At what point does office gossip become harassment?

I was recently informed that some co-workers had been deliberately manufacturing lies about me and another co-worker. They were telling people within the office that we were “hooking up” and even took it so far as to claim we were engaging in inappropriate and explicit conduct within our cubicles during office hours. The whole situation was discovered through the other victim of these lies getting onto someone else’s work computer through admin access and looking through the skype conversations these people were engaging in.

Asked on December 7, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is not "harassment," but it may be defamation: defamation is the making to third parties (so to anyone but the actual target of the gossip) of untrue factual statements which damage a person's reputation. A false accusation of an intraoffice affair and inappropriate onsite sexual conduct could certainly constitute defamation. From what you write, it may be worthwhile to consult with an attorney (probably a personal injury attorney) to see if you have a claim and what it might be worth. Good luck.


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