Can my employer seek legal action against me if I contacted its customers to defend my good name?

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Can my employer seek legal action against me if I contacted its customers to defend my good name?

I worked with this employer for 16 years in a manager position. The last 3 years they hired a new manager and we did not see eye to eye. I tried working with him for 3 years then eventually I left but on good terms. I gave notice and provided transition papers and other documents to help ease my departure. Now, 40 days after my departure I started to hearhow my former employer was passing blame for their shortcomings on me. They are not able to keep up with work load or meeting customer needs. This was being passed to customers. I sent the customer an e-mail letting them know its not me. Can I be sued?

Asked on October 29, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Arguably, if you had signed some agreement (e.g. a non-solicitation agreement or a separation and release agreement) which prevented you from contacting customers, you could be sued for violating it. Or potentially if you used proprietary company information (e.g. their customer/client list), there *might* be grounds for legal action if somehow what you did was to their detriment or your benefit. A third potential basis for liability would be if your actions somehow have interferred with their contractual relationship with their customers (there is a cause of action for "tortious interference w/contractual relationships"). A fourth possible basis could be if anything you said to the customer could consititute defamation of the business.

Other than the first mentioned, which would be a clean-cut contractual violation, none of these possible grounds for legal action are particularly to be valid, but they could exist under the right (or, I guess, wrong) circumstances. Still and all, instead of getting into a tit-for-tat, if you believe the company has defamed you, you would be better off either bringing a defamationa action or threatening to do so unless they cease. Defamation is the public (to even one other person) making of a false factual statement (not opinion) which damages your reputation.


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