Can I sue for defamation of character?

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Can I sue for defamation of character?

I work for a multi billion dollar pharmaceutical company. I was called a ‘wuss’ and a ‘bitch’ by my superior the lead in front of 3 other employees after refusing to break rules and climb 15 ft. up on these racks in our warehouse instead of using the proper equipment. My superior told me to climb the racks, I told him how I thought it was a bad idea and refused. He then called me a

Asked on March 12, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, what you describe does not give you a cause of action. Defamation of character is not name calling or unpleasant behavior or the statement of opinions; it is the statement of provably factually false allegations. So, for example, calling you "lazy," or an "f'ing retard" or a "wuss" is a nasty and unprofessional way of expressing his opinion of you, but it's not defamation. Defamation would be telling others that you "abuse prescription medicine" or "stole from the company" or that he caught you "trying to hack into my files"--those are negative *factual* allegations, and it is only *factual* allegations which, if untrue, amount  to defamation.
Also, an employer may create a hostile or unpleasant work environment--many are; I used to work in a place where the managers were regularly belittled and insulted by the President in open meetings, for example--and that is not legally actionable; there is no law requiring employment to be professional, respectful, etc.
And employer may also ask you to do things which you think are unwise, like climbing the racks. You can refuse, of course, and take the chance on being fired, but that is your choice. (If they ask you to do something unwise and you are injured doing it, then you may have a personal injury suit against them or be owed Worker's Compensation.)


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