What to do if a past employer sent me nasty letter after my resiging that they were threatening to sue for slander due to what I wrote in the letter?

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What to do if a past employer sent me nasty letter after my resiging that they were threatening to sue for slander due to what I wrote in the letter?

I am on maternity leave and was due to go back to work next week. However, about a week ago I was offered another position, so I immediately turned in my resignation to my current job. I stated in my letter that I felt the company was more concerned with money rather than patient care (this was not spoken outside of the letter to the employer). Several days later the CEO send me a very rude letter telling me that I was immature, a bad friend to the other employees and that he would sue me for damages if I did not stop. He went on to say other things as well. Can I do anything?

Asked on March 30, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no grounds to sue somene for something in a letter sent only and directly to that person; defamation (slander is a form of defamation, as is libel) is when someone publically--which means to third parties--makes an untrue statement of fact which damages another's reputation. Therefore, your letter to your supervisor was inappropriate--in the future, why damage relationships or "burn bridges"?--but it was not actionable defamation, as long as you did not publicize it to others. Similarly, the CEO's letter to you was inappropriate, but is also not actionable--the law simply does not provide compensation for having someone say nasty things directly to you.

Both you and the employer should probably either stop communicating entirely; or you might send a very short but professional apology and then cease communicating. If the communications keep escalating, then at some point, one of you may make defamatory comments about the other to third parties, at which point there could be a cause of action.


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