Can I Sue My Employer For Firing Me – Yes, an employer is liable for knowingly or recklessly making false and defamatory statements about an employee that cause injury.
We will focus on two specific contexts. The first is in relation to a working reference. If a former employer misrepresents a reference that they know is false, the employee can sue if they are not hired and can prove that the reason they were not hired was the false reference.
Can I Sue My Employer For Firing Me
The second is in connection with a performance review. If an employer makes a false statement in a performance review that an employee with decision-making authority sees and the employer knows the statement is false, an employee can sue if they can show they have suffered financial harm as a result.
Why ‘can I Sue My Employer?’ Is Often The Wrong Question
Defamation is a legal claim based on false statements of fact that damage a person’s reputation. There are two forms. If it’s in writing, it’s called libel. If it is spoken, it is called slander. If someone defames you and damages your reputation, you can sue them.
While state laws differ, you typically need to show the following to clear a defamation case:
You can sue over a misrepresentation, but you can’t sue over an opinion. Determining which is which isn’t always easy. In fact, many defamation lawsuits touch on this issue.
You can see where the fight is. The person suing claims that a damaging statement is factual. On the other hand, the defendant maintains that the statement, perhaps harmful, was in any case her opinion.
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The line drawn by the courts isn’t always clear, and depending on where you are, it isn’t always consistent. An experienced libel lawyer in your country would be able to give you legal advice on whether a particular claim constitutes fact or opinion.
Showing damage to your personal or professional reputation can be difficult. But depending on the statement, you may not have to. There is a legal doctrine called libel itself. According to this doctrine, certain claims are so bad that a court will assume it damages your reputation if the claim is false.
Traditionally, there were specific, limited categories where a statement could be argued to be just that bad, such as:
However, some states apply the doctrine more broadly, so you’ll want to consult a local libel attorney to see if it applies to a particular claim.
Constructive Discharge And Wrongful Termination
Certain statements you can make with absolute privilege. This means you can say anything false and harmful you want without getting sued. For example, statements made by lawmakers while in court are highly privileged. No matter what they say, true or not, they cannot be sued for them. Good faith is irrelevant.
Compare that to what is called qualified privilege. In some contexts (including the business context which we will discuss below), you cannot sue for defamatory statements unless the publisher knew the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth (in some places this is called “real fraud”). the statement is privileged, you cannot sue for it, even if it damages your personal or professional reputation.
A fourth issue is damage. Unless a statement is itself defamatory, you must prove that the statement has damaged your reputation. There are four categories of damages you may be able to recover:
Again, a local libel attorney could help you better understand what exact damages may be available in your situation.
Can I Still Work For My Employer If I’m Suing Them?
Let us now turn to the employment context. Under the Defamation Act, an employer is liable for reputational damage caused to an employee if he publishes false and disincentive statements about him.
As suggested above, most states recognize a qualified privilege for employers to speak about current and former employees to prospective employers, other employees, and government agencies. However, the employer loses this privilege if:
The first, and perhaps the most common, is the reference occupational context. Let’s say your employer thinks you stole someone’s yogurt from the refrigerator in the company cafeteria. They think you are dishonest and fire you. No investigation, nothing. You just got fired.
You didn’t actually get the yogurt but decided you didn’t really like the job anyway. So you don’t struggle, but instead look for a new position.
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Your prospective employer appreciates your resume and schedules an interview. He’s doing great. Eventually the interviewer tells you that he wants you for the job, but just to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, ask for references. Give them the name of your former employer, who tells you you were fired for being dishonest. You won’t get the job.
While it depends on the state, you may have a defamation claim against your former employer. You can find out that they made a false statement and you didn’t get the job (damage) as a result. If the interviewer is unwilling to testify about why you weren’t hired, you may be relying on defamation per se, as stealing yogurt is a felony and at the very least reflects badly on your business conduct.
The wrinkle here is done against opinion. Your employer would argue that your “dishonesty” was an opinion, not necessarily a fact, and therefore you could not sue.
However, it depends on the state. Many will allow you to sue for statements that sound like opinions to your face if the underlying information they are based on is false.
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In our case, their so-called opinion is based on nothing more than the false accusation that they stole the yogurt. Whether or not you stole the yogurt is a fact: either you did or you didn’t. So in some places you may be suing your former employer for defamation based on the false claim that you are dishonest. Since your success depends on what your state law is, be sure to check with an experienced employment lawyer in your area.
A second employment context in which defamation may arise is in relation to a work review. Let’s say a colleague above you in the food chain sees a review of you written by your boss. Sticking with the yogurt example, let’s say the review says you are dishonest, mistakenly thinking you stole a yogurt. Let’s also say you’re ready and expecting a promotion from your supervisor and you don’t get it.
Assuming you can prove that you weren’t promoted because of the review (causality is often a challenge in defamation cases), you may be able to sue your boss for defamation in the workplace. Again, the claim is false and while it is an opinion, it is rooted in false factual information. You’ve been hurt for not getting the promotion. Then you may have a defamation case.
The law protects you from your employer knowingly or recklessly making false statements about you to prospective employers or other employees that damage your reputation. You can sue if your employer defames you.
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But you have a limited amount of time to file a defamation lawsuit. The statute of limitations for defamation claims can be up to a year (and if it’s a Tennessee defamation claim, only six months), so you’ll want to act quickly.
If you believe you have been defamed in connection with your employment, seek legal advice from a defamation or employment lawyer in your area. If your employer does not pay you and you are NOT from Minnesota, Google “Last paycheck in [insert your state]”
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Feeling Pressure By Your Employer To Sign A Termination Or Severance Package?
Federal law set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protects all workers in key ways, regardless of employment or legal documentation status. As an employee, your most basic right under the FLSA is to be fully compensated for the work you have done.
All the money you have earned belongs to you. If your employer refuses to pay you what you have earned, you have every right to sue them for these unpaid wages.
This also applies to laid-off or redundant workers who have not yet received compensation for the last few days or weeks of work. If you worked before the layoff, you made money and deserve to see it. Again, these unpaid wages are a crime and you have the right to claim compensation.
Under the FLSA, it is illegal for an employer to withhold a paycheck for any reason. Late payment can also be considered a violation of federal law.
Looking To File A Complaint Against The General Manager To The Department Of Labor. They Fired Me After Fighting For My Rights. Do You Know What Form I Should Fill.(reposted)
Employers are required by law to pay their employees’ wages on the next usual payday for the previous pay period. There are no exceptions to this rule, and many states have enacted laws that penalize employers who fall behind on paying their employees. Simply put, during the days when you
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