Defamation of Character in the Workplace
Table of Contents
II. Definition, Types, and Examples of Defamation
III. How Employers Can Protect Themselves
IV. How Employees Can Protect Themselves
The inability for certain individuals to find employment is oftentimes blamed on the previous employer that individual had. Nowadays many employers are being blamed and sue by former employees for giving negative references that have hindered their ability to find new employment with other agencies. Mark R. Hornak comments on this problem that employers are facing in his article titled, Avoiding Defamation in the Workplace, Giving References, and Disciplining Employees While Avoiding Liability, by stating:
This blame often evolves into a lawsuit for defamation, although the theories of intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with contract, invasion of privacy, and discrimination have all been used to make a former employer pay for an ex-employee's misfortune.
Employers are now very hesitant when asked to give any type of reference on a certain individual. This can cause another type of dilemma for the new employer for they might end up hiring the wrong person for the job.
There are risks involved when giving references or disciplining employees. Many employers worry that giving a reference or disciplining an employee will result in a potential defamation claim. They also have the additional worry of being held liable by another company or employer for hiring the wrong individual based off of the reference given by them. "Many employers refuse to comment on the job performance, and will only verify dates of employment, job titles and possibly salary. Yet those same employers would welcome in-depth reference information from other employers." (Rosen, Lester S.) A legal claim for defamation can entitle a person to recover for emotional damages and punitive damages.