Being Defamed

Question:

I’m the gm of a fish house in Mi.My supervisor made a deal with a fisherman to allow fisherman to bring onto our property salmon fillets to be vacuum packaged and frozen in our companys freezer with our freezer racks.fisherman claims he brought 9,000lbs to be processed and frozen and admittely did not weigh salmon before it was processed in our facility.The product has remained on our freezer racks for approx 3 weeks.Needing to organize our freezer i instructed our employees to remove frozen salmon from freezer racks and weigh and box in corrugated boxes and document and mark each box weights, the majority of the product was packaged on 9-29-09,on Thur 10-1-09 fisherman called me to inform me he was coming to our facility to package salmon at which time i informed it was 90% done he was estactic that we had taken the initiative to do this for him and thanked me for our effort saying we had just saved him alot of work.He said he would be in later that day to finish up the balance of the salmon packaging and i informed him that we had scheduled the balance to be packaged by the person who did the original 90% packaging to finish it up.He again thanked me for saving him the work of packaging this salmon himself.About 2hrs later on thurs 10-1-09 fisherman showed up at our plant in a very good mood,at that time myself and our plant foreman were working on the floor and having general conversation w/fisherman when fisherman remarked that salmon should come in at 9,0000lbs at which time i told him with what we had already pkgd and estimating what was left to be pkgd it looked like the weight would come in around 6-7,000lbs when he heard this his mood instantly changed with fisherman dropping f-bombs on me that i’m messed up, i remained calm and told fisherman i would be glad to show him our documentation of weight, at which time verbal tirade directed at me turn into calling me a thief,and violently stormedout of our facility.I immediatly reported this to my supervisor who then called fisherman to inform him he did not appreciate him calling our Co thieves at which time fisherman said it was not directed at Co but at myself.Our foreman witnessed all of this.Then on Fri 10-2-09 we sent to the foreman to the fisherman to deliver a check at which time fisherman continued to our foreman to call me a thief and do nothing but cause our Co to lose money.I’ve been selling product in this region for 31 yrs with impeccable integrity.This fisherman has been blackballed from numerous fish processing plants due to a bankrupcy and lack of business ethics,and what are my options regarding him continually defaming my character?

Signed,

Angry


Answer:

Dear Angry:

Your company needs to talk to an attorney about this situation, since it reflects on the company as much or more than on you personally. That assumes they wish to spend the money to do so. They may think that since you have a 31 year history of integrity and the complainer has a long history of dishonesty, he won’t be believed anyway.

Generally (although we are not attorneys so we can’t provide this as a legal opinion) to have a case your company would need to show that the man’s remarks are hurting business or costing you or the company money or potential money AND that he knows his statements to be untrue or unreasonable.

Otherwise, the man is an angry customer who feels he was bilked out of a lot of money. Since he was not present when the fish were weighed, he may feel justified in his anger. Or, since he knows there is no process for verifying the weight in his presence he may think he can get something out of it.

It appears the current method DOES allow for the appearance, if not the actual act, of dishonesty. Often it takes something like this to disclose a problem that can be easily remedied. You could have a strong role in helping your company in the future by working with others to develop a procedure for preventing large errors between what a fisherman estimates or weighs on his own boat and what actually is weighed at your processing plant.

Perhaps it can’t be easily remedied (since I don’t know how the process works and since 9,000 lbs is a LOT of fish!). But, I think an outsider (judge or jury, for example) would wonder why there isn’t a process to verify weight on such a valuable commodity to avoid some of it being misappropriated or simply to avoid misunderstandings.

Such a procedure would protect the business, individual employees (such as you and the person who did the weighing and packaging on this order) AND the customer.

Since you have been in the business a long time, it may seem to you that things have worked fine until now. It may be there is no better way to do it. But effective procedures will not create problems, they will prevent them–and it would have been good to have prevented this one! Best wishes to you in this situation.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.