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Defamation of Character in the Workplace

Aug 27, 2021

Businesses face a number of different risks on a daily basis. And one which seems to be on the rise is defamation of character in the workplace.

Here we look at what defamation of character is, how it applies in the workplace and how to prevent against defamation of character claims.

What is defamation of character?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) a ‘defamatory statement  is one which injures the reputation of another person’

Defamation of character can therefore be thought of as occurring when someone makes a false or damaging statement about you.

Libel and slander are both types of defamation.

  • Libel is defamation which is written down – for example in an email, letter, on social media or text message or other permanent form
  • Slander is defamation which is spoken. For example, in a speech or in a video or voice recording

How does defamation of character apply to the workplace?

Defamation of character can easily occur in the workplace and could unfortunately see either employees directly, or your business face claims of defamation of character

Defamation of character can lead to distress, income loss, lead to someone feeling that they must leave a job, loss of work or reputation damage.

As a result your business may incur legal claims for defamation of character in the workplace and the resulting legal fees of defending such a claim.

Defamation of character in the workplace examples:

  • An employee sends an email which insults a client
  • An employee posts a defamatory statement on social media. Or shares a defamatory post written by another individual. This could be about other employees, clients, or competitors for example
  • Office gossip results in the spread of a falsehood about why another employee may be leaving the business
  • A disgruntled employee shares defamatory information about you as an employer or defamatory statements about your business

It is thought that the rise of social media can be linked with an increase in defamation cases as many people do not realise the consequences of what they post.

Insurance covers such as Professional Indemnity Insurance can help your business cover the legal fees involved in defending a defamation claim. You may also want to invest in Directors and Officers Insurance to protect company directors, officers and senior managers from claims made against them personally as a result of their actions taken in the corporate environment.

How can your business prevent claims of defamation of character in the workplace?

Your business will need to take care that your senior managers and employees are aware of what defamation of character is, how it can occur and the possible consequences of making defamatory statements

Some areas to consider to avoid defamation of character occurring in the workplace include:

  • Ensure you always check your facts and that you only use good sources when creating any type of content
  • Avoid repeating statements that you cannot prove or do not know are true. This includes resharing anything on social media
  • Avoid saying or writing anything down that you wouldn’t want to be repeated in a more public forum
  • Be very clear about what is opinion and what is fact
  • Have a very clear social media policy which is very clear about what you expect from employees when it comes to both creating/sharing their own content and resharing content from other people
  • Have the right insurance in place to protect your business if you do need to defend a claim of defamation of character. For example, Professional Indemnity Insurance or Directors and Officers Insurance

It will be vital to ensure that your business insurance includes cover which protects you against as many risks to your business as possible. The cost of legal fees if you do need to defend a defamation of character claim can be significant and damaging to your business operations. If you are unsure about the insurance needs for your small business get in touch with our team of experts on 020 8290 9080 or email us at business@anthonyjones.com.

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