Terminated employees often ask whether they can sue their former employer for defamation. These questions can arise when employees believe that their employer has been relaying negative information about them or their departure to former colleagues or clients, that their former employer has misrepresented information about their employment or termination, that their former employer is providing negative references to other prospective employers, and similar situations.
In some cases, such actions may provide grounds for a related claim filed in conjunction with a wrongful dismissal or constructive dismissal claim. The employment lawyers at Sultan Lawyers in Toronto have significant experience advising employees following a termination and have brought many successful defamation claims against employers where facts have warranted such an action. We have helped hundreds of employees across all industries and sectors deal with the aftermath of a termination.
Above and beyond providing a reasonable termination package or severance package based on an employee’s age, years of service, level of responsibility while at the organization, probability of re-employment in a similar position, and similar factors, an employer should treat terminated employees fairly and respectfully.
Depending on the circumstances of the terminated employee’s departure, employers should always provide either a letter of employment (simply confirming the length of employment) or a reference letter (which provides positive information or an endorsement of the departing employee). Negative information about the departing employee, including their time at the organization, the reasons for their termination, or their performance, should not be communicated externally. Similarly, negative information about the departing employee should not be communicated internally to remaining employees and within the organization.
Legally, defamation involves written or oral communications that injure the reputation of the person about whom the communications are about. In order to be considered defamatory, the communications must be:
In an employment context, an employer can be vicariously liable for communications made by individual employees (for instance, a manager or HR professional providing a reference) if such communications are found to be defamatory.
Defamation claims are highly legally technical and should not be made without the guidance of a knowledgeable employment lawyer who has specific experience representing employees in these highly technical and legally challenging matters.
The employment lawyers at Sultan Lawyers provide exceptional guidance to terminated employees, including providing legal advice about defamation claims and representing employees where such claims proceed. We will fight for your rights following a termination and ensure that you are protected and well positioned to find new employment. Contact us online or at 416-214-5111 for a consultation.
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