How to handle a possible defamation case?

I was recently informed that a former employer of mine is interviewing current employees about me and making claims about me that are untrue. I have been working somewhere else for about 7 months now and have maintained loose contact with only a few of my former coworkers. Although I was let go, it was very civil and wasn’t due to any illegal activity. They are claiming that I had an inappropriate relationship with one of my superiors, who is in a high-profile upper-level management position and who currently still works there. If he is dismissed due to the claims, I will be put under serious emotional stress as my friends and family will likely assume that they are true. Also, one of the VP’s at my current job has direct ties to people involved in the case and will certainly hear about it, putting me in an extremely awkward position with my current employment. Anyway, I feel that I should be able to reasonably expect to be left alone by an employer I haven’t worked for for several months. Is it possible to make them stop before they can make a final decision about whether or not to dismiss my former boss? If he is dismissed based on these untrue claims, my life will be ruined and I will be pursuing defamation damages, however I would prefer to settle this before the damage is done.

Asked on June 20, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Utah

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, you have NO right whatsoever to prevent them from terminating your boss, for two reasons:
1) Unless he has a written employment contract preventing his termination, he is an "employee at will" and may be terminated at any time, for any reason--including unfounded accusastions. An employee at will has no rights to his job. 
2) *You* have no legal standing or right to intervene in his termination--if there are any grounds to oppose it (e.g. if he does have an enforceable contract), *he* can try to fight, but the law does not let you intervene in his legal matter.
There is no defamation case for what people would or may think if he is terminated--defamation is only for untrue factual statements made by another person, which damage your reputation. But actions of another person which they may legitimately take--like terminating an employee--even if the somehow imply bad behavior on your part or reflect badly on you--are not defamation. So the employer exercising its legitimate right to terminate an employee does not give rise to a defamation case for you.


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