What legal actions can I take against a co-worker for defamation and a hostile work environment?

UPDATED: Aug 20, 2012

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What legal actions can I take against a co-worker for defamation and a hostile work environment?

This employee was written up 3 months ago for a hostile work environment against me. She was asked to stop, but she hasn’t. Manager dismisses her behavior as being unprofessional. She has personal connection to upper management. We are in sales and she has proven track record of under performance, immature behavior and gross misconduct. In fac, 3 employees before her were fired with better sales records and much more professional behavior. All 3 were fired for under performance. HR has done an investigation but have left the actual questioning up to the employees manager.

Asked on August 20, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The law does not prevent a coworker or supervisor from making a work environment as hostile as they like, so long as the hostility is not directed against you due to your race, sex, religion, age over 40, disability, etc.--if it is, then you may have a claim for illegal employment discrimination or harassment. However, if they are not targetting your group, but merely you--i.e. they just don't like you personally--that is legal.

Defamation is the public making of untrue statements of fact (not opinions) which damage a person's reputation; if you are being defamated, you could sue. But remember: an opinion, no matter how negative, is not defamation (so saying that someone is "lazy," "creepy," "a bad worker," etc. is not defamation), and true facts, even if hurtful, are not defamation, either (so if you were written up once for insubordination, for example, it's not defamation to say that you were).

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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