What are an employee’s rights to defend themselves against false allegations?

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2011

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What are an employee’s rights to defend themselves against false allegations?

At will employee terminated for cause (alleged criminal act) on another employee. If the employer does not provide the name of the person who made the allegation or the alleged witness and since I have no right to defend my position at work, how would I be able to actually prove that these unknown person(s) said these things that are untrue? In what, if any circumstance, would my former employer be required to release this information so that I could defend myself against these defamatory comments?

Asked on September 15, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Oklahoma


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

First, you have no recourse in terms of retaining or restoring your position, unless you had an employment contract which laid out specific grounds or processes or procedures for termination; if you had such a contract, it is enforceable and you may only be terminated in accordance with it, but if you did not have such a contract, you were an employee at will. As an employee at will, you may be fired for any reason, at any time--even for unproven, or even false, allegations.

There is no way to make the employer release this information to you unless you file a lawsuit for defamation; once you have filed a lawsuit, there are ways ("discovery") to obtain the information. If you believe you were defamed by false accusations--i.e. someone made false statements of fact about you, which damaged your reputation--you should consult with a personal injury attorney about whether to file an action. It's not a bar that you do not yet know the name of the person defaming you; you can file naming the company and fictitious defendants (e.g. "John Doe Number 1"), then use discovery to find out who it was.

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