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Employment Lawyers Handling Claims in New York City and Long Island

When an employer or former employer harms you by intentionally making a false statement about you, you may have a claim for defamation. If this claim was made orally, it is considered slander. If the claim is made in writing, it is known as libel. Defamation litigation can be very challenging because it is hard to prove that someone said something negative. These claims often arise in connection with a supervisor or manager’s references that undermine the employee’s ability to get a job or damage the employee’s reputation. It is important to consult a skillful New York City defamation lawyer about your situation.

Types of Defamation

Each state has its own defamation laws. In New York, the elements of a defamation claim that need to be proven to obtain damages are a false statement published to a third party without authorization or privilege, fault that amounts to negligence, and proof that special harm was caused or that the statement was defamation per se.

You only have one year to bring your defamation claim in New York. Furthermore, New York follows the single publication rule with regard to statements on the Internet. That means that the statute of limitations will run from the first time that the statement appears online. When the statement is republished, the statute of limitations is restarted.

Public and Private Figures

Generally, different rules apply to public and private figures. Somebody is a public figure if they took an affirmative step to attract public attention. Some people are limited purpose public figures. This means that they voluntarily draw attention to their activities or utilize their status in a controversy as a fulcrum to generate public discussion. Public figures can include politicians, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and religious figures.

If the plaintiff is a public figure, and the statements that allegedly are defamation are connected to a matter of legitimate public concern, a defamation attorney in New York City will need to prove that the defendant behaved in a grossly irresponsible way without appropriate consideration for the standards of information gathering and dissemination usually used by responsible parties. This is a higher standard than negligence.

If the plaintiff is a private figure, and the statements are not related to a matter of legitimate public concern, the question will be whether the statements were made negligently. Written statements will be reviewed in the context of the whole writing, considering whether the matter can fairly be construed as being connected to a social, political, or other community concern that cannot be called mere gossip or prurient interest.

Proving False Statements

Defamatory statements made in connection with employment can substantially harm your career. They may affect your reputation with one prospective employer, or they might affect your reputation in a whole industry. Often, in an employment context, you are not privy to the private conversation in which the negative claims were made, and that can be frustrating and emotionally upsetting. The prospective employer might be unwilling to tell you exactly what was said about you.


A New York City defamation attorney may be able to help you recover damages if you can establish defamation. These damages can include losses such as monetary losses, emotional distress damages, and, if the employer’s conduct was especially egregious, punitive damages.

Defamation Per Se

In most cases, false rumors in the workplace are not actionable unless they actually injure somebody. However, certain statements are considered defamatory per se, which means that it is presumed that such statements will cause harm. There are four categories of statements that are considered defamation per se: false facts that would tend to harm you in your business trade or profession, allegations that you committed a serious crime, allegations that you have a loathsome disease, or allegations that you are sexually promiscuous. For example, if you are a journalist, and your employer falsely tells owners of other newspapers that you falsified facts in a news article while you are applying for jobs, this is likely defamation per se. Similarly, if your employer falsely told a prospective employer that you embezzled from him, you may have a defamation per se claim.

Contact a Defamation Lawyer in New York City

Employees are often at a significant disadvantage when going up against their employers in litigation. Your employer or former employer may have substantial resources and strong legal representation. It is important, for the sake of your career and reputation, that you have the same. If you suffer from defamation in connection with a job in New York City or on Long Island, you should call the skillful employment litigators at Gerstman Schwartz at (212) 227-7070 or contact us online.

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