What can be done about co-worker harassment both in and out of work?

UPDATED: Jul 6, 2015

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What can be done about co-worker harassment both in and out of work?

I have a co-worker that will not stop talking about me. She is accusing me of saying stuff about her and her unborn child. I had to block her on Facebook and my phone. I went to my supervisor and HR department and still nothing has been done. Is there anything else I can do? She is putting my character into question.

Asked on July 6, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, your employer is under no affirmative duty to intervene in a  dispute between co-workers. There may be situations in which they could potentially find themselves liable for the consequences of this dispute--e.g. if they become aware that she is sending defamatory messages about you from company computers but let her continue; if they negligently allow her access to your social security number or personnel file and she uses that against you; if this escalates to workplace violence, which they could have avoided by taking action; etc.--but if they are willing to take that risk, they can;  you can't force them to act.

If you believe that she is publically (e.g. on social media) making defamatory statements about you, you could sue her for defamation. Defamation is the making of untrue statements of fact which damage your reputation; true facts, no matter how negative, however, are not defamation, and nor are opinions, no matter how malicious--only untrue factual statements might be defamation.  (For example, say that a person did once go to a KKK rally. Saying that they did is not defamation--it is true; calling them a racist is not defamation--that's an opinion; but saying that they engaged in racial violence, if they never did, would be defamation, since that would be an untrue factual statement.)

Bear in mind, however, before suing for defamation, that:

1) You have to be able to prove that the factual statement is untrue; and

2) Unless you provably suffered some loss or cost, like loss of a job, job opportunity, or promotion, it can be difficult to win meaningful amounts of compensation, even if you were defamed.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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