Texas Defamation Lawyer
Learning that someone at work has made false statements about you can be hurtful and even damage your reputation. You might even think, “I’ve been defamed!” But the legal meaning of defamation is specific.
You should find an expert defamation attorney near you before making any decisions. Gardner Employment Law has handled defamation cases in court. We can guide you to determine, first, whether you have a valid claim and, second, what you should do.
Was The Statement an Opinion or Fact?
The first basic element sounds simple: Was the false statement the other person’s opinion about you or was it a fact? It’s not simple. We tend to accept statements as “facts,” when they are merely opinions. For example, if someone called you a “chauvinist,” that was the other person’s opinion about you. It may be false, and it may be hurtful. But it is not a statement of fact.
Before you can assert a claim for defamation, the false statement must be a statement of fact, not someone’s opinion.
I represented a researcher once, and another person claimed that an idea was not my client’s, that my client had supposedly “stolen” the idea from the other person. That was a false statement, which my client could document as being false. It was a statement of fact, something that supposedly had happened. We went to court, and the matter ultimately settled. This is an illustration of a verbal statement of fact that was false.
Written or Spoken?
Another simple principle is that a false statement of fact in writing is called “libel.” A false statement of fact that is verbal is called “slander.”
Generally the claim for “defamation of character” means a claim for personal damages caused by injury to one’s reputation. To have a valid legal claim one must have evidence to support the various required elements of defamation. That’s why you should talk with an expert defamation lawyer to analyze your situation.
Is the Employer Responsible?
Many times I receive calls from potential clients who want to “sue the company” over a manager’s false statement. In a Texas case, ExxonMobil v. Hines, the court held that even though an employee’s manager had made a false statement of fact that resulted in the employee’s termination, that employee had no claim for damages. Why? The court reasoned that in Texas, because Mr. Hines was an at-will employee he could have been terminated at any time, regardless of a false statement, he therefore could never prove any losses.
Another required element is proof that the defamatory statement was made by a manager in carrying out his or her job duties while in course and scope of employment.
Since ExxonMobil other courts have clarified that where an employee can prove that the defamatory statement caused injury to his reputation or character, more than just the fact that he was terminated, there may be a valid claim for slander in an employment situation.
Does An Employee Ever Have A Claim for Defamation?
After reading the legal explanation above, you might think that there is never a chance to recover for defamation at work. However, such situations do occur.
If you have experienced financial harm or damage to your professional or personal reputation because of a false statement made at work, it’s worth investigating. Before you call HR, make the right call. Start with us.