A legal term used to describe harming a person’s good name or reputation is “defamation.” It consists of slander and libel. Slander, according to the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, is the oral dissemination of untrue comments that are harmful to a person’s reputation, whereas libel pertains to harmful visual content. Slander is a civil offence as opposed to a criminal one. It effectively means that the libellous party may be sued but not criminally prosecuted. Only assertions that are factual can be deemed defamatory.
Slander is a malicious, untrue, and defamatory statement that can occasionally circulate within the workplace. An employee who has been slandered may feel pushed to resign and file a lawsuit against the liar and possibly the employer for failing to halt the slander. The best course of action for workplace defamation is preventative because a lawsuit can be contentious and disruptive.
Slander, as opposed to defamation, is more difficult to establish because it involves an oral rather than a written declaration. And it can be almost impossible to bring a case against the person you believe has slandered you unless you have some proof or witnesses who are ready to testify on your behalf.
Therefore, if you honestly believe that you have been slandered, follow these instructions for handling the situation maturely.
1. Knowing What Slander Is
Before anything else, be sure you understand the distinction between slander and talk is simply getting out of hand. If the rumour wasn’t malicious and there’s no chance it will spread, getting involved and making a complaint would lead to further issues. All of this can be avoided if you sternly tell the offender to cease doing it as it hurts.
Between chatter and slander, there is a fine but distinct line. It is gossip if, for instance, Angela from the administration tells people that you look terrible at work and wear too much makeup. But if she starts spreading rumours that you are having an affair with your boss and that is why you were promoted, then it is slander because it calls into question your (and your boss’s) reputation as a professional.
2. Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Talking to coworkers is a normal part of the workday unless your firm has a policy requiring silence. Of course, there isn’t necessarily a problem with it; for example, nobody has ever caused or gotten into trouble by talking about the weather. It is the responsibility of both the employer and employee to help prevent gossip from turning into slander. Problems only occur when people take one other’s innocent actions out of context and make them into something they are not.
What an employer can do is keep an eye on the rumours that are spreading and who is spreading them, especially if they have staff members with a reputation for starting trouble. A ‘don’t gossip’ rule is pointless, but warnings that rumour-spreaders and slanderers may face disciplinary action may cause people to sit up and take notice. The greater the channels of communication, the less likely it is that a victim of slander will feel they have no one to talk to and the less likely it is that they’ll turn to more extreme means. They should ensure their employees can readily come to them with their difficulties.
Employees should take all reasonable steps to prevent rumours. Never initiate conversation; leave the room as soon as someone starts talking about something you find objectionable before it becomes “fact” or you hear something you don’t want to hear. Avoid having private conversations with gossipy coworkers, and if that means eating lunch at your desk, so be it. If you intend to stay busier and seem a good choice when it’s time for a promotion, you may always ask your supervisor for extra work.
3. Personally Address The Issue
The actions you take will depend on how severe the allegations against you are and how quickly and widely they are spreading, but it is advisable to attempt handling the situation on your own first. Before you have to or before you have proof to back up your claims, you don’t want to involve management or the HR division. If you can halt the situation before it gets out of hand, you’ve prevented them from wasting time on a simple problem, and evidence will help them to aid you.
The three steps you should take before approaching a superior are as follows:
- Consider just avoiding the offending individual or individuals if the situation isn’t too bad, is only affecting a small group, and doesn’t significantly affect your pleasure or productivity. It can be a good technique to convince them to stop if you’ve had issues with them in the past and you know they’re simply trying to hurt your feelings. In most instances, most of us have learnt from experience that the best way approach to dealing with hate is by remaining calm.
- If you have no prior interactions with this person, start a conversation with them by privately sharing your thoughts on their remarks. In the best-case scenario, you’ll discover that the offending employee or workers apologized and said they had no intention of hurting you. If you keep it cordial as opposed to attempting to drag this individual before a court, your chances of getting along with them in the future are significantly higher. If necessary, request that your employer serves as a mediator to assist you in resolving your conflicts.
- Before moving forward, collect evidence. If you don’t think talking to the slanderer will help, write them a letter so you may take it and their reaction to the HR department. Find those who heard what was said and are prepared to support your accusations as slander is usually verbal.
4. Do Not Ignore
If someone wants to determine whether gossiping is taking place at work, they should start paying attention to what is being discussed, who is talking about it, and whether the individual spreading the rumours has a history of acting in this way in the past.
