles Workplace Defamation Claims
There are four common defenses an employer may try to use in response to a defamation lawsuit:
- Privilege – Privilege pertains to employers making statements during legal proceedings or official statements. It can also include any comments made in good faith, such as an employee performance review.
- Consent – If an employee gives his or her employer consent to make the statements in question, then the employer is immune from liability.
- Truth – If the statement is accurate, it cannot be considered defamation.
- Opinion – Defamation is a statement of fact, therefore an opinion cannot be defamatory.
Hiring a Los Angeles Defamation Attorney
A skilled Los Angeles employment attorney will be a tremendous asset in a workplace defamation case. If an untruthful employer has damaged your reputation or your chances of securing a new position, the responsible party should be held accountable for these actions. The defamation attorneys at Mathew & George represent clients in the Los Angeles area for all manner of employment lawsuits. We have the experience and resources to handle any type of workplace defamation case.
If you have been affected by workplace defamation, contact us. Our initial consultation is free of charge and has no obligation. We’ll review the details and let you know if your situation merits a lawsuit. If it does, we’ll let you know how we can help.
“Abraham Mathew has been my business attorney for over 15 years and has handled dozens of cases on my behalf.” -Ken S.