defamation/discrimination

my wife boss at her present job has been making false statements about her (isnt doing her job, falsely accusing her when there are issues, accusing her of theft, etc.) to other employees and also customers. she never had any problems until she let them know she was pregnant. there are two people there that would testify as to what they've been told by this man or have heard this man saying at the workplace. she's still working there but cant take the emotional stress of it and wants to leave. defamation? discrimination? thank you

1 answer  |  asked Jan 18, 2008 09:57 AM [EST]  |  applies to Ohio

Answers (1)

Nancy Grim
harassment possibly because of pregnancy

This is not any easy situation to address.
It may be discrimination. It may be defamation, but probably not. But, those questions go to the issue: For what can I sue?
Your first concern must be to keep the job. That is -- Can I stop this behavior, so I can bear to continue working? Can I keep from getting fired?
Look for someone other than the nasty boss to help you improve the situation. Is there a human resource manager? Your boss's boss? Another supervisor who is wiser and kinder?
Be as diplomatic as possible. Focus on what is most clearly inappropriate: I am guessing that the nasty boss can produce arguments that your wife's performance was less than perfect, or that he reasonably suspected her of theft at the time, but it is never appropriate to share those comments with other employees or customers. So start with that.
Talk about how you want to be a good employee, but it is very stressful when statements about you are shared with others, especially when you believe the statements are false. You might mention that it seems that the comments started when you announced that you are pregnant.
The hope is that the HR person or other manager will be motivated to diplomatically improve the work situation so that your wife can continue to be a productive employee.

As for your questions:
This is discrimination based on pregnancy IF the nasty turn is because of pregnancy. The timing suggests yes. But Nasty Boss will have another explanation. If you get fired and sue, this will be a question for the jury.
Is it defamation? Inaccurate statements to people in a "privileged position" which includes higher level supervisors are generally protected from defamation liability. But there is no "privilege" to share such comments with co-workers or customers.
An attorney would look carefully at whether the comments are opinion (cannot be defamation) or factual statements (could be defamation if untrue and not "privileged").
Another question is, what is the damage? Fortunately, she has not lost her job. Certainly, she is suffering emotional distress.
If you want to pursue the questions of discrimination or defamation, you should consult an attorney.

posted by Nancy Grim  |  Jan 22, 2008 2:23 PM [EST]

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