contract / defamation of character

first i was hired as an Adm.Asst. 3 months into the job I was in a meeting w/the pres, dir, and accountant. The pres, and the accountant both said if I was given the proper the training and help I would be able to do the bookkeeping the institution needed. That was 1yr. Never provided. The director was released from duty but before that happen I was asked to ensure we had all important documents. I did it. During raises, I renege on the raise and ask for a better work schedule instead. its been 4 months an I didn't receive the proper training nor did my work schedule change. Its a very small institution, and to deal with a lawyer would be financially hard for them. I inquired about the training and upon receiving the information I was told no. I also never received the extra help. So therefore making the accounting a disaester. what can I do. I walk off the job. Also there was money missing and I was the person they were thinking took it, but it so happen it was bad accounting. I found out by someone outside the board of trustee. Therefore, they went and told someone who doesn't belong on the board something that was entirely incorrect. Isn't that defamation of character? DO I have a legal issue here, since I was hired under false pretenses.I told the current director that I knew they were looking to fired me at no point did she state this wasn't true. (They treated the former director the same way when they were about to let her go.) I know you don't want long questions, I just need to know If I should contact a lawyer?

1 answer  |  asked Apr 20, 2004 6:25 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
Defamation and the Workplace

On your question of whether to contact an attorney, the answer is: I don't know. How strongly do you feel about the situation?

This website seeks to educate not so much you as an individual, but the public in general about broad points of employment law. When people present involved fact patterns, they are, whether they know it or not, looking for legal advice. There are all kinds of reasons we can't give you legal advice in response to queries posted to this website, including the fact that we would be posting what should otherwise be confidential information for all the world, including your employer, to see.

Your query is an example of another reason we cannot respond to involved fact patterns. Your query is long, but, in including so much information, you have succeeded in raising a lot of questions that your query does not come close to answering. In other words, there is a lot of information missing that would be vital for me to answer your question about whether there is a viable defamation case. And the type of information I would need is the type of information that should be disclosed only in a private consultation.

To provide only a very general answer to your question concerning defamation, statements do not become defamation simply because you find the statements unflattering. In fact, especially in New York State, defamation is difficult to prove.

In addition, whether you have a defamation case often depends on who heard the defamatory statement. You cannot successfully sue even on a statement that would otherwise be defamatory if it is said to certain people or said in certain situations. This gets to a concept called "privilege." There are two types of privilege, absolute privilege and qualified privilege.

For example, even if we assume a statement is defamatory, you could not successfully sue on it if the statement was made during the course of a hearing or trial in court. That is just the law. This is an example of absolute privilege. It is absolute because there are no exceptions.

If the statement is made within the workplace of an employer, it is generally extremely difficult to win a defamation case because the law generally grants some extra protection to statements made within an employer's workplace. This is an example of qualified privilege. It is qualified because the law assumes the statement should be treated as privileged, but the law allows for certain excepts, which are generally difficult to prove.

From My Employment Lawyer's Moderator: Here is an additional article on Defamation at Work:

posted by David M. Lira  |  Apr 22, 2004 09:17 AM [EST]

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