Do I have a lawsuit if libel was committed against me?

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Do I have a lawsuit if libel was committed against me?

I was put on a 30 day probation from 3 false statements from my manager, 2 of which I have proof is false and the third is a subjective statement that I am not a team player. When I asked she and the administrator for specific examples, neither one of them could give that information. I signed that form with hesitance, but felt like if I didn’t, I would be in more trouble. Do I approach the administrator to retract those false statements from my file and if there is hesitance; do I mention lawsuit?

Asked on June 30, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The problem you may is that from what you write, this may not be defamation. Defamation is a false factual statement; opinions are not defamation, no matter how negative or no matter how ill-founded or -supported they may be. The statement that you are not a "team player" is an opinion, not a fact, and is not actionable; if the other statements are similar to this one, they would not be actionable, too. Typicially, most statements that "evaluate your work," such as in a review (e.g. "bad employee," "lazy," "doesn't work as hard as (s)he should," "not respected by teammates," etc.) are opinions and not actionable; statements that said you did (or did not do)  something verifiable or proveable, however, would be facts.

Therefore, if the other statements made by your manager are indeed false factual statments, such as (for example)--

* a claim you were excessively absent or late, when you were not

* a claim you stole from your employer, if you didn't

* a claim that you missed certain dates, benchmarks, or targets, when you did not

--then they may be actionable defamation; and if they are actionable, you could likely sue the employer as well as the manager; the employer would be liable under respondeat superior, or that employers are liable for many actions of their employees engaged in during or for work.

If you could sue the employer for defamation--or even credibly state that you will--you could certainly ask for a retraction or deletion of those statements as part of a settlement or to resolve the matter.


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