Defamation by Ex-Employee
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It is not uncommon for disgruntled former employees to embark on a campaign of defamation against their former employer’s company
The defamation normally occurs through blogs, emails, online reviews and by the initiation of discussion groups in forums aimed at throwing as much dirt as possible at the former employee's company.
There are many ways in which former employees may decide to initiate a campaign of defamation against their ex-employer. This for example could be in the form of a plot with other disgruntled employees who become influenced to participate in the defamation campaign. The employees in this context may have conspired together to leave the business at the same time and it is common that they will each hold a grudge against their former boss.
It can be burdening as well as frightening for many emplyers who are aware of how easy it is for former emplotees to initiate a campaign of defamation against them online and ruin their company's reputation. The nuisance to which most employers sometimes have to deal with when facing an online defamation campaign against them, is not being able to prove that it is the former employee, yet they have very strong suspicions. This is because it is common for ex-employees to carry out a defamation campaign anonymously, in order to not be caught out, for example via posting fake reviews to Google.
Former employees who defame their former employer online might try to hide behind whistle blower claims. They might say that they are posting information online about their former employee in order to secure a public interest. The truth of the matter, though, is that there is never public interest in disseminating false or defamatory information - it is just wrong and immoral. Therefore, if the employer believes that what is posted about them is defamatory, any whistle blower claim is deemed a fail.
When a former employee is posting under a false name, it is often because they don’t want to be revealed as the author of the published posts, often because they know that the informationt hey are disseminating is utter garbage. If the former employer claims that the published posts are defamatory, he will have a right to apply for third party disclosure orders (NPO) to reveal the true identify of the suspected former employee posting behind a fake profile. In this situation, the only way for the former employee to avoid disclosure of his or her true identity, is to make sure they cease and desist their defamatory campaign before they are unmasked by the NPO. There are no provisions in defamation cases for someone’s identity to remain anonymous. By definition, defamation claims mainly concern vindication, which means that the identity of both, the former employer and the employee will have to be disclosed.
Sometimes former employees post defamatory reviews on the American based website GlassDoor.com. GlassDoor, is always keen to protect its users’ freedom of speech and is known to be fighting vigorously to protect the identify of employees who post about their employers on GlassDoor.com.
Employees from the UK do not have the automatic benefit of the First Amendment of the United States constitution. The constitution is aimed to protect US citizens and in most cases has no cross jurisdiction applicability. Perhaps for this reason, among a few others, former employees should not be allowed to post on GlassDoor.com freely to promote defamatory posts against their UK based employers.
If you discover defamation by former employees posted online, you should immediately contact a specialist lawyer who will be able to advise on how to handle the situation in a cost effective manner and in a way which would protect your business reputation. Bringing claims for online defamation against a former employee, could of course, result in the removal of the defamatory posts, but if not handled correctly, the same course of action could result in causing your business substantial reputational harm.
You should always take legal action for defamation by former employees only after you have considered all the different options that might be available to you as an employer and approach the matter with clear short-term and long-term strategies.