Every workplace will experience conflicts between employees from time to time. While most conflicts are easy to resolve, some of them may escalate into more serious problems. An employee may resort to defaming another one’s character to try and make themselves seem more superior than the other employee or to get back at them for a real or perceived wrong.
What is Defamation of Character?
It is important to understand what defamation of character is so it can be recognized for what it is when it happens on the job. Defamation of character can be making statements about someone that can ruin their reputation or their goodwill. Legally, such statements are only considered defamation if they are false and if they have been made to someone other than the targeted party.
There are two types of defamation. If it is done in writing, it is called libel, or it can be verbal, which is known as slander. Having an opinion about someone is not considered defamation, no matter how false that opinion may be. However, if the injured party can show that their character has been ruined and it has cost them other opportunities or they have suffered monetarily, then they can take their grievance to court.
Defamation in the Workplace
The reason that is it important to be able to identify defamation is to keep it out of the office or on the production floor. Since defamation of character can be actionable in a court of law, companies stand to lose money if an employee has been defamed and they sue the company. Even though company officials may not have been aware of the defamation, if it was done by someone in authority, then the company can be held liable if the employee wins their case.
Defamation usually occurs one of two ways in the workplace, after termination from employment or during employment. It may be done after termination when someone tries to derail the former employee’s prospects by issuing false statements about them. During employment, it may be done with a verbally or in writing to hamper the employee’s ability to perform their job or to deny them further opportunities within the company.
Defamation of character can sometimes be hard to prove, but if an employee sees a pattern or behavior that lends them to believe they have been libeled or slandered, they can go to court and sue everyone involved.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.