Former Supervisor Told Personnel Information

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about defamation:

I work as a DOD permanent employee. Our office provides direct services to active duty soldiers. Last year a peer of mine was promoted to a supervisory position. She became my supervisor. This lasted for a period of about six weeks. She was on probation in the position; it didn’t work out; she was demoted and became my equal again. Today in a staff meeting she made statements about my probationary period, false statements about me being investigated for an inappropriate relationship while she supervised me, and other statements about supervising me.

Though none of the information was medical I feel as if my rights have been violated. My probationary period is not an appropriate matter of discussion for all of my coworkers. Also, I felt that her false statements about me being investigated and having an affair were defamatory. As a federal employee do I have any recourse? Who can I file a complaint with?

Signed, Feeling Defamed

DearĀ Feeling Defamed:

You should certainly write a letter to your manager asking for sanctions against the coworker for making untrue, inappropriate statements about you at a staff meeting. You should also ask that she be directed to never make such statements again. That doesn’t help much now, but will at least be on the record, in case she does make a remark in the future. You can also contact an attorney to determine if the coworker’s comments would fit the description of being legally defamatory, but that path would likely be very challenging and expensive, no matter what the result. It appears that using the organizational process would be most effective at this point.

You say you were at a staff meeting, which would indicate someone of a higher level was present. I hope you or they stopped the comments quickly. In your letter of complaint, state what was done in response as well as anything she said if you or someone else tried to stop her. If a manager was present, some action may already be in progress. Even so, it would be good to have a formal complaint from you in the files. Best wishes with this, as I can imagine how shocked you were. Probably others present were as shocked as you were! If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

William Gorden