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Can you file suite in small claims aganist an employer for lying to the Employment department about cause of termination?

Portland, OR |

I was employed for 10 days. The oweners are husband and wife, going through a divorce/seperation. I was hired by the husband. The Office manager was an older lady that was insecure in her job abilities and my appearance. She made phone calls to the owner, the wife, whom had never been in the office and met me yet, and stated that I was dressing inapproprately at work, Untrue!
Without ever informing me of when my lunch or break times were to be taken, I was written up on 07/05/11 for taking a break without proper authorization first. This is also untrue, as I was never told when to take my breaks, so around 10-10:30 am, I would take my first break. I always let someone know that I was going on break, NEVER did anyone ever tell me not to or that I was not allowed to. My start time was 7:30

I filed for unemployment benefits, the claim was denied due to the employers' statement that I had received prior warrning and continued the behavior. This is a flat out lie. I received my first and only warrning on 07/05/11. I worked for about 25 mins. longer after the warrning, then they said "business is slow, go ahead and go home for the day". I received a VM at 6:58 am on 07/06/11 from the owner (husband) that he was going to have to "let me go" due to "too many problems with other office staff". He stated to me that his wife, was 50% owner, she wanted me gone, period.

Attorney Answers 3


You cannot force the other party to specifically do anything in small claims court (such as making a statement to clear the air regarding your unemployment benefits). However, you can sue for damages caused by their actions. If you are seeking $750 or less, that's automatically going to be a small claims case. However, as long as you are seeking $7,500 or less, you MAY file your suit in small claims court. This is described at: (look at section 55.011).

Also, here is a link from the Oregon State Bar that explains the small claims process in general:

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I disagree with the prior answer. I don't think there is a lawsuit of any value here.

The statement that you were dressing inappropriately is an opinion and not actionable under the law. The statement that you took a break at the wrong time or without authorization is not actionable as defamation -- that, too, is opinion and subject to subjective determination by the employer. That's what "at will" employment is all about. Moreover, this statement does not appear to have been "published" to any third party. Statements made to you, true or not, are not actionable as defamation.

Statements made (and implicitly found credible) in an administrative proceeding regarding your entitlement to unemployment benefits cannot be the subject of a defamation action. The finder of fact may have been wrong, but under the law the finder of fact's decision will not be disturbed without a showing of unlawful application of law. Further, your application for UI benefits is what caused the statements by the employer to be made in the proceeding. there is no wilfull "publishing" of any untrue statement to a 3rd party on these facts.

Finally, you have a problematic issue as to showing recoverable damages as to each of the three statements that you complain about.

I don't disagree that you had a terrible experience here. But be glad that you had only 10 days invested and understand that the law does not redress every bad experience.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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I am unsure of what you mean by "unpublished". I asked for and received a copy of my employee file, in it, they have 2 additional "warranings" that were created after my discharge, and after their statements to the Employment Department. My small claims case would not just be about the false statements to prevent me from receiving benifits. It would also include slander, more untrue statements made about me. And lastly, possible sexual harrassment, as the owner (husband) on my 3rd day of employment, took me with him out in the filed all day, alone with him in the truck. The entire time, he talked about sex and sexual related topics, asked me out on a date, knowing that I am married. And, the first stop we made that morning after leaving the office, was his residence. He now claims that he only stopped there to pick something up however, he did not pick up or leave anything there on the visit. His purpose was just to show me where he lived, and try to impress me with his multiple cars, motorcycles and Thomas Kinkade paintings hanging on the wall. After the day alone with him that Wed,. on Friday he again asked me if my husband was the jealous type, and if I was allowed to have male friends? I was uncomfortable and replied yes, but, I don't know you, so I don't think he would consider us friends and would not think it approprate. What do ya know, the following week, I was "let go". My saved VM from him, informing me of my termination, shows that he told me it was due to "too many problems with other office staff", which he later told me ment, his wife, didn't want me there. I have written proof from the Employment Dept. showing that they claimed I was terminated for failing to follow company rules....that is preventing me from collecting benefits, how is that not abtionable and liable? Please explain.

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall


I can't help wondering why so much info was left out of the original post. In all events, defamation actions are based on the publication (print or verbal) of the defamatory matter to a 3rd party. Putting an otherwise defamatory statement in your personnel file will not constitute the necessary element of publication. As to the potential for all of this to constitute a sexual harassment case, I don't think so, but clearly you do. And that is what matters. So, go talk to a local employment attorney -- or even a couple of them -- and get some in-person advice. I suspect that you are relying on the possibility of a contingency case, where the attorney does not charge you up-front fees, but waits to get paid until there is a successful recovery. Nothing works better to assess the true merit of a potential case than the scrutiny of an attorney asked to work on contingency. If you cannot find a contingency attorney who is interested (and your potential damages may be too low to interest any because you worked there so briefly), then you will need to fund the case yourself and that ordinarily requires several thousand dollars at least. Good luck to you.



Because there is a limit to how much you can type in the original post, that's why info was and still is missing.


You need to file a timely appeal of any unemployment insurance decision. You have a right to a hearing, as long as you request one within the applicable time limit.

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I already did so, we will see what happens...thank you!

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