Is A False Complaint Slander?

Question:

A person in a management position below my position recently wrote a letter of complaint about me to the Executive Director of our organization. It contained false accusations about my work – one example – she accused me of misleading her staff in the selection of items to be audited (I have proof of the opposite), which she stated had a negative impact on their work product. Is this considered slander? I have been emotionally distressed over the accusations. I have worked for the organization for 26 years and this is the first thing that has ever been placed in my personnel file. Thank you!

Signed,

Falsely Accused


Answer:

Dear Falsely Accused:

Slander is intentionally lying or telling others false or malicious oral statements that damage someone’s reputation and/or livelihood; liable is doing so in writing. To prove that the manager, who wrote the complaint, was more than giving her version and evaluation of your work with honest intentions is not easy. But whether her complaint was maliciously false or not, your best solution is to expose her complaint as mistaken. You say you have proof of the opposite of what she stated. So who does this make look bad? Not you. You, therefore, can show no damage to your reputation or livelihood.

You have a long record of service to your company and although this is stressful it will not bring you down. Hold your head high. Meet with your superior. Provide him/her a written rebuttal to the false complaint. Request an apology from the accuser and/or a confirmation that your did not mislead from whoever investigates such matters; possibly your boss will sign off on this. Ask that your rebuttal and a report that absolves you be placed in your file.

If suing could solve all misleading and/or false statements, the courts would be choked. Rarely are libel cases successful (a few celebrities have won against the tabloids) and slander cases are even less successful. That does not mean harm has not been done by false statements such as those in the complaint about you or in false and misleading commercial or political advertisements. The solution is not to censor in an open society, but to have more free speech and free press rather than less to dispute the false. You can check with an attorney to learn if this is true in your situation, if you do not believe me.

Now should you behave coolly to the accuser? That’s your choice. My choice would be to be professional, be cheerful and friendly, and to focus on helping her and other see you want the best for your organization and for her. That may be hard, but let’s suppose you are on a team competing for a sports event or for the Governor’s award for delivering the best quality of companies the size of yours and that one member of your team complains about your play or work. Would being distant to this individual help your team win? I doubt it. Is it possible for you to be a cheerleader in spite of this complaint? Is it possible for you to have a one-person campaign to make your workplace a place in which fun and lightheartedness is not unheard of? You tell me.

Our signature WEGO is meant to inspire those who work together to respect, help, and appreciate each other as both co-workers and persons. Think WEGO and do keep us posted on how your situation is resolved. Do not let it fester or become an obsession. Does this make sense to you?

William Gorden