Can Previous Employer Sue Slander/defamation charges for valid review on BBB?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can Previous Employer Sue Slander/defamation charges for valid review on BBB?

Long story short,

I worked as a freelancer for a company for 4 years. During that time I was
responsible for hiring technicians for shows across the United States. My
employer refused to pay people on time when invoices were due, I have proof of
invoices past due. Some have decided to pursue legal action against my ex-
employer due to that. On the review I left I stated that there were people who
weren’t being paid for work that was done, and that he was a liar, manipulator,
and theif. I personally have past due invoices that he’s refused to pay. He’s
saying now that he will sue for slander up to 1 million dollars because of the
review I left on BBB and is demanding I give back equipment that was gifted to
me while I worked there. Macbook computer He’s now contacting my current
employer and ALL of their employees in attempts to get me fired. What can we
do? Does he have justification to sue? Should we countersue for harassment?

Asked on September 23, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Defamation is the making of untrue factual statement about someone which damages their reputation Opinions are not defamation, but if a statement is an allegation of fact, it may be, if untrue; true facts are not defamation, though sued, you'd have to be able to prove they are true.
If you called him a thief, then he may well have grounds to sue. "Thief" is a factual allegation--a claim specifically the he *stole* money, not that, for example, he disputed the amount of invoices or whether he had to pay given the quality of work and when it was done or otherwise disputed his obligation to pay. You accused him of specific criminal acts which, unless you can prove he committed them, would be defamation. Similarly, unless you can prove he lied--not merely that after the fact he had disputes with vendors/contractors--that again could be defamation. So it possible, based on what you write, that you crossed the line by making negative factual allegations which you cannot prove. Had you stuck only to provable facts, he would not have a case.
He is allowed to call your current employers and tell them what happened, express his *opinion* of you, and suggeset they should fire you, so long as he does not make an untrue negative factual allegation (i.e. so long as he does not defame you)--if he does, you then may have grounds to sue him for defamation. 
It is not harassment to call your employers as per the above.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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