Oakland Defamation Attorneys

Oakland Defamation Table of Contents

Defamation is a broad term for false statements about someone intending to harm their reputation. At work, defamatory comments can be made by coworkers, supervisors, or managers. Defamation is unlawful and can have a lasting impact on a person’s career and employment prospects.

When defamation occurs in the workplace, workers need to understand their rights and legal options for pursuing compensation. An employee may be able to sue their employer for libel for making a false statement about their character.

If work-related defamation damaged your reputation, you should talk to an experienced Oakland employment attorney. At Erlich Law Firm, we stand up for workers and protect their professional reputations. Our lawyers work hard to get justice for unfair attacks on an employee’s character.

Types of Defamation

Under California law, there are two main types of defamation: libel and slander. Both can be harmful to a person’s reputation. The legal requirements to prove each form of defamation are different.

  • Libel: Defamation in written form.
  • Slander: A spoken statement that is defamatory.

Employees can suffer serious consequences, no matter the type of defamation they experience. When someone spreads misinformation about you through libel or slander, it can attack your character, cause difficulty in finding a new job, or create new obstacles to your career advancement.

How Does Defamation Occur in the Workplace?

Workplace defamation is an intentional act that causes harm to a current or former employee’s character, reputation, or career. False statements published or spoken by an employer or anyone representing the employer are unacceptable. For example, an employer having a security guard escort an employee from the office building could make other people falsely think the employee has committed a crime.

Defamation claims often arise after an employment relationship ends. A former employer may be asked to provide a reference after a worker has been terminated or has resigned from their job and is looking for a position with another company. In some cases, managers may make false statements about why an employee was terminated.

False statements about a worker made to superiors may meet the threshold of defamation, depending on the details of what happened. For example, telling a prospective employer that a former worker was fired because of their incompetence or disloyalty may be considered defamation. The lie may hurt the worker’s chances of being hired at another company.

There are many ways defamation can happen in the employment context. Here are some common examples:

  • Falsely accusing an employee of committing a crime such as theft or forgery
  • Spreading malicious lies about a worker
  • Claiming that an employee lacks integrity or is incompetent
  • Telling someone that a worker made an error that cost the company money

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When Can an Employee Bring a Defamation Claim Against an Employer?

If you have been a victim of defamation, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer. California employees have the right to recover damages if they have been wrongfully terminated based on false verbal or written statements made by a colleague, supervisor, or manager.

Actionable defamatory statements can occur before, during, or after a worker’s termination. To have a valid case for defamation, the employee must prove the potentially defamatory comments led to measurable harm, such as:

  • Loss of employment
  • Damage to future earning opportunities
  • Harm to professional relationships
  • Emotional distress

Because there are specific criteria for what can be considered defamation, it is essential to discuss your situation with an experienced employment lawyer. The attorneys at Erlich Law Firm can help you determine whether you have grounds for a defamation claim against your employer.

What Can an Employee Recover in a Defamation Case?

Every defamation lawsuit is different, which makes it impossible to predict the exact amount of compensation you can win. A knowledgeable lawyer, however, can provide you with an estimate of what to expect. Based on the details of your case, you may be entitled to receive the following types of damages:

  • Lost wages: Income the employee would have earned if the defamation had not occurred.
  • Pain and suffering: Loss of reputation, emotional distress, shame, hurt feelings, mortification, and other losses that are hard to quantify.
  • Punitive damages: Compensation designed to punish the employer for engaging in defamation and prevent it from happening in the future.
  • Court costs

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Proving Defamation in California

While workplace rumors can be unpleasant or insulting, they often do not qualify as defamatory statements. To bring a valid claim for employment defamation in California, an employee must be able to meet the basic legal requirements for proving defamation. The five main elements of a defamation case include:

  • A statement was published. The defendant communicated the defamatory comments to at least one other person besides the employee, either verbally or in writing. Published, in this context, does not necessarily mean printed or released to the public.
  • The statement was false. The statement of truth must not be accurate. An employee should be able to prove that it is false.
  • The statement was defamatory. The defendant made a statement of fact that is either slander or libel.
  • The statement was unprivileged. Certain workplace communications are protected from defamation claims when there is a duty or common interest involved.
  • The statement harmed the employee’s reputation. The false information injured the employee’s personal or professional reputation. The defamation resulted in special damages such as lost earnings or wrongful termination.

