White Plains Defamation Lawyers
In New York, an employment relationship between an employer and employee is generally considered “at-will.” This means that an employee can resign at any time, or an employer can fire an employee, without either having to give a reason or justification. But what if an employer gives a false reason for terminating an employee, such as that they were fired for misconduct? Such false statements can affect a former employee’s ability to find a new job, especially if they expected a positive or neutral reference from their former employer.
In some cases, making such false statements constitutes defamation under New York law. Defamation is a kind of personal injury claim. In other words, if a current or former employer has defamed you in some way, you can sue for monetary damages. The White Plains defamation lawyers at Carey & Associates, P.C., can advise you further on your specific situation. We can look at an employer’s actions and identify what statements may qualify as defamation.
What Is Defamation?
Defamation can either be done orally or in writing. Oral defamation is known as slander. Written defamation is known as libel. Despite the differences in form, however, the essential elements of both are largely the same.
New York’s Court of Appeals has long defined defamation to mean any statement that “tends to expose a person to hatred, contempt or aversion, or to induce an evil or unsavory opinion of him in the minds of a substantial number of the community, even though it may impute no moral turpitude to him.” This includes any statement that will “disparage a person” with respect to their profession or trade. To prove defamation, a plaintiff must show all of the following:
- The defendant made a false statement about the plaintiff;
- The false statement was published to a third party without the plaintiff’s authorization;
- The defendant made the false statement intentionally, or at least negligently; and
- The false statement was either defamation per se or caused some tangible harm to the plaintiff.
Defamation per se means the statement was so harmful or damaging on its own that the plaintiff need not show they actually suffered any specific harm as a result. The defendant is liable simply for publishing the defamatory statements. Some common examples of defamation per se under New York law include:
- Statements that an individual engaged in behavior that is considered unethical within the professional conduct of their business or trade;
- Statements that a person has engaged in, or been charged with, criminal activity;
- Statements that a person engaged in sexual misconduct or is “unchaste” or
- Statements that a person has an infectious or contagious disease.”
What Is Employment Defamation?
Our practice at Carey & Associates, P.C., focuses on defamation in the context of employment. For example, say you left your last job and are applying for a new one. You list your former employer as a reference. When the prospective employer contacts your former employer, they are given a false reason for why you were terminated for cause. As a result, the prospective employer decides not to hire you.
Under this simple scenario, you would have a defamation claim against your former employer under New York law for the following reasons:
- Your former employer made a false statement of fact about you;
- Your former employer “published” that statement to a third party, in this case the prospective employer;
- You suffered a legal injury–not getting the new job–as a result of the publication of this false statement.
It is important to note that defamation requires a false statement of fact rather than opinion. In other words, if a former employer tells someone you were “difficult to work with” or they “just didn’t like you,” that would not be defamation, even if it affected your future employment prospects. In contrast, if a former employer falsely stated, “We fired her for stealing,” that would be actionable defamation.
At the same time, New York courts have traditionally recognized an employer’s “privilege” to make certain statements about current employees in the course of an internal investigation or discipline. This can make it more difficult to assert a defamation claim against a current employer or co-worker who has allegedly made false statements about you within the company. But this privilege generally does not extend to false statements made to people outside of the company.
Speak with a White Plains Defamation Lawyer Today
Defamation claims are complicated. Simply standing up and accusing a current or former employer of making false statements about you is not enough to prevail. You need to build a strong and compelling case that the employer acted with malice and hurt your future employment prospects. We can help you build that case. If you need to speak with an experienced White Plains defamation lawyer, call Carey & Associates, P.C., today at (914) 705-5427 to schedule an initial consultation.
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Mark and his team at Carey & Associates are incredibly knowledgeable about Employment Law and have walked me through every step of the way. Their approach and guidance has been extremely effective in dealing with my case. They instill a sense of confidence by laying out the facts, caselaw, and risk assessment to help make well informed decisions. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for an Employment Attorney.
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