What can I do about a wrongful termination and defamation of character issue with a former employer?

I worked for an employer for over a
year and was terminated, but only after
the owner told my manager I had quit
and moved out of town. I applied for
unemployment while in-between jobs and
now he is claiming that I damaged
property and stole lottory tickets,
which he has yet to provide proof of or
file any charges over. He is ruining
my good reputation that I have and I
would like to know my rights on filing
a suit.

Asked on May 12, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Unless you had a written employment contract which was violated by how you were terminated, this would not be wrongful termination: without a contract, you are an "employee at will" and may be terminated at any time, for any reason whatsoever, even factually incorrect or unfair ones. You would have no legal claim for your termination.
If, as you indicate, the employer is making false negative factual claims about you (claiming you damaged or stole things which you did not) and those claims are damaging your reputation, then you are correct: this may be defamation. (While negative opinions, no matter how hurtful, are not defamation--e.g. "John Doe was the worst employee ever"--negative false facts are.) If so, you may be entitled to compensation for it--to explore this option, consult with a personal injury attorney (the same type of lawyers who handle car accident cases and slip-and-fall cases also handle defamation).


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