I work in a family owned business and was falsely accused of having a sexual relationship with my employer's husband. Do I have legal grounds to sue for defamation creating a hastall work inviorment, harassmentand or construtive termination. I am the only non family staff member.

2 answers  |  asked Jun 14, 2011 05:14 AM [EST]  |  applies to Pennsylvania

Answers (2)

Harold Goldner
You did not mention the size of the business. Businesses of fewer than 4 employees will not be covered by either state or Federal anti-discrimination laws. Businesses of fewer than 15 employees will only be covered by state law.

Secondly, you do not mention: (1) who falsely accused you (if it was other than an employee/supervisor at work, then it has nothing to do with work); and (2) what the consequences of the accusal were, i.e. demotion, reduction in hours or pay, etc.

Thirdly, you have no cause of action for "constructive termination." Either you're terminated, or you are put in a situation in which no reasonable person would remain (in which case after you quit you argue that it's "constructive termination.") In such instance, your claim is for employment discrimination, not for constructive termination.

In order to recover for employment discrimination based upon sex, generally, you must suffer a tangible adverse employment action, or be subjected to "severe and pervasive" harassment because of your gender. Personalities can conflict; people talk; tongues wag. If it's all gossip, it's not going to serve as the basis for an employment discrimination claim worth pursuing.

If you are concerned that any of the above do apply to you, I urge you to contact a Pennsylvania employment lawyer who can advise you with specific reference to your situation, as opposed to generalities as given above.

posted by Harold Goldner  |  Jun 14, 2011 08:36 AM [EST]
Christopher Ezold
Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.

That being said, if you were falsely accused of sexual misconduct, then you may have a defamation claim against the person who made the false statements. I would need more facts concerning the statements, however, before I could give you a firm opinion on the claim.

You mention 'constructive discharge,' which tells me that you have not been fired. To have a claim of hostile work environment, it must be based on some type of discrimination - i.e. a hostile work environment because you are a woman, because of your race, etc. Furthermore, if you have not suffered a 'negative employment action' - i.e., termination or lost wages - your legally awardable damages might be very low. I would need to know the particulars of the harassment and the environment. If you are being accused by a person who cannot stand women working in the office, you may have a claim for discrimination.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me at the below address(es) or number.

/Christopher E. Ezold/
The Ezold Law Firm, P.C.
One Belmont Avenue,
Suite 501
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
(610) 660-5585

posted by Christopher Ezold  |  Jun 14, 2011 05:51 AM [EST]

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