A co worker accused me of Sexual Harassment my Human Resources did a investigation. Still at work my question is can I sue for Defamation Of Character?
Defamation (sometimes called “libel,” if it’s written, or “slander” if it’s oral) requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant: (1) maliciously, (2) published, (3) a false statement, (4) that was defamatory, and (5) that the publication resulted in damages.
One major defense to a defamation claim is the “common interest privilege.”
In your case, assuming the allegation is true, you would clearly have a false statement of fact, that defames you (suggesting sexual impropriety or inappropriate behavior on your job). Also, because the statement alleges sexual impropriety, damages are PRESUMED, and do not have to be proven.
The hurdle you would face is whether the statement was "published." The common interest privilege protects otherwise defamatory statements made (1) in good faith, (2) on a subject in which the party communicating has an interest, or in reference to which he has, or honestly believes he has, a duty to a person having a corresponding interest or duty, (3) to a person who has such a corresponding interest.
Two circumstances foreclose asserting the privilege: first, excessive publication, defined as publication to those with no common interest in the information communicated, or publication not reasonably calculated to protect or further the interest; and, second, publication with malice, which, within the context of the common interest privilege, is the equivalent of bad faith. While the defendant bears the burden of proving the elements of the common interest privilege, the burden of defeating the privilege by showing excessive publication or publication with malice lies with the plaintiff.
I'm licensed to practice law only in Indiana, so if you're in another state, I can't give you "legal" advice. My answer is simply "friendly" advice based on my experience as an attorney in Indiana, my knowledge of federal and common law, and common sense. Even if you are in Indiana, employment law questions are very fact specific, and based on the limited information you provided in your post, I can't give you legal advice, and my answer is intended as general information only. It doesn't create an attorney-client relationship.
It depends on exactly what she said. To bring a valid claim for defamation in this context, you would have to demonstrate:
(1) That the statements your coworker made were statements of fact, as opposed to statements of opinion;
(2) That the statements were factually untrue; and
(3) That she knew the statements were untrue at the time she made them.
If your coworker accused you of doing something specific -- "Xavier dropped his pants in the break room"
AND the statement was factually untrue,
AND she knew that it was untrue at the time,
Then you could have a defamation claim.
But if she said something that was factually true -- "Yaz asked me out fifteen times, even though I kept saying no" --
And there was some question about whether your conduct crossed the line,
Then you don't have a valid defamation claim, because what she said was true. It does not matter that you were ultimately vindicated by the HR department.
Or if she said something that could fairly be characterized as opinion -- "Zander keeps looking at me in a creepy way" --
Then you don't have a valid defamation claim, because what she said was a statement of opinion, not fact. People are entitled to express their opinions, even if those opinions are wrong.
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