What can be done about co-worker harassment both in and out of work?

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What can be done about co-worker harassment both in and out of work?

I have a co-worker that will not stop talking about me. She is accusing me of saying stuff about her and her unborn child. I had to block her on Facebook and my phone. I went to my supervisor and HR department and still nothing has been done. Is there anything else I can do? She is putting my character into question.

Asked on July 6, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, your employer is under no affirmative duty to intervene in a  dispute between co-workers. There may be situations in which they could potentially find themselves liable for the consequences of this dispute--e.g. if they become aware that she is sending defamatory messages about you from company computers but let her continue; if they negligently allow her access to your social security number or personnel file and she uses that against you; if this escalates to workplace violence, which they could have avoided by taking action; etc.--but if they are willing to take that risk, they can;  you can't force them to act.

If you believe that she is publically (e.g. on social media) making defamatory statements about you, you could sue her for defamation. Defamation is the making of untrue statements of fact which damage your reputation; true facts, no matter how negative, however, are not defamation, and nor are opinions, no matter how malicious--only untrue factual statements might be defamation.  (For example, say that a person did once go to a KKK rally. Saying that they did is not defamation--it is true; calling them a racist is not defamation--that's an opinion; but saying that they engaged in racial violence, if they never did, would be defamation, since that would be an untrue factual statement.)

Bear in mind, however, before suing for defamation, that:

1) You have to be able to prove that the factual statement is untrue; and

2) Unless you provably suffered some loss or cost, like loss of a job, job opportunity, or promotion, it can be difficult to win meaningful amounts of compensation, even if you were defamed.


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