If my boss, along with another co-worker, has been talking about me behind my back to fellow coworkers, what can I do?

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If my boss, along with another co-worker, has been talking about me behind my back to fellow coworkers, what can I do?

He refuses to speak with me about this and he’s also spread rumors about other workers before. I’ve heard threats of me being fired soon. I’ve already contacted HR a week ago with the issue and they’ve yet to respond. This is creating a stressful environment and it’s been affecting my ability to get to sleep without some type of aid. The other co-workers have told me about this because they know what’s being said isn’t true.

Asked on May 14, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you don't have an employment contract, there is most likely nothing you could do about being fired, or about threats to be fired--without an employment contract, you are an "employee at will" and may be fired at any time, for any reason (and also have to endure threats of being fired). There is also no general claim or cause of action for being subject to a stressful work environment--employers may make their workplaces as stressful as they want.

If your boss and/or the co-worker are defaming you, you may have a legal claim or cause of action against them for defamation, however. If they are doing this after you have provided notice to your company (e.g. HR), you may be able to sue the company, too.

Defamation is the public making (which means to any third parties--basically, anyone but directly and only to you) of untrue statements of fact which damage your reputation. The critical point is that they must be untrue factual statements which a reasonable person would find negative or damaging--for example, a claim that you use drugs when you don't. However, true facts, no matter how negative, are not defamation--so if, for example, you are married but having an affair with a co-worker, it is not defamation to say that. And opinions are not defamation, no matter how negative or cruel--so it's not defamation to say you are "creepy," "lazy," or a "loser."

If you feel that you are the victim of defamation, you should speak with a personal injury attorney to explore your possible recourse. Good luck.


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