The requirements for proving defamation can vary depending on the circumstances. For instance, “defamation per se” is a type of defamation in which damages are assumed without further explanation due to the severity of the defamatory statement. Being accused of committing a crime, incompetence, or lacking integrity are some examples of what may be considered defamation per se. In such cases, you can file a defamation claim without having to show you suffered special damages.

There are also exceptions to defamation under California law, such as comments made in good faith or privileged communications during an official proceeding. An employment lawyer can determine if any exceptions apply to your situation and help you prove your case.

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How Long Do I Have to Bring a Defamation Claim?

You typically have one year to bring a defamation claim. The year begins on the date you discover that a defamatory statement was made about you. A skilled employment lawyer may sometimes be able to extend the time limit.

Because of the strict deadlines, you should speak to an attorney about your defamation claim as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could lose your right to recover any compensation.

How Can a Lawyer Help with a Defamation Claim?

Defamation cases involve complex laws that can be difficult to navigate. Additionally, an employer may claim that no defamation occurred. There are several defenses employers may use to try to make themselves immune from liability in a defamation lawsuit. They may claim the alleged defamatory statement was:

  • True
  • An opinion
  • Not shared with anyone other than the employee
  • Not harmful to the employee
  • Published with the employee’s consent

To have a defamation claim, an employee must be able to prove that the defendant made a statement of fact rather than an opinion. An opinion or even an insult does not count as defamation, no matter how harmful it is. A statement of fact is one that can be proved true or false.

One of the key defenses used by employers to counter a defamation claim is to argue that the alleged defamatory statement was privileged because it was an opinion, the truth or an official report. A skilled employment lawyer will know how to overcome a privilege defense, such as by showing there was intent or maliciousness in making the false statement. The defendant intended to damage the employee’s reputation through the defamatory comments, either negligently or maliciously.

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Fighting on Behalf of Wronged Employees

At Erlich Law Firm, we know how much damage a defamatory statement can cause to an employee. Our experienced employment attorneys know how to thoroughly investigate acts of defamation and obtain compensation for clients in Oakland and across the Bay Area.

Defamation cases can be hard to win because of how complex they are. Erlich Law Firm, however, is equipped to take on even the most challenging claims. Your employment lawyer will gather the evidence necessary to prove your defamation case and guide you through every step of the legal process.

If your character, reputation, or career has been harmed due to defamation committed by your current or former employer, we are here to hold them accountable. Our lawyers will always act in your best interests. With our deep knowledge of the law and experience representing employees, you can rest assured your case will be in capable hands.

Call for a Free Case Evaluation

Erlich Law Firm is dedicated to protecting your reputation and career. We believe in using the law’s power to right workplace injustices. If you have suffered defamation at work, our Oakland employment lawyers can help you understand your rights and determine your next steps to recover compensation for your losses. Get started today with a free consultation.

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background-quote

My parents were heavily involved in community organizing. Seeing neighbors and friends’ parents struggle in the workplace gave me a sense of purpose that I wanted to help others. Many employees feel helpless and powerless in the workplace, and helping them vindicate their rights is the right thing to do.

- Jason Erlich

Client testimonials
Jason took the time to explain and guide me through the challenging process, and went the extra steps in consistently providing guidance and putting my concerns and questions high on their list.

Jeff V., Oakland

When employees' legal rights are violated, we take time to explain their legal options, listen to their goals, and aggressively argue their case until we achieve the resolution they deserve.

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