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Defamation at work occurs when employers, customers or co-workers publish false statements of fact, without legal privilege to do so, that harm the reputation of employees.

A negative employment references can prevent an employee from getting a new job, for example, and would amount to defamation if false, but employers have a "qualified privilege," or a defense to defamation claims for employment references.

However, since defamation involves harm to an individual's reputation, and because reputation is difficult to quantify, actual damage is often difficult or impossible to prove.

The law assumes, however, that some statements cause harm to reputation, by the very nature of the statement.

Slander refers to defamation when spoken, and libel means written defamation.

The legal test for proving and defending libel and slander claims is the same as for defamation. The new clinical director stated that I was "overwhelmed with billing issues when the biller was gone and that I had to go get help from another employee because I 'could not' han... Is this I contract for the US Govt under a contract they have with my Science & Technology company employer.

When the supervisor and Human Resource Director talk to each other about something that falls within the scope of their respective jobs, they are both speaking as the employer, and conversation amounts, in defamation law, to the employer talking to itself.

If the supervisor tells a co-worker who has no need to know that the employee did something horrible, then the co-worker is probably a third party, and the supervisor's statement is defamatory.

The "privilege" is a defense to a defamation claim.

An employer can, for example, respond to a reference request by stating that an employee "stole from us" and avoid a finding for defamation at work, even if wrong, as long as the employer did not act out of malice.

Public policy encourages a free flow of information among employers about potential employees, so the law carves an exception out of the law of workplace defamation for reference requests.