Law Dopers: Defamation?

I work for a technical service provider, specializing in on-site repair of equipment for our customers.

I found out today (second-hand, from a coworker) that one of our customers has banned me from his company’s site, allegedly for comments and/or actions (I don’t yet know specifics) I committed the last time I was on his company’s site.

My employer can use this for grounds for Employee Corrective Action, up to and including termination.

MY assertion is that I’ve never been anything but professionally courteous and helpful to this guy, within the guidelines and strictures of MY employer; for instance, he has some outdated equipment my employer no longer supports, and by company policy, there’s very little I can do for that particular piece of equipment.

I assert that this customer has defamed me.

Very broadly (I understand jurisdiction vary), what are my legal options?

As a lawyer who doesn’t practice in your jurisdiction and doesn’t specialize in defamation law, I can’t represent you or give you legal advice. However, I can provide some general discussion on the broad themes of defamation law, but if you have specific questions, please contact a lawyer in your area.

Defamation law is tricky and quirky, and it is fairly rare to win a defamation case, and rarer still to win substantial damages.

Putting aside the differences between libel and slander (which can be significant), many jurisdictions require that the plaintiff plead the defamatory language in haec verba, meaning in the exact words. If you cannot find the exact defamatory words used, you may be unable to set out a viable legal complaint.

For a comment to be defamatory, it must be shown to be a factual statement that is false. Comments that are opinions are, in most cases, not defamatory because they are statements of someone’s belief, not a statement purporting to be a true factual statement.

The allegedly defamatory words must legally be considered to be defamatory as a matter of law in the context which they were uttered. Certain statements regarding loathsome conduct are defamatory per se, meaning defamatory in themselves, but most others must be analyzed to see if they would actually be legally sufficient to injure someone’s reputation in the context they were given.

Most jurisdictions also provide a “fair commentary” qualified privilege for various types of comments made and opinions expressed in good faith in the course of some business relationships. Commenting to a business on the conduct of a its employee in the course of contracted work may well fall into this privilege in many jurisdictions.

Even if defamation can be shown, depending on the type of defamation, there is often a requirement to demonstrate actual damages resulting from the defamatory comment.

Finally, there is the extra-legal question of whether it is wise to sue one’s employer’s customer.

All in all, there would likely be significant (and potentially insurmountable) hurdles to overcome to win a defamation case based on a customer’s comment to one’s employer.

Billdo seems to have given a lot of information, despite his pleas of modesty. I tip my old fedora to him. I guess that makes this a famatory post.

Thanks, Billdo. A double tip of the fedora from me.

About what I figured (less the latin).

How this shook out today:

Once I began back-tracking the “rumor chain” it turns out that while yes, the customer was upset at me (because IRL, and IAW Company Policy, I refused to divulge proprietary info to said customer), I was never in any way “banned” from that customer’s site. My supervisor thought it best that I just not go there for a while. IMO, “fair 'nuf.”

A later service call was passed to one of my coworkers. He was fairly busy at the time, and asked our Lead Tech if I could take the call, as he knew I was relatively unengaged. Our Lead Tech told my coworker that I was banned from that customer’s site. This is not the first time our Lead Tech has engaged in wildly exaggerated tales, rather than speak the plain, simple truth.

Hopefully, with just a bit if luck, they won’t be my employer much longer.

Wasn’t he just speaking the plain, simple truth just omitting the fact that it was your supervisor that banned you not the client. Presumably if your coworker had asked why the client had banned you the Lead would have explained what was going on. No? Or am I just being too willing to think the best of people?

“Banned” is kinda permanent; think of it more as something along the lines of a 90-day suspension for following company policy. :rolleyes: