Defamation in the workplace is a serious issue that can have a lasting impact on an individual’s career and reputation. In Texas, employees who have been defamed by their employer have the right to take legal action against their employer. This article provides an overview of the steps involved in suing an employer for defamation in Texas.
Under Texas law, employment defamation occurs when your employer tells other people false information regarding your employment. Often this happens when an employer terminates an employee and tells future potential employers false reasons for termination. Employers can disclose negative information about an employee (within limits) if the information is true. Defamation occurs when the information is false.
What is Defamation in Texas?
Defamation is defined as the act of making a false statement about another person that injures their reputation. In the context of the workplace, defamation can take many forms, including written statements, spoken words, or even gestures. In order for a statement to be considered defamatory, it must be made to a third party, it must be false, and it must cause harm to the person’s reputation.
Proving Defamation in Texas
In order to succeed in a defamation lawsuit against an employer, the employee must prove that the employer made a false statement about them and that the statement was made with the intention of harming their reputation. It is important to gather as much evidence as possible, including any written statements or emails, witness statements, or recordings of the defamation.
Filing a Lawsuit
If the employee believes they have a strong case, they may choose to file a lawsuit against their employer. The lawsuit should be filed in the appropriate court, which is typically the district court in the county where the employer is located. The employee must also serve a copy of the lawsuit on the employer, which can be done through certified mail, personal service, or substituted service.
In a successful defamation lawsuit, the employee may be entitled to damages. These damages may include compensation for any lost wages or benefits, as well as compensation for the harm to their reputation. In some cases, the employee may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are intended to punish the employer for their actions.
Texas employers’ rights to report information about employees under Texas law
An employer reports false information regarding a termination when it simply makes up information why the employment ended. False information spreads the employer conducts an incomplete investigation and repeats inaccurate information. Even if the employer truly believes the information is true at the time the employer can be liable if the investigation was negligently incomplete. This is why employers often do not offer other companies recommendations or reasons for termination.
Employers have a defense when they spread information believed in good faith as true but turns out false. To defeat this defense, the employee must show the employer ignored information that would have proven the information false or intentionally spread information it knew to be false. Defeating this defense is a challenge and is why employment defamation cases are rarely brought to trial. Employers do not have to turn every stone. If the investigation extended reasonably then the employer usually prevails.
Even when a former employee defeats this defense the plaintiff is only halfway there. The plaintiff’s employment attorney must still prove the employer shared the false information with a third party. At that point the plaintiff still generally must prove a financial loss, such as a lost employment opportunity.
Schedule a consultation with employment lawyer
If you believe you have been defamed by a current or former employer you should speak with an employment attorney. Looking for more information about employment law and how an employment lawyer can help with problems at work? Visit the employment law page for more information. Often defamation claims in employment involve other employment law claims like employment discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation claims. Wrongful termination lawyers often deal with questions about defamation related to wrongful termination and other employment law claims.
Defamation may not be the main claim in an employment lawsuit but your employment lawyer may allege defamation along with other claims. It is common for employment lawyers to pursue several related employment law claims in a single lawsuit. Many employment law claims have even shorter limitations periods than defamation claims.
It is important to note that in Texas, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who have filed a lawsuit for defamation. This means that the employer cannot take any adverse action against the employee, such as termination, demotion, or reduction in pay, as a result of the lawsuit. If the employer does take retaliatory action, the employee may have a separate claim for retaliation.
Attorneys for defamation in the workplace
Defamation claims are rare because few people have such extensive losses that it makes sense to spend the money to sue an employer. That does not mean no defamation claims are valuable. The best way to know if your potential claim is worth pursuing is to speak with an attorney. Attorneys can evaluate the facts and possible outcomes of your claim. Do not delay contacting law firms. The statute of limitations for defamation claims in Texas is not long.