What legal actions can I take against a co-worker for defamation and a hostile work environment?

This employee was written up 3 months ago for a hostile work environment against me. She was asked to stop, but she hasn’t. Manager dismisses her behavior as being unprofessional. She has personal connection to upper management. We are in sales and she has proven track record of under performance, immature behavior and gross misconduct. In fac, 3 employees before her were fired with better sales records and much more professional behavior. All 3 were fired for under performance. HR has done an investigation but have left the actual questioning up to the employees manager.

Asked on August 20, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The law does not prevent a coworker or supervisor from making a work environment as hostile as they like, so long as the hostility is not directed against you due to your race, sex, religion, age over 40, disability, etc.--if it is, then you may have a claim for illegal employment discrimination or harassment. However, if they are not targetting your group, but merely you--i.e. they just don't like you personally--that is legal.

Defamation is the public making of untrue statements of fact (not opinions) which damage a person's reputation; if you are being defamated, you could sue. But remember: an opinion, no matter how negative, is not defamation (so saying that someone is "lazy," "creepy," "a bad worker," etc. is not defamation), and true facts, even if hurtful, are not defamation, either (so if you were written up once for insubordination, for example, it's not defamation to say that you were).


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