When most people think of defamation, they think of celebrities and politicians suing people for publishing embarrassing information about them. However, defamation can also involve people who are not public figures, and in many ways, it can be even more damaging. So what is defamation, and how do employers use it to hurt former employees when they look for other work?
Simply put, defamation is when someone publishes a false statement about someone else, which they knew (or should have known) was false, which leads to financial or reputational harm. Traditionally, there were two primary types of defamation: slander, which is when the false statement is “published” verbally, and libel, which is when the false statement is published in print. Whether libel or slander, defaming someone is a potentially serious legal accusation that can carry significant consequences.
Defamation in an Employment Context
In the context of employment law, defamation typically comes up in one of two ways. In the first case, an employee may be sued for defaming their employer when they make negative comments about them, especially if that employee has a non-disparagement clause as part of their employment contract. However, an even more troubling case is when the employer defames the employee, falsely stating why an employee was dismissed to damage their reputation.
How Defamation Hurts Employees
When employers choose to defame their former employees, they may give poor references to an employee seeking a new job, or outright lie about the reason they were fired. This can substantially hinder a former employee’s future job prospects, preventing them from getting hired and damaging their reputation in their industry. In the most extreme circumstances, someone may become effectively unemployable due to a lie spread by their employer.
What You Can Do About Defamation
As Steven Sack says in his new book, Fired!, “Employers across the country face potential liability from defamation actions as fired employees are increasingly suing former employers for libel and slander.” If your employer has given you poor references or lied about your conduct while you worked for them, damaging your reputation or career prospects, you should speak to an employment lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you explore your legal options and help you to get compensation for the harm that has been done to you.
Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 41 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. His new book, “Fired!: Protect Your Rights & FIGHT BACK If You’re Terminated, Laid Off, Downsized, Restructured, Forced to Resign or Quit,” is available in hardback, and contains valuable advice on dealing with employment and labor law issues. To purchase the book, feel free to contact Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or visit the website at legalstratpub.com. To inquire about a legal matter, please feel free to contact attorney Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.