Can I sue my former employer for defamation of character for accusing me of stealing and firing me?

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Can I sue my former employer for defamation of character for accusing me of stealing and firing me?

I was recently fired from a pharmacy I worked at because my employer claimed I was stealing drugs when I did no such thing. They have no proof, and did not press charges on me. I tried to apply for unemployment benefits and received a denial stating that my employer not only claims I was fired for stealing but for being in possession of and taking illegal drugs, which is also false. Now i cant use this job as a reference, and all my coworkers think I’m a thief, and I can’t even collect unemployment! Where should I go from here? Should I appeal the denial? Can I sue for defamation?

Asked on October 20, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You could sue your former employer for defamation.  Defamation is a false statement made with knowledge of its falsity communicated to a third person and the statement is injurious to your reputation. The false statements about you stealing, possessing and using illegal drugs are clearly defamatory statements which were communicated to third persons (your co-workers, etc.) and are injurious to your reputation.  Each repetition of the defamatory statements is also actionable in your lawsuit for defamation.

Slander is spoken defamation.  Libel is written defamation.

Your damages (the amount of compensation you are seeking to recover in your lawsuit) would be based on mental distress, loss of friends and associates, loss of your job, and if applicable physical illness and medical expenses.

As for your unemployment compensation case, you should pursue the appeals and claim defamation when the defamatory allegations are used as arguments to try to deny unemployment compensation.  Until you prove defamation with a judgment in a lawsuit against your former employer, the unemployment compensation appeals might not succeed because the denial of unemployment compensation would be based on the false allegations of misconduct from your former employer.


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