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Avoiding a defamation charge when reporting harassment

California employees may be interested in some information on reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. Paying careful attention when making the claim can avoid legal retaliation from the party accused.

When an employee reports unwanted sexual advances or files a lawsuit over these claims, the accused sometimes retaliates with a counterclaim for defamation. This means that the accused harasser is claiming that the charge is false and that their reputation has been damaged by the accusation. A defamation claim requires that there was a publication of the information, which can be as little as telling someone other than the accused. Generally, however, if the accusation is true, this is a complete defense to a defamation claim.

While the laws of each jurisdiction may differ, there are some general ways that a person is protected when reporting a claim. There are two types of privilege available, absolute and qualified. Absolute privilege protects a person making statements during judicial proceedings, and some other types of administrative hearings, from being sued for those statements. Qualified privilege will help to protect the person making statements while reporting their sexual harassment claim to those who handle such claims, like a company human resources department. Going beyond these privileges may be grounds for a lawsuit, though, in cases where the statements are not true.

An attorney may be able to help those who are facing sexual harassment on the job. The attorney might be able to assess the person's situation and determine the appropriate course of action. This could include alerting appropriate company personnel, filing an administrative action or bringing a sexual harassment case in civil court. The attorney may also be able to counsel the person any any defamation-related issues that may arise as a result of reporting the harassment.

Source: AOL Jobs, "Can I Be Sued For Slander For Reporting Sexual Harassment?", Donna Ballman, August 05, 2014

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