Is Slander in the Workplace Legal?
Written by Cooper & Friedman PLLC on February 20, 2018
At some point in everyone’s adult life, they encounter an issue in the workplace. For some, the issue involves the boss and a clash of personalities. For others, it is a co-worker with a vendetta that becomes a problem for them. No matter what the issue is, if it is affecting your productivity and making your time at work miserable, it may be worth taking legal action. However, it is important to know what kind of abuse you are experiencing — slander or libel being two — and what can be done in court.
Defamation is the legal term that lawyers use to refer to the act of injuring or ruining one person’s reputation or name. Defamation has two components: libel and slander. Libel refers to any visual materials that cause injury to a person’s reputation or character. Slander, on the other hand, refers to spoken statements that are false or injurious. Slander is a civil act, not a criminal act, which means it is settled in civil court. This also means that the person who committed the crime can be sued, but not criminally charged.
Slander is a difficult crime to prove which makes it hard to take to court. And gossip, in both written and spoken forms, is not a crime. Therefore in the workplace it is legal, but can lead to court proceedings if it does injure a person’s reputation and can be proven. While it may technically be legal, slander can lead to civil court proceedings.
There are steps a slander victim will need to take to increase their chances of winning a lawsuit. These steps include:
- Collecting as much evidence as possible. Since slander is spoken defamation, evidence is most often witness statements from co-workers.
- Bring proof of attempts at asking the slanderer to cease and desist with their gossip. It is recommended by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center to write a letter to the slandering party. The letter should request they stop their actions before it causes you to take legal action.
- Discuss the slander situation with an employer and arrange a mediated meeting between the victim, the slanderer, and the employer to discuss the situation and resolve it outside of a civil courtroom.
If a victim has the forms of proof listed above, they are more likely to be compensated in court.
However, prevention is the best way to combat slander in the workplace. Since gossip is legal and hard to control, the role of preventing defamation of any form falls on managers and the human resources team within a company. Most managers in a workplace environment combat slander before it occurs by discouraging it and setting firm consequences for slanderers. It is true that it is easy for rumors to get blown out of proportion and spread quickly. By reminding employers of the seriousness of slander and the consequences that come with it, managers can often prevent it. Managers can also establish secure and protected procedures for employees to follow when reporting slander should the situation arise.
If you feel that you have been a victim of defamation in the workplace, you may be able to get compensation. If the slander is still occurring, it is important to start documenting it and gathering witness statements. Contact Cooper & Friedman Law Offices today to speak to an attorney about your next steps by calling 502-459-7555 or using the online contact form.