Can I Sue My Employee for Defamation of Character?

Can I Sue My Employee for Defamation of Character?

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Can I Sue My Employee for Defamation of Character?

Imagine this scenario: your business is slacking for no discernable reason. You haven’t recently changed your prices, and the market suggests that your business should be in demand.

You try to figure out what’s wrong and learn that somebody is spreading a false rumor about you that’s damaging your business. Even more shockingly, you discover that your own employee is the one spreading the rumor. Your first thought is, “Can I sue my employee for defamation of character?”

Or perhaps your first thought should be, “Can I sue my ex-employee for defamation of character?” There’s no good reason to keep someone on staff who has slandered you, damaged your reputation, and harmed your business.

A Morgan & Morgan attorney can help you get compensation for the loss of business and damage to your reputation caused by your employee’s slanderous actions. When you ask, “Can I sue my employee for defamation of character?” our answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

Don’t let the harm from defamation of character last for another minute. Go online and fill out our contact form today to get a free case evaluation for your slander or libel case.

Defamation of Character

Defamation of character is a specific legal term. Just because somebody calls you a jerk or says that you’re a no-good cheat, it doesn’t mean that you can sue them for defamation of character. Insults and slurs may be frustrating, but they rarely incur legal liability.

Legal liability is the key to understanding defamation of character. Freedom of speech in the United States means that people can say just about anything without suffering legal consequences from the state.

However, there is a difference between being punished by the state and being liable for compensating another for the damage that your speech caused. The latter is important for determining defamation of character.

A person can be sued for defamation of character if:

  • They lied about another person
  • They expressed the lie in a public manner
  • The lie resulted in meaningful harm to the individual who was the subject of it
  • The harm caused by the lie can be assigned a financial value

If all of these things are true, the person who told the lie is legally liable for damages in a defamation of character lawsuit. Outside of civil law, defamation of character has no real meaning.

Meaningful Harm

Before the lawyers at Morgan and Morgan take any defamation of character lawsuit, we investigate to determine whether the lie told caused meaningful harm.

In the original example, the lie resulted in a loss of business and diminished reputation. Both of those are considered meaningful harm because they can prevent a person from being able to make a living and support themselves or their family.

If the lie had been much tamer and hadn’t resulted in a loss of reputation or business, the theoretical employer probably wouldn’t be able to file a lawsuit for slander.

However, this doesn’t mean that the theoretical employer couldn’t fire their dishonest employee. If an employee is lying about you, regardless of whether it is meaningfully harmful or not, you almost certainly don’t want to keep them on staff.

Assigning Financial Value

The other important part of the definition of defamation of character is the ability to assign financial value to the harm done. Again, looking at the original example, it is easy to assign financial value to the lost income resulting from reduced business.

You can simply look at the difference in income between the time before the lie was circulating and after it was circulating to estimate the financial value for that harm.

However, it is much trickier to determine the financial value of the loss of reputation. Loss of reputation can harm you in several financial ways, many of which might not be immediately obvious. For example, a loss of reputation could result in:

  • Loans being refused
  • Inability to hire capable workers
  • Inability to rent a good location
  • Reduced business
  • Getting turned down for a job
  • Harassment

Each of these things is harmful and could potentially cause long-term financial harm, but there is no easy way to assign specific dollar values to this harm. Experienced libel and slander attorneys from Morgan and Morgan can make evidence-based estimates for the financial value of this harm by referencing past cases.

Feeling Betrayed by an Employee

It isn’t uncommon for employees to speak negatively about employers. A lot of employees are unsatisfied with their jobs or with some part of the management.

Many employees will complain about things that happen to friends or family in private or even to the whole world on social media. But as long as the employee isn’t lying, this behavior isn’t an example of slander or libel.

When an employee starts to fabricate things about their workplace or specific individuals in their workplace, that’s when they might be crossing the line into slander. As an employer, this behavior likely feels like a betrayal to you. You provide income for the employee and expect some level of respect or gratitude for that.

