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mrfresh

Slander

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I was recently terminated in an at will state (HI). They offered severance pay and I signed the acceptance letter.

While filing for unemployment my ex employer apparently made statements to the claims examiner in an attempt to block my claim that seem to be slanderous. The words used were never any part of my termination conversations nor were they on the termination letter. These statements were very derogatory to my professional qualifications and would make any future employers think twice about hiring me.

During my 4 years with this employer there were no documented or otherwise conversations that would support these statements. My latest review, this past March, makes no reference to anything related to these injurious statements. A conversation with my boss, one week before my termination, contained statements that he was a supporter of me.

The ucx examiner called me for my side of the story and when she contacted the employer for their rebuttal the declined to provide a response,

While I probably signed away my rights for wrongful termination or age discrimination( I am 64) when I got the determination letter from unemployment( they did approve my claim because the employer chose not to respond to the second request) I got very angry and hurt when I saw the slanderous statements made.

I am considering suing for slander, defamation of character and possibly libelous statements if the responded to the unemployment people in writing .

Ant thoughts on this?

Thank you

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This isn't even close to the definition of slander. There is no requirement that you be given the full reason to the same reason for termination. You suffered exactly zero repercussions as you got benefits. No future employer is going to know what was said on the initial forms or as any part of your UC claim unless you tell them.

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These statements . . . would make any future employers think twice about hiring me.

 

Except that prospective employers aren't going to have access to statements submitted to the unemployment department.

 

 

 

I am considering suing for slander, defamation of character and possibly libelous statements if the responded to the unemployment people in writing .

Ant thoughts on this?

 

Just by way of educating yourself, slander is the spoken form of defamation, and libel is the written form.  Since the statements in question apparently were made in writing, they cannot have been slander.  Even if the statements made by your former employer were defamatory, you suffered no damages, so there's no basis for any lawsuit.

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Thanks to all for the responses. I understand the differences between slander and libel. My thoughts on the two were because my employer either made the statements to ucx verbally( slander) to a third party or made them In writing(libel). The fact that it ended up on an official ucx document isn't clear to me if this is libel or nothing. Is this document in the public domain or private? My concern is that I live on a small island in Hawaii and the coconut wireless is the most effective form of communication that exists, legally or not. What if someone who works in hr says something to someone or the claims examiner says something to some? Yes I know that hr can only give out dates of employment when asked but anyone who thinks that all that is talked about doesn't understand people. Yes we hope this is true but in my industry many people know many other people because it is a very transient workforce.

Do there have to be actual damages incurred for slander to in effect?

Poster pg 1067 says yes.

I am not contesting the termination as Hawaii is an at will employment state so they need no reason.

I guess it all comes down to ucx docs being private info and if damages need to be incurred before moving forward.

Thanks

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Hello again.

Can I throw out the topic of defamation per se? It seems like in this area that damages don't have to proven if one of 4 criteria are met. Those being having a sexually transmitted disease, guilty of sexual misconduct, committed a crime or was unfit to run a business. To me it seems like the terms my employer used" discharged for unacceptable and improper conduct" would fit under the unfit to run a business criteria.

Thoughts?

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"Yes I know that hr can only give out dates of employment when asked ..."

This is a common misconception based on employers saying "we can only", but that is a matter of employer policy, not law.  They can share whatever info they like (unless, for instance, they are self-insured and desire to cough up medical info subject to HIPAA).

 

You must not have read the prior responses very carefully, as it's (in effect) noted that unemployment commission records aren't open to the public and, even if they were, that doesn't mean the vague comments you've mentioned are slander/libel. 

 

You're free to spend dough on a HI civil litigation attorney, of course.

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What if someone who works in hr says something to someone or the claims examiner says something to some?

 

Then you can reconsider the situation at that time.

 

 

 

I know that hr can only give out dates of employment when asked

 

This is not correct.  Unfortunately, you're not the only one who believes this myth to be true.

 

 

 

Do there have to be actual damages incurred for slander to in effect?

 

Not always, but I won't claim to know the nuances of Hawaii defamation law.  You haven't told us anything about the statements your employer made.  Do any of the statements in question fall into any of these categories (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_defamation_law#Defamation_per_se)?  Saying that you were fired for "discharged for unacceptable and improper conduct" unquestionably isn't defamation per se because "unacceptable and improper conduct" could mean almost anything.  Are you willing to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees to get a judgment for $1 (i.e., nominal damages) and MAYBE punitive damages?

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The reason " discharged for unacceptable and improper conduct" is hardly on par with publicizing that you have a STD or are guilty of criminal behavior. Even if your employer does gossip with a local about why you are no longer employed there, it isn't legally actionable so long as it is a reason they believe to be true. That your employer gave this reason in response to an inquiry based on a claim you made really doesn't even come close to be actionable.

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Even if your employer does gossip with a local about why you are no longer employed there, it isn't legally actionable so long as it is a reason they believe to be true. 

 

Note that when the plaintiff is not a public person belief that the statement is true isn’t what matters. What matters is whether the statement is one puporting to state a fact (rather than a statement of opinion) and whether the asserted fact is true or false. If the factual assertion is false the fact that the speaker believed it was true would not be a good defense to a defamation claim. 

