What are my rights if I discovered a work e-mail that has derogatory comments about my co-workers and I?

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What are my rights if I discovered a work e-mail that has derogatory comments about my co-workers and I?

I work at a small medical practice and some staff have personal computers. We also have an all staff computer for those who do not have their own. While at work, my personal computer was not available so I had to read my e-mails on the all staff computer where I discovered 2 e-mails between our leadership team. They made derogatory comments about other staff and I. We don’t have an HR department, so our CEO has asked my boss to confront the leadership team on my behalf with this info. I’m not sure how to move forward in this company knowing they feel this way butI  can’t walk out because of my responsibility as a single mom. How do I move on?

Asked on May 18, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

From a legal perspective, it may be the case that the persons making those comments committed defamation against you: defamation is the public--which means to even one other person--making of untrue factual statements--so not opinions; e.g. saying that "Bob is ugly" may be cruel and unfair, but there is no cause of action--that damage another's reputation and/or cause others to not want to do business with him or her. If you have suffered some damages, you may be able, if so inclined, to sue the other employees or possibly even the company. The key issue, in fact may be the issue of damages--i.e. what harm has been done? Emotional upset is not generaly compensible, so if you have not suffered at work, lost business opportunties, etc., there may effectively be nothing to sue for. If you feel that you have suffered damages, you should consult with a personal injury attorney. Good luck.


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