Sexual Harassment & Defamation of Character
What are rumors? Rumors, sometimes referred to as gossip, can be very serious if used in the workplace. This is especially true of the person initiating the rumors has significant power over the person the rumors are about.
Harassment or Defamation
Sexual harassment is unwelcomed behavior based on race, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability or genetic discrimination. Generally, sexual harassment occurs when someone – male or female – is subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, as well as other verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature. There are two types of sexual harassment: hostile work environment and quid pro quo. If you believe you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment, you should first file a complaint with your employer. Should this prove unsuccessful, a charge should be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a similar state agency.
Defamation of character is the legal term used when someone’s reputation is harmed by making statements that are false. Employer-related defamation occurs when an employer makes a false statement to a third party or uses it to create an excuse to terminate an employee. In order to prove defamation occurred, the plaintiff must show that (1) the statement(s) negatively reflected his or her reputation, (2) the statement was clearly about him or her, (3) the statement was communicated to a third-party who understood its content, (4) the statement damaged the plaintiff’s reputation; and (5) the statement was false. To qualify as defamation, the false statement needs to a statement of fact, not one of opinion.
In most states you can sue an employer for defamation. The same is also true for sexual harassment.
Rumors in the Workplace
The effect of workplace rumors can make going to work a miserable experience, an environment no employee should be subjected to. If an unflattering or negative rumors spread about an employee, he or she can feel isolated, harassed, or even criticized by peers and supervisors alike. Studies have shown that rumors in the workplace can result in low employee morale, decreased productivity, wasted time, anxiety and division among coworkers. Of course, there is a delicate balance between someone’s right to freedom of speech and someone else’s right to protect their good name, or work in a hostile-free environment.
It is important to know that false claims of sexual harassment can rise to defamation of character. Often, sexual harassment claims boil down to credibility and proof. If the accused was punished, and the accusation was found to be false, he or she may ironically have a claim against the employer if it can be proven that the separation was a result of the accusation. The accused person may pursue a case against the accuser, the employer or both.
New York Employment Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been the victim of workplace harassment or defamation of character, or has experienced any other form of employment discrimination, you may have grounds for a lawsuit and should contact an experienced New York employment lawyer right away. The legal professionals at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. serve clients throughout New York and have offices in Queens and Long Island. Call (347)-464-8694 today to schedule your initial case evaluation.