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I call BS on it not being damaging because unemployment can't give out that information.  You might be wasting your time, or you might not.   It probably depends on whether the person hearing your case sympathizes with you or not as to whether he or she will interpret the applicable laws in your favor.   If you have proof of these comments in writing or are able to get them, that to me would be enough to go forward.   It all depends on how much effort you want to put and what your looking to get out of it.   

 

Are you able to get a record of what was said?  I would personally completely ignore anything about you not having a case because so and so isn't allowed to give out that information.  In this day and age, all information is available and there is a huge market for trying to obtain it and track it down.   Police records in general are a complete sham in this country.. with whoever pays gets access and if you pay this particular person, they'll take it off the record that they have while your information has already been spread to a 100 other information collecting agencies who are waiting in line to be the next to take your money to take it off the record *they* have. 

 

To say that your case is meaningless because supposedly Unemployment agencies aren't supposed to give out that information is utterly and completely irresponsible in this day and age.. and if the law doesn't agree with me then its a defect in the law.

I'd see what you can do about getting that information in exactly the form its in and then make a decision from there as to what to do with it.   

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The way that this company just completely fabricated something and then 'declined to respond to the rebuttal' very much reminds me of the way someone can completely fabricate a charge against someone, have that person arrested, and then 'decline to press charges' and be completely off the hook no questions asked.   Meanwhile the person who was arrested now has that on their record whether charges were filed or not.  And conveniently enough, most people who conduct background checks don't even know the difference between an arrest where charges were filed or they weren't.. Seeing the arrest is all it takes to move on to the next applicant.  

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I call BS on it not being damaging because unemployment can't give out that information. 

 

No one said it isn't potentially damaging if UE discloses the info.  What I (and probably others) said is that the OP has not given any indication that he/she suffered any damages.  You should read more carefully before "call[ing] BS" on people who know the law better than you do.

 

 

 

Police records in general are a complete sham in this country. 

 

What the heck does this have to do with the situation under discussion?  (that's a rhetorical question, of course)

 

 

 

To say that your case is meaningless because supposedly Unemployment agencies aren't supposed to give out that information is utterly and completely irresponsible in this day and age.

 

it's also irresponsible to contradict those who know the law when you clearly know nothing of the relevant legal principles.

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Police records in general are a complete sham in this country.. with whoever pays gets access and if you pay this particular person, they'll take it off the record that they have while your information has already been spread to a 100 other information collecting agencies who are waiting in line to be the next to take your money to take it off the record *they* have.    

 

I realize from your postings on these boards that you have a big problem with the general availability of arrest records in the U.S. Perhaps that’s because you or someone close to you has experienced problems with an arrest record. But you are letting that color your perception here. You do understand that that in most U.S. jurisdictions arrest records are completely open to the public, right? That's how the media and these companies that make arrest records available online get them — the law allows for those records to be available to anyone. The same is not true of unemployment compensation proceedings. Those records are not available to the public. The media and online information companies cannot simply ask for and get unemployment compensation records relating to individuals. Those records are protected. You are therefore comparing apples to hamburgers here; the laws and circumstances are very different, so raising the police arrest record problem here is simply irrelevant. 

 

To say that your case is meaningless because supposedly Unemployment agencies aren't supposed to give out that information is utterly and completely irresponsible in this day and age.. and if the law doesn't agree with me then its a defect in the law. 

 

Unless and until the information is disclosed to someone outside the UC agency and causes the OP harm, there is nothing to pursue. You've been on these boards long enough to understand that for most civil suits, you are only compensated for actual harm suffered. If you believe that's a defect in the law, then so be it, but that's the way it is. 

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 Pg says the below statement.

I'm not sure I understand how this could ever be taken in a positive way. While the wording could mean many things as Pg says I can't come up with anything that wouldn't raise a red flag in an employment interview if known. Can anyone give me a positive spin for these "negative words" so that I can be ready in an interview?

 

Saying that you were fired for "discharged for unacceptable and improper conduct" unquestionably isn't defamation per se because "unacceptable and improper conduct" could mean almost anything

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 Pg says the below statement.

I'm not sure I understand how this could ever be taken in a positive way. While the wording could mean many things as Pg says I can't come up with anything that wouldn't raise a red flag in an employment interview if known. Can anyone give me a positive spin for these "negative words" so that I can be ready in an interview?

 

My sole point was that the statement in question cannot be defamatory per se because it is susceptible of numerous interpretations, almost all of which are not defamatory per se.  Of course it's negative, but not everything negative is defamatory, and, even if it were defamatory, it's not defamatory per se.

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"Can anyone give me a positive spin for these 'negative words' so that I can be ready in an interview?"

There are articles about how to spin an issue with past employer.  You aren't obligated to mention this at all, but you may want to prepare prospective employer that's interested in offering you a job and intends to check references that the employer decided to say X only when you sought unemployment benefits.  (If the employer has a habit of letting people go for less than misconduct and does so on a regular basis, its unemployment tax payroll contribution rate will increase over time.)

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