Can I Sue My Employer for Defamation of Character?
Texas Defamation Lawyer Explains Libel and Slander Claims
Defamation is a serious issue that entails the communication of false information to a third party about an individual or business that affects one’s reputation. This can include recorded or printed information, called “libel,” or spoken untruths, called “slander.” Such false information can harm a person’s reputation as well as cause serious damage to his or her personal life and career. Slander and libel are often particularly harmful when committed by an employer or former employer. However, employees who have been the victim of defamation may file a lawsuit to recover the damages caused by these false statements.
Issues of libel and slander can be complex and murky. This is why many North Texas workers turn to the experienced guidance of a defamation lawyer for help with these kinds of cases. With more than 32 years upholding the rights of Texas employees, our Allen employment lawyer is dedicated to gaining the largest recovery allowed under the law for slander and libel. Attorney Dan A. Atkerson can help determine if you have a case for defamation as well as explain what you should expect when seeking compensation for damages. If slanderous or libelous statements from a former employer caused you harm, then you have the right to fight back. Dan Atkerson can help.
What is Defamation According to Texas Employment Law?
Defamation of character can result from any false statement, printed or spoken, that harms your reputation. In terms of employment law, defamation most commonly occurs when your employer, current or former, makes untrue statements about you. However, not every hurtful statement qualifies as defamation. To have a valid claim for damages under Texas defamation law, you generally must demonstrate that your employer:
- Made a false statement about your actual person. Typically, opinions do not count as defamatory statements unless they involve specific aspects of your employment. Additionally, a true statement is never defamation.
- Published this false information. In this situation, “published” means that a third party, such as coworker or any other person, heard or read the statements.
- Acted negligently by publishing the statement. For a private person, this means that your employer knew or should have known that the information was not true. (If the statement was about a public figure, “actual malice” is needed for this element.)
- Does not have privilege. Some statements or situations are “privileged,” meaning that the speaker has protection from liability. The most common type of protected statements in employment matters are employer references. However, this may depend on the nature and context of the statement. If it is deliberately false or was not within the scope of a usual reference, you may still have a claim.
- Caused personal or monetary damages. In many cases, this means that your employer’s libel or slander prevented another employer from hiring you.
Talk with our Dallas defamation lawyer if you have concerns. We will evaluate the publications of the other party to determine whether it is defamation. Then, we can discuss whether its consequences entitle you to seek damages for defamation.
What is the Difference between Slander and Libel?
Slander and libel are both forms of defamation which a party may “publish.” In the legal sense, publish only means to communicate information to another person besides yourself. The difference between these two forms of defamation is the method of delivery. The court defines them as the following:
- Slander: a spoken statement that is defamatory
- Libel: defamation published as written words or images, such as a recorded video
Slander may be as simple as someone repeating gossip or can be deliberately malicious lies spoken to a third party. Libel is a much broader category because it potentially includes anything written, recorded or printed. This includes not only handwritten material but also letters, articles and blog posts. Even blog comments and social media posts are possible sources of libel.
How Do I Know If I Have a Case for Defamation of Character?
Texas law recognizes two differing types of defamation – defamation and defamation per se. In a normal defamation case, the burden of proof falls to the plaintiff. This means that you must have evidence showing that the defamatory statements exist and that they caused you actual harm. For libel, this generally means you must have copies of the written or recorded statements. For slander, you typically must have an eyewitness who can testify on your behalf. If you are a public figure, you may also have to prove that the defendant published libel or slander with a reckless disregard for the truth, known as “actual malice.”
A defamation per se case involves specific types of defamatory statements that are particularly harmful. In this type of case, you still must prove the existence of libel or slander. However, due to the nature of the falsehood, the court assumes it caused material harm. The types of defamatory statements that are grounds for a defamation per se case are:
- Indications that you committed a crime.
- Statements that you have a contagious, infectious or stigmatized disease.
- Indications that you did something incompatible with your profession or business, which may include stated opinions.
- Statements that you committed serious sexual misconduct.
Hurt by an Employer’s Slander or Libel? Contact Our Texas Defamation Lawyer Now
If a former employer or coworker has made statements that you believe may be libel or slander that caused harm to you and your reputation, then schedule a free attorney consultation with our North Texas employment lawyer today. Our office is located in Allen and is convenient to McKinney, Richardson, Frisco and Plano.