Slander is a malicious, false and defamatory statement that sometimes can spread around the office. The slandered employee might feel pressured to leave his job and could begin court proceedings against the person who committed the slander and perhaps the company for failing to stop it. Because a lawsuit can be divisive and disruptive, the best treatment for workplace slander is preventative. Keep office gossip in check and don't allow rumors to circulate. If an employee registers concern about a rumor, take decisive action.
Defamation is a legal term referring to the act of injuring a person's good name or reputation. It has two components: libel and slander. The Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center says that slander is the oral communication of false statements that are injurious to a person's reputation, while libel refers to damaging visual material. Slander is a civil rather than a criminal act. In practice, this means that the slandering person can be sued but not criminally charged. Only statements presented as fact can be considered slanderous.
Unlike libel, slander can be difficult to prove. First, you as a manager should establish whether the statement reasonably can be understood as negative by the person who hears it. The employee will need to collect evidence to win a lawsuit. This might be in the form of co-workers who have heard the slanderous statement repeated or who can pinpoint its source. If the source of the slander is known, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center suggests that employees write a letter asking the offender to desist. Employers may also arrange for them to discuss the matter privately. Though slander can be intensely hurtful, confronting the slanderer in an emotional state is unlikely to help matters.
The employee should speak to someone from the company's human resources department in the first instance. Large companies will have formal channels for dealing with claims of slander. If you operate a small business, you should establish a procedure for employees to follow, as well. The statute of limitations for slander is between one or two years. In Texas, it is one year. This means that people who believe they were sladered have that length of time to file a lawsuit.
The best way to deal with slander is to prevent it happening. Managers should actively discourage negative office gossip from circulating. Left unchecked, it's all too easy for rumors to make the transition to stated fact. Make others aware of the potential for slander and its consequences. Hold meetings with your employees to inform them about the possible consequences of slander, up to and including getting fired.