Defamation of Character

Defamation, or defamation of character, describes hurting someone’s reputation or character by making fraudulent statements regarding that person. There are two types of defamation: slander and libel. Slander describes verbal, unpublished defamation. In turn, libel refers to defamation in writing or through other permanent venues, such as radio broadcast or television. Defamation in the workplace typically relates to harm caused to a person’s reputation or career based on these fraudulent statements. However, libel and slander have become interchangeable in practice since the invention of the internet.


Depending on the type of defamation, an individual’s career could very well suffer irreparably as a result of a coworker’s slanderous words or libelous publications.  Another example of workplace defamation would be if an employer provides fraudulent information to background agencies, which would inevitably make it difficult for the subject to find employment in the future.  Dismissal, demotion, or reduction in pay could also occur as a result of someone’s defamatory statements.


Have you been unfairly defamed by a coworker or supervisor at your current or former job?  Houston employment lawyers Robert J. Wiley, and Kalandra N. Wheeler advocate for individuals who have suffered because of workplace defamation.  If you have suffered real harm to your career and reputation as a result of someone’s slander or libel at the workplace, you may be entitled to compensation by your employer. Our Houston employment lawyers will fight to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.


The elements necessary to establish defamation at the workplace include:


·      A false, defamatory statement about an employee.

·      The unauthorized publication or communication of such statement to a third party.

·      Fault on part of the individual who made the statement, either intentional or at least negligent.

·      Harm to the subject’s reputation and character as a result of this statement.


Often, the greatest difficulty in workplace defamation cases is proving that an employee’s character has been defamed as a result of workplace conduct.  An individual cannot accuse a peer of defamation if the peer utters a slanderous statement to that individual’s face or under his breath. 


For a statement to be considered defamatory, the statement about the subject must be true and not simply an opinion. For example, if a former or current employer says you are a “bad” employee, then the statement is an opinion, and does not constitute defamation.  Statements.  The same applies to opinions regarding someone’s personality.  Calling your coworker a mean, irascible old man is not defamation.  If an employer accuses you of stealing money from the company, and relays that information to a third party when it is untrue, then such statement would constitute defamation. However, a statement of opinion could qualify as defamation it implies specific knowledge of particular misconduct. If your former employer tells a third party, such as a prospective new employer, that you should not be trusted with money, then such statement could fall under defamation.


Are you planning to sue your employer for defamation? If so, you will have to be ready to prove your allegations. Your evidence will consist of witnesses that may have heard the perpetrator say slanderous statements about you, or hard copies of emails or other publications in which the author wrote fraudulent claims about you. More importantly, you will have to prove to the court how these claims have hurt you. Did you lose your job? Have you been unable to earn a living as a result of these fraudulent statements? For example, a television broadcast in which someone defames you to the world by accusing you of sharing trade secrets could have long-lasting, if not permanent, consequences on your ability to pursue a future career.


Defamation cases can be complicated and difficult to prove.  You will need an experienced and aggressive attorney to guide you through the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve as a result of someone’s fraudulent statements about you. If you believe you have suffered from workplace defamation, learn what your legal rights may be and contact our office immediately, as you may be entitled to recover damages.

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