I interviewed for an executive position and had been through more than 10 hours of interviews on the phone and on-site. I received an email from the CEO stating that everyone was very impressed with me and she wanted to set up a call for the next day.
When we talked the next day she said that this wasn’t the call she expected to have with me and that she anticipated that we would be talking about logistics and next steps for employment.
She then told me that they had talked to someone that I previously worked with (not my reference) and that person had given negative feedback. Based on this feedback, they decided to offer the position to the #2 candidate and not me.
I followed up with a few emails and the CEO wrote back to me explaining that it was someone I previously worked with and that person said I seemed “disengaged” and that was the reason they were not offering me the position. She did not ask me for an explanation/defense and refused to identify the person who she talked to.
Is this a case of slander, and do I have a potential claim? Thank you.
Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.
To prove defamation by slander (the spoken word) requires proof the statement was false AND that the falsity of that statement caused you harm. From the facts you present there is no doubt the statement caused you harm as defined by you being passed over for the number 2 candidate.
However, the word “disengaged” in on its face does not constitute a false statement. “Disengaged” is a subjective term.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Disengaged” as “Detached.” To succeed in a case for slander you would have to meet the legal burden of proof by proving the word disengaged was false. If you can do that, then you wouldn’t have to be concerned with proving how the slander harmed you. That is patently obvious.
Keep in mind, there is a legal defense to slander, which is the truth of the statement.
Because the term disengaged is a subjective term, you would have to prove you were not disengaged at your former employment. To do so will require witnesses, documents such as your written reviews by your superiors stating you were an excellent employee, or words to that effect, and other evidence disproving any assertion you might have been disengaged.
If, at any time during your tenure you had been reprimanded for, written up for, or in any other manner admonished for being disengaged from your work, even if the exact word disengaged was not used, then you might have a viable case for defamation.
Otherwise, proving you were not disengaged will be quite difficult.
Learn more here: Defamation of Character
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.
We wish you the best with your claim,
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