You may feel betrayed, but you don’t want to get too worked up over this action. While you do pay the employee, that doesn’t automatically mean they owe you anything more than the specific work you are paying for. An employee slandering you is no more a betrayal than a random stranger slandering you.

It is important to keep this in mind because getting upset will likely only harm your case. If you overreact and fail to follow the proper process, you could make it harder for the Morgan & Morgan team to get you money for your defamation of character case.

In the worst-case scenario, overreacting could potentially make you liable for damages against the employee who slandered you. You definitely don’t want that.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • Should I Fire My Employee If They Slander Me?

    If an employee slanders you, you should almost certainly fire them for their egregious behavior. The employee is causing harm to your business and has proven to be dishonest.

    Just make sure you follow all company procedures before you fire the employee. For example, if your company requires an independent investigation before an employee can be fired, make sure that the investigation occurs first.

    Even if an employee slanders you, if you fail to follow proper procedure, the employee could sue you back and possibly even win damages.

  • Can I Sue an Ex-Employee If They Slander Me?

    Just because somebody is no longer working for you, that doesn’t give them the right to lie about you or cause you harm. Slander from an ex-employee can be extremely harmful because others might believe it to be true and treat you and your business accordingly.

    Regardless of whether a person is still employed by you, you have the right to sue them if they slander you.

  • Can I Sue My Employee for Defamation of Character If They Don’t Lie?

    No. A person needs to explicitly lie to be liable for defamation of character. If your employee says negative things about you or your business that are completely true, they have not engaged in slander or libel.

    However, you may still be able to take legal action against your employee. For example, if there is a non-disparagement clause in the employment contract, you would be able to sue the employee for breach of contract.

  • Can I Sue My Employee for Defamation of Character Based on Social Media Posts?

    Just because somebody posts on social media instead of speaking to others, it doesn’t make defamation of character more acceptable. It may change the exact definition of defamation from slander to libel, but that difference is mostly irrelevant to whether you were seriously harmed or whether you can be awarded damages for that harm.

    As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to monitor your employees’ social media accounts, as possible, and act quickly if they are saying things that might harm you or your business. If you act quickly and find out that it’s a misunderstanding, you may be able to keep the employee and remain on good terms.

  • How Much Does a Slander or Libel Attorney Cost?

    At Morgan and Morgan, we take slander and libel cases on contingency. This means that we only get paid for the case if we can get money for you. Our fee is always a percentage of the award you receive.

    Because we are paid more if you are paid more, we are encouraged to get you as much money as we can.

  • Is a Lawsuit My Only Option?

    Generally speaking, filing a lawsuit and going to court is the last option. Whenever possible, we prefer to settle outside of court. However, settling outside of court may require us to file a lawsuit to encourage the other party to agree to negotiate.

    A negotiated settlement is preferable for two reasons. First, when we negotiate a fair settlement for your claim, you always get money.

    When you go to court, you can’t be certain that the judge or jury will rule in your favor. Even if they do rule in your favor, they may not give you a monetary award.

    With a negotiated settlement, you always get money and always know exactly how much you are getting.
    Furthermore, a trial can take a long time to complete. Most trials take months, at a minimum, and may take years to finish.

    When you have been harmed by slander or libel, you need compensation quickly to make up for the immediate harm that you have suffered. A negotiated settlement will often get you money in weeks, which is preferable.

  • How Can I Sue My Employee for Defamation of Character?

    The best way to sue your employee for defamation of character is with the help of an experienced libel or slander attorney. Your attorney can easily access similar past cases, which allows them to accurately determine the monetary value of your claims.

    This kind of information is critical to ensuring that you get the highest award possible for your defamation of character case.

    If you believe you have been slandered or libeled by one of your employees, you deserve to be compensated for the damage caused by the falsehoods.

    The slander and libel attorneys at Morgan & Morgan will help you get the money you deserve quickly. Fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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