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Be careful what you say about any employee: You could be liable for damages to his reputation!

by , 16 September 2016
Be careful what you say about any employee:  You could be liable for damages to his reputation!You just found out some 'juicy' info about an employee. She's pregnant and doesn't know who the father is. You just have to tell someone. Just one person. And because it's the truth, and everyone's going to know about it sooner or later, it won't hurt for you to just tell one other person. Or will it?

You need to think before you discuss any details about one employee to another. You could end up with a lawsuit for defamation!

And there's a fine line between what you can and can't say about an employee... And if you don't know what that line is you could land up paying thousands in claims to the employee.

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In law, truth is a defense to a defamation claim… But only if you're not malicious about it!

You can't be liable for damages for defamation if what you say about an employee is true. BUT, if you make a true statement maliciously, you won't be able to use this as a defense. In other words, if you deliberately injure the person's reputation, dignity or self-worth, you'll be liable for damages.
In the same way as if you lied about the employee or spread rumours about her.
Let's have a look at two golden rules to avoid this…

Two golden rules to avoid a defamation disaster!

1.       Train and communicate!
Tell all your employees that your company won't tolerate rumour-mongering and similar unprofessional conduct. Emphasise that you expect employees to conduct themselves with the highest regard for all other employees' dignity.
2.       Keep it lean, not mean!
The less said the better. This applies especially in termination cases.
Here's how to communicate with employees…
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Make sure you resolve employee grievances before they turn into major CCMA or Labour Court Disputes!

You must deal with grievances as they arise, if you don't they'll become much bigger problems! You could end up having to defend yourself at the CCMA or the Labour Court if he feels you've done nothing to resolve his problem.
Resolve every grievance as soon as reasonably possible. What is reasonable will depend on the complexity of the issues, but make sure you address them all.
Find the solutions to your employees' grievances in the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf, which is part of the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service. As part of the invaluable labour advice service, you'll also receive three bonus reports, regular updates, a daily email bulletin, and a labour helpdesk. 

Three steps to communicate effectively and lawfully… AND avoid defaming employees

Step #1: Keep all communications around an issue neutral.
Step #2: Keep your answers to employees' questions about another's departure short and sweet.
Step #3: Send a message that you won't stand for misconduct.
The best way to make sure employees don't harvest gossip which leads to you landing up in court for defamation, make sure you have a code of ethics and conduct in please. Get one here…

P.S. You could also be held vicariously liable if an employee is sexually harassed… Here's what you need to do to make sure this doesn't happen to you…

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