Does an employee have a case of tortious interference, defamation or slander?

In this situation, an employer had a layoff of union and non-union employees. A company officer stated that one of the non-union, at-will employees he laid off "would never work at the company again." This information was diseminated throughout the organization.
For several years prior to the layoff, allegations of embezzlement were made against this employee by union members / officials, both on and off company property. Demands for the removal of this employee were made by the union personnel in contract negotiations, grievence hearings, company meetings and private meetings with the company officer. The charges were false.
The company officer also requested the employee be party to illegal acts in order to resolve a business issue. The employee refused to carry out the actions and instead offered legal options for resolution of the business issue. The legal alternatives were dismissed by the officer.
This appears to be Tortious Interference in Employment by both the company officer and the union.
This person believes their reputation and career have been harmed. It also appears the person may have a case for defamation and slander.
The company placed a temp in the vacant position shortly after the layoff and is poised to fill the position with a new hire.
The laid-off employee is considering legal action. Does this case appear to be strong enough to persue?

2 answers  |  asked Aug 4, 2010 10:29 AM [EST]  |  applies to Ohio

Answers (2)

Bruce Elfvin
I think that the claims are not very clear cut. The official of a company cannot tortiously interfere with the employment of an individual with the same company. Defamation is not as straightforward as it may seem. An employer has a qualified privilege with respect to communications received related to matters that the employer has a legitimate interest in related to an employee. Even if the allegations prove to be false the person acting on the statements will have qualified immunity.

You should find an employment lawyer near you to discuss your situation with in detail. You can select one near you at

posted by Bruce Elfvin  |  Aug 4, 2010 10:56 AM [EST]
Neil Rubin
This message is not meant to: 1) contain my signature; 2) contain legal advice; 3) create an attorney/client relationship; or 4) guarantee confidentiality.

Your description of the circumstances has all the elements of defamation:

1) statement published (spoken or written) to non-privileged third-party;
2) statement is false;
3) publisher knew (or should have known) that the statement was false;and
4) false statement caused damages to reputation.

Further, there might be a retaliation and hostile work environment case here.

Whether it is strong enough to pursue, I can not say. I would need more information. I will speak to this person briefly to see if I can guide him/her.

posted by Neil Rubin  |  Aug 4, 2010 10:40 AM [EST]

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