5. Always Be Wary Of Gossip
If anybody at the office is being slandered in any way, they should avoid gossip at all costs if they want to stop it as soon as possible. Gossiping itself may be able to assist in finding a swift solution.
While such conversations are going on, the person should also subtly inform them that any slandering might result in the person losing their job, so they are aware of it and can stop it entirely.
6. Maintain Efficient Workplace Communication
It is recognized that if communication is good enough at work, there won’t be any slander of any employee or employer because people feel comfortable approaching them and sharing their difficulties.
If this doesn’t happen, the person will do other undesirable actions, which may escalate into disparaging the worker or the business.
7. Never Start An Unpleasant Conversation
Anytime someone speaks to another employee at work, they should be aware that they should never strike up a conversation or spread malicious rumours.
If they start the conversation negatively, they might say something that they shouldn’t and that ends up being attributed to them, which might result in slandering an employee.
8. Keep Yourself As Occupied As Possible
Another approach to avoid office gossip and slander is by asking the supervisor to give the person extra work so that the person can stay occupied by concentrating on the work at hand.
If the employer questions why they are requesting so much more work, the employee can react by highlighting persistent workplace issues, without naming anyone in particular.
9. Involve The HR Department Or Management
It’s time to find out what you can do to take it further if talking to the slanderer and writing to them haven’t had any effect and you’re still worried that they’ll keep spreading rumours and causing you difficulty in the future.
To find out how to handle slander, rumours, or conflicts with workers, you should review your contract or employee handbook; the larger your organization, the more likely there will be formal channels you’re supposed to follow.
Start with your manager and gently state your case while outlining your problems and worries. They will appreciate your initiative and that you haven’t plagued them with the situation before doing everything in your power to address it if you can tell them that you’ve made steps to remedy it. It would be much better if you had tangible proof or the names of witnesses who would agree to serve as your witnesses. Even if it does not get to HR, or if it does go to HR and there is insufficient evidence to pursue legal action against the slanderer, these conversations may motivate surveillance of the employee in issue and avoid a similar situation from occurring in the future.
How Do You Win A Slander Lawsuit?
Even if you can show that a false statement was made about you, you still need to demonstrate that the false remarks hurt you or damaged your reputation in a way that can be proven.
To prove that the defendant, the one who made the false remark, knew or should have known that it was, which is the final requirement for proof of slander, the plaintiff, the alleged victim, must be able to table evidence. Even if it’s an unfavourable opinion, expressing an honest opinion is not considered slander in legal terms.
Accusing someone falsely and maliciously of dishonesty or corruption, ineptitude, or criminal activity, as well as making other false, malicious, or hurtful claims about someone’s character or behaviour, are examples of the kind of statements that may constitute employment-related slander.
Simply because a statement is negative or insulting does not make it defamatory. The definition of slander under the law is clear. However, each circumstance is unique. For instance, it could be challenging to demonstrate that “rumours” of a sexual character are being “spread” about someone at their place of employment. It might also be challenging to demonstrate that harm or injury has been experienced.
However, it might be simpler to demonstrate malice and damage if an employer claims that an employee was let go for drinking on the job when, for instance, the person was dismissed for another cause.
How Can You Prove That An Employer Or Co-Worker Has Been Slanderous?
An employment rights lawyer will generally attempt to demonstrate that remarks were made with malice by highlighting a history of hostility between the slandered employee and the employer or by highlighting a clear and unprofessional failure on the part of the employer to investigate the validity of the allegations that gave rise to the false statements.
Former employers who make false comments to potential employers may face slander charges if such false statements impede an ex-employee from being employed. Anyone with questions or concerns about slander or libel in the workplace should speak with an employment rights attorney.
The best course of action in the majority of stressful workplace scenarios is to maintain composure and avoid acting out of emotion. It’s also preferable to deal with the matter yourself first and go through the correct channels rather than instantly complaining to your supervisor. Ignoring the situation may not be the best course of action if it could have long-term consequences for your career, but you don’t want to be known as the person who gets coworkers into trouble, since good character is just as vital as a good reputation.
Therefore, one must know how to handle slander in the workplace because it is considered an extremely hurtful and painful act committed against an employee, that can interfere with that employee’s life physically and mentally.
When something like that occurs, the person should always maintain their composure to attempt to solve the matter as quickly as possible. If you feel that this issue is getting out of hand, talk to supervisors.