For years, I suffered bad treatment under a calculating, manipulative, deceitful manager. I wasn’t the one who blew the whistle on her, but I was glad when it happened. I took part in the subsequent investigation and because I provided the crucial information that torpedoed her career, she now focuses all her anger on me.
She’s found an attorney who’s sued me for defamation. My employer said I have nothing to fear. Is that true? They’ve also told me the company attorney will defend me. Do I need my own attorney?
When anyone sues you, it’s a good idea to have your own attorney, as this guarantees you unbiased advice. Your attorney can confirm what your employer’s attorney tells you, that you’re protected unless an unexpected wrinkle occurs. You can then let your employer’s attorney handle this entire matter.
Almost all laws relating to workplace employee rights prohibit employers from retaliating in any way against employees who assist in investigations. Although your former supervisor and not your employer now brings suit against you, these laws give your employer a vested interest in protecting you as the suit appears retaliatory.
Two additional defenses protect you from your former supervisor’s defamation lawsuit — truth and privilege. Some states agree that truth is a complete defense. Because your statements were made for a legitimate business purpose, you have the protection of privilege.
You’ll find helpful information by looking at the court’s ruling in Chambers v. The Travelers Companies. Employees convinced an insurance company’s managing director to investigate their supervisor, describing her management style as “blame and shame.” Ms. Chambers denied the problems. The company then learned she’d falsified her expense account and fired her for that. Chambers then sued her company for defamation — but she lost. According to the court’s ruling, when an employer learns employees’ comments during an investigation, those comments have protection.
You can thus consider this your former supervisor’s last hurrah and potentially sue her for a nuisance lawsuit.
© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.