Workplace Defamation in Memphis, TN
False statements in the workplace can devastate your career, ruin your relationships, and take away everything you’ve worked hard for. It’s not fair and it’s not right. But there are paths forward, and there are ways for you to protect your reputation and your rights.
There’s a legal term for what happened to you — defamation of character. At the Employment and Consumer Law Group, we’re focused on protecting the rights of employees just like you. We understand how harmful false statements in the workplace can be, and we’re ready to take swift action on your case.
With years of experience standing up for Tennessee workers and results that speak for themselves, you can rely on our team of employment attorneys to fight aggressively on your behalf.
Reach out today for a free case evaluation. Call or contact us online now.
What Is Defamation of Character?
In Tennessee, defamation of character usually happens when someone makes false statements about you, presents them as fact, and causes you harm.
Let’s say someone says something untrue about you, and their claims directly damage your reputation or career. Their statements may qualify as defamation of character. While some cases may pull in additional requirements, these are the general principles that apply.
Defaming statements could be published in a written format or said to another person. Statements published online or in a resource such as a newspaper may qualify as “libel,” while those that are spoken or communicated orally may qualify as “slander.” Different rules may apply depending upon whether the statements against you fall under libel or slander.
What Is Considered Workplace Defamation?
Workplace defamation includes statements by others from the workplace that might affect your ability to hold employment or get a new job. Workplace defamation cases may involve references, allegations, or other troubling statements.
Suppose you’ve applied for a new job and the prospective employer calls your former employer as a reference. If the former employer provides false statements about your work or reasons for leaving, that could qualify as workplace defamation.
Keep in mind that not all statements in the workplace may qualify. When statements are someone’s opinion and aren’t presented as fact, they might not meet the definition of workplace defamation. Further, rumors may or may not qualify as workplace defamation, depending upon what was said and how it was presented.
Defamation Laws in TN
In Tennessee, a statement must meet specific requirements to qualify as defamation. As noted in Hibdon v. Grabowski, 195 SW 3d 48, “To establish a prima facie case of defamation, the plaintiff must prove that:
- a party published a statement;
- with knowledge that the statement was false and defaming to the other; or,
- with reckless disregard for the truth of the statement or with negligence in failing to ascertain the truth of the statement.” (citing Sullivan v. Baptist Mem’l Hosp., 995 S.W.2d 569, 571 (Tenn.1999))
Defamatory statements must be “published,” but that can mean different things depending on whether the statements are written or spoken.
Think of “publication” as being the act of making defamatory information available to a third party. When the statements are presented in a written format — such as a Facebook post or a newspaper article — then they would likely qualify as published once they’re released. When the defamatory statements are spoken, then the statement would likely be published at the moment they’re uttered.
Knowing the Material was False or Acting with Reckless Disregard/Negligence
To prove your case, you will need to show that the person who published the statement knew it was false or published with reckless disregard for the truth or without taking steps to determine whether the information was accurate. Unless you can prove one of these elements, it may be challenging to show that defamation happened.
Truth as a Defense
When some or all of a statement is true, that could be a defense to any defamation case. As part of a lawsuit under Tennessee law, you’ll need to show that the defamatory statement was untrue for the case to proceed.
If you can establish defamation, you’ll also need to prove any harm that you’ve suffered. This could include damage to your reputation and standing, emotional distress, economic losses, and other losses. You and your workplace defamation lawyer can use witness testimony, work records, and other documents to prove you’re entitled to compensation.
Four-Prong Defamation Test in Tennessee
When courts look at a defamation case, they may consider four elements to see whether the statements qualify as defamation. Generally, they are:
- The statements must be “published.” In Tennessee, the term published generally means that the information has been made available to a third party. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the information has to be publicly available.
- The information needs to clearly be about the person who is alleging defamation. If it’s unclear who the statements are referring to, it becomes significantly more challenging to bring a defamation case.
- The defamatory statement needs to result in harm. This could include harm to your reputation, harm to your ability to get or hold employment, or economic harm such as losing a job or reduced pay. Proving harm in a defamation case is an in-depth process, but a workplace defamation lawyer can walk you through the steps.
- Proof must show that the publishing individual made the defamatory statement knowingly, with reckless disregard, or with negligence in finding out the truth. This element will require detailed evidence and may be one of the most challenging to prove.
Statute of Limitations
You only have a limited time to bring an action for defamation in Tennessee. Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-103, people bringing a slander action (spoken defamation) typically have six months from the day the words are uttered.
For libel actions (written defamation), people typically have one year to bring an action. Keep in mind that there may be some exceptions to these rules. Talk with a workplace defamation lawyer to understand any time limits that could apply in your case.
How Can the Employment and Consumer Law Group Help Me?
When you’re dealing with workplace defamation or harmful workplace conduct, it can feel like the world is against you. But the workplace defamation lawyers at the Employment and Consumer Law Group can defend your reputation and hold the responsible party accountable for their defamatory conduct.
You can count on us to:
- Listen to your story and answer all of your questions about workplace defamation. Bringing a legal case against someone else can be intimidating, especially when your job and livelihood are on the line. Our knowledgeable workplace defamation lawyers can walk you through your options and help you understand the best path forward.
- Gather evidence about your case. To build a defamation case, you’ll need strong evidence and support. That’s where we can help. Our lawyers can pull together all the available evidence, work with experts, and handle everything your case needs from start to finish.
- Manage all communications or correspondence related to your case. A large part of a defamation case is communicating with the lawyers and parties on the other side. When our team represents you, we can take the stress off by handling any calls, letters, or emails about your claim.
- Guide you through the process. A workplace defamation case can feel overwhelming, but our lawyers will be with you every step of the way. We’ll let you know what comes next, what your case needs, and keep you up-to-date on its progress.
- Negotiate with those responsible for the defamation. In some cases, those who defamed you may want to negotiate for a settlement. If that happens, we’ll work to negotiate a settlement that’s fair to you.
- Advocate aggressively in court, if necessary. When the parties that defamed you won’t own up to their actions, we can pursue your case in court. From trial prep to arguing before a judge, we’re ready to fight for you all the way.
Your rights matter, and so does your reputation. If you’ve been the victim of workplace defamation, contact the Employment and Consumer Law Group today for a free consultation. We understand, and we’re here to fight for you.
Call us or reach out online for your free case review.