Does my employer have the right to make derogatory comments about my family?

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Does my employer have the right to make derogatory comments about my family?

Does he have the right to treat them badly when they come into his store? My employer always treated my family like they didn’t belong in his store. He wouldn’t even speak to them. He would make comments about them being stupid or that they were alcoholics and other comments.

Asked on September 1, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) There is no rule saying that anyone--including an employer--cannot be rude, nasty, insulting, etc. to people--including family of staff.

However, that said:

2) While anyone can be rude and nasty, and can even make opinion statements without any fear of  liability (e.g. "You're the creepiest S.O.B. I've ever met"--that's simply an opinon), IF the person makes false factual statements that put another person in a bad light and damage their reputation, and those statements are made to third party(ies), that might be defamation. So, for example, calling someone "stupid" is an opinion; but saying they are an "alcoholic" is a statement of fact, and if it's false and it's made in front of other people, that could be defamation.

3) Also, employers cannot discriminate against or harass employees on the basis of race, sex, religion, age over 40, or disability; if the employer is making nasty comments to/about your family really to harass you because of your race, sex, etc., that might be illegal employment discrimination.

If you think (2) or (3) might be the case, you might consult with an attorney to see if you do in fact have a claim and what it might be worth.


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