False allegations got me terminated...

by Karen
(Vineland, NJ)

I worked for a medical surgical office which was part of our local hospital system. There were four surgeons in our office and two medical assistants; myself and one other. I was hired to work with and assist two of the surgeons and the other medical assistant worked with the other two surgeons.

During my 90 day probationary period I did work with and assist the other two surgeons, 6 times each, spending the majority of the time working with the two surgeons I was hired to assist. At the end of my 90 day probationary period I was suddenly and abruptly terminated. I had no idea this was about to happen.

The reason I was given was poor performance. I later found out one of the other surgeons of which I was not hired to work with, had sent an email to my office manager requesting my termination. He gave some "examples" of errors that I allegedly made.

Out of the 5 stated errors, only 1 is true and verifiable. The other 4 are completely false, unfounded and without merit. He can not prove what he stated because the incidents never occurred.

He also made some derogatory statements about my character, stating that I was not thorough, hardworking, helpful or truthful and that he cannot trust me to care for his patients. The two surgeons that I work with were never consulted.

This Dr simply sent this email to the office manager for no reason, he wasn't asked to evaluate me nor was he competent to do so, as I hardly worked for the Dr and when I did everything was fine.

Is this defamation? Can I sue him personally since he acted alone and authored this email solely? Can I sue the office manager he sent it to as well as the 3 individuals in HR who read it? They sent it to a committee who reviewed it and together they all decided to terminate me based solely on this libelous email.

Within the hospital group there were 3 other physicians who had worked with me and were so impressed they all 3 requested I be transferred to their office to assist them. The two Drs I worked with will attest to the fact I am a good medical assistant and what this Dr stated is false. Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "False allegations got me terminated...":

Karen (Vineland, NJ):

Defamation is generally defined as a spoken word (slander) or written word (libel) which is untrue and which causes harm to another person. The written word can include publications, emails, blogs, and other forms of electronic communication.

More specifically, defamation occurs when someone makes a false, unprivileged statement about someone to a third party, which attacks the person's professional character or standing, claims that an unmarried person is unchaste, claims the person has a sexually transmitted disease, or that the person has committed a crime of moral turpitude.

You state, "He (the doctor) also made some derogatory statements about my character, stating that I was not thorough, hardworking, helpful or truthful and that he cannot trust me to care for his patients."

The only part of the statement which might be considered as a basis of defamation might be the doctor's statement that you were not "truthful." However, when it comes to defamation, truth is an absolute defense.

This means if you were untruthful about anything at any time during your employment with the medical surgical office, then the doctor has not defamed you. To have any chance of succeeding in a defamation claim you would have to know what the doctor said you were untruthful about, and if his statement was patently false.

If so, and as a direct result of that statement your reputation was substantially injured, you may have the genesis of a defamation by libel claim.

This is an informative article about defamation in New Jersey. The articles covers defamation, and the types of damages a defamed party may seek.

The State if New Jersey follows the "At-Will" employment doctrine. This means an employee may be terminated from his or her job for just about any reason, other than discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sexual preference, religion, gender, age, or pregnancy.

From the facts you present, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of discrimination. As a result, unless you were working under a written contract of employment, you were subject to termination at any time.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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