Running my name through the mud running me out of Town.

My old employer is going around telling cops and others in the community that I was fired for smoking pot which is completely false. Now the cops in our town our saying they will keep an eye out for me. Is this defamation or slander or both?

1 answer  |  asked Aug 7, 2008 2:43 PM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
Slander is defamation.

The short answer to your question is yes. There are two forms of defamation. Slander is verbal and libel is written. There are slight differences in the law between the two, but for the most part they are defined the same. Slander is the publication of a false statement of fact that injures a person's reputation. If your employer published (which just means communicating to a third person) that you were fired for smoking pot, and if the statement is false, that is slander per se. Some forms of slander require actual proof of injury to reputation, but a false accusation that someone committed a crime is presumed to cause injury to reputation, so even if you cannot prove actual damage, a jury can still award damages for the presumed injury.
Unfortunately, statements to police reporting suspected criminal behavior are protected by a privilege, which means that even if you prove the statement was false you cannot recover damages. If you can prove that the employer made such a statement to someone other than the police, the privilege doesn't apply and you may have a claim.
Truth is a defense to a claim of slander, so you can expect your employer to try to prove that the statement was true or that the employer had reason to believe it was true. Also, it is difficult to prove exactly what one person said to another unless you have some kind of recording, so the employer may try to characterize the statement as something other than a simple statement of fact. Something like "we suspected him of smoking pot" is much different than "we caught him smoking pot."
You should talk to a lawyer in your community about whether the facts in your case are enough to prove a claim of slander and whether your reputation has been damaged in a way that might persuade a jury to award you damages.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Aug 7, 2008 5:42 PM [EST]

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