Is it legal for a manager to send a nasty email to me and sent a copy to a client as well?

I was working at a veterinary place and the conditions were horrible. The cleanliness and the way they cut corners, the way they were rude to customers and staff drinking and smoking weed, I couldn’t work there anymore. So I emailed the founder and explained why, well she is a manager and sent me a nasty email and sent it to a client as well. The client emailed her back and was furious and said that I could sue for that. Also I have not been able to find a job since.

Asked on July 6, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) It is legal for anyone to send any nasty email, no matter what the contents are (as long as it doesn't include material which is inherently illegal, like child porn or threats of violence), to any other person--the law doesn't protect you from someone being cruel or mean. So sending it to you is not something you can sue over.
2) If the message is also sent to other people about you (and so not just directly to you), you *may* have a legal case (i.e. a lawsuit) for defamation IF the email contained factual mistatements or lies about you which damage your reputation. But it must be actual provable factual mistatements; true facts, no matter how damaging, do not give rise to a lawsuit; and opinions, no matter how hurtful, do not give rise to a lawsuit, either. Examples:
a) You quit because you did not like the conditions and emailed the founder your reasons. She could tell other people that you sent her an email criticizing the place of business and quit over email, and if that is true, it is not defamation, even if you feel it makes you look bad. True facts are not defamation. Or say that she tells people that you did not have a college degree--if you did not in fact have one, again, that is not defamation, since it is true.
b) She tells other people you were lazy, disrespectful, and the worst employee she had ever had. That is her opinion; opinions are just that--opinions or subjective value judgments--and are not provable facts; it is therefore not defamation and you cannot sue over it. (Everyone is legally entitled to their opinion.)
c) But say that she wrote that she thought it was hypocritical of you to criticize the weed smoking, since you were smoking it, too--but in fact, you did not and do not use marijuana. In this case, she made an untrue factual assertion about you to other people, which assertion could damage your reputation; what she did is defamation, and you could sue over it.
If you believe you were defamed, consult with a personal injury attorney (the same lawyers who handle slip-and-fall cases handle defamation suits) to evaluate how strong you case is, what it might be worth, and whether you should pursue it.


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