Is it legal for a business to put your picture up in their offices when they only think that you have done something wrong?

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Is it legal for a business to put your picture up in their offices when they only think that you have done something wrong?

I was informed that a national retailer has my husband’s and one of our friend’s pictures up in their office because they think that we tried to return something and lied about it (which did not happen). Also, I was informed that they follow my husband when he is there because he “looks suspicious”, which the last time I new was profiling which is against their policy. Ii used to work for this chain in another city so I know their policy. My source is one of their employees. What are our options, if any?

Asked on November 10, 2010 under Personal Injury, Utah

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There is no right or wrong answer. If any business feels that a person is a risk for some reason--including a possible "fraudulent" return--that business has a right to ask it's employees to watch that person more closely. (For example, consider casinos--they can watch, and even exclude, suspected card counters, and can make their employees aware of the identities and likenesses of those people.) On the other hand, if false factual statements are being made publically which damage someone's reputation, that *might* be actionable as defamation--particularly if the person has in fact suffered some damage and has provable damages or losses. It is not a  particularly clear or bright line. For example, saying to staff, "We think that John Doe may have tried to return something he was not entitled to; please pay attention to transactions involving him," is very likely fine--it is stating that they have a belief or opinion. On the other hand, saying "John Doe is a thief" would probably be actionable--it is a factual statement that would tend to damage John Doe's reputation, and if it is not true, it may be defamation.


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