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Discrimination & Harassment

Defamation

People often think of defamation claims arising in personal or political disputes. But they arise just as often (if not more) in the context of employment.

If you think you have been the victim of defamation, contact our employment attorneys to discuss your situation.

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Defamation Details

Generally, defamation claims arise when a person or company made a statement of fact about you to others that is false and defamatory. To be defamatory, the statement must involve a fact that tends to lower your reputation in the eyes of your community. Some types of statements are presumed to be defamatory. They include accusations regarding crime, sex, and disease.

Employees might have a defamation claim if their employer makes negative comments to others about their conduct or competence at work. Even so, the law gives employers a “qualified privilege” to make otherwise defamatory comments about their employees. To exercise this privilege, employers must make the comments in good faith, from a proper motive, on a proper occasion, and based on a reasonable belief. If these conditions are not met (i.e., if the employer makes the comments in bad faith or out of actual malice), then privilege may be lost, and the employer may be held liable for defamation.

Minnesota recognizes the doctrine of “compelled self-publication,” which allows terminated employees to bring defamation claims against former employers who made defamatory comments about their conduct or competence at work to them and not to any third-party. This is because fired employees may be compelled to “self-publish” their former employers’ defamatory comments when looking for new jobs.

If you believe you have been defamed by an employer or former employer, contact our employment lawyers to discuss your potential claim.

Examples of Potential Defamation

  • Your former employer, in bad faith, tells potential future employers that you were terminated for employment misconduct or poor performance when, in fact, the former employer knows that you resigned to pursue other opportunities.
  • You are compelled to tell potential future employers that you were terminated for employment misconduct or poor performance because your former employer, in bad faith, told you that you were fired for these reasons when, in fact, you were fired because of a personality conflict or some other unrelated reason.
  • Your supervisor spreads a false rumor among your coworkers that you have a sexually-transmitted disease, got your job by providing others with sexual favors, or have been convicted of a crime.

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