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JBaxLaw
JBaxLaw, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Government and private sector employment law experience
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It was brought to my attention that a co-worker emailed two

Customer Question

It was brought to my attention that a co-worker emailed two of my superiors (supervisors) and another third party about a workplace issue that occurred between her and another employee (person 1). In this email she specifically stated:
"It is well known among our peers that Person 1, Myself, and Person 3 create a noisy environment in the back area due to their personal conversations. I have been told that complaints regarding them have been made in the past.

I asked a co-worker whether I may use their name to corroborate this, but they refused, stating that they fear retaliation."

I am very bewildered and insulted. I am a senior specialist(trainer) at my job and professional conduct is important. I recently was turned down for a supervisor position and I think that this type of false gossip and slander could have contributed to how others perceive me. I have NEVER been counseled, formally or informally about my conduct or "creating noise" Also the same employee has sent details of my private conversation with person 1 (we were talking on our cellphone, not to mention I was at home and person 1 was on lunch break) to supervisors, and in that email she made fictitious statements as well. She stated it was a personal call, it was not, it was actually business and work related. She stated that the content contained something about a restraining order and it absolutely did not. She is known to be a chronic complainer and in her own words she calls it her "lengthy history of complaints".

My privacy was invaded when she sent them (supervisors) details of our conversation. I had a reasonable expectation to know that my conversation with my colleague on our cell phone would remain private. I am expected to have a meeting with my supervisor and division chief about this. I think they will try to sweep it under a rug. That is not acceptable to me. I work for a federal agency in DC. What are my options as far as suing her and the agency, if they do reprimand her for this? I personally was requesting a written letter of apology acknowledging that she slandered my name and invaded my privacy... I do not think they will comply, so can I sue. I truly feel her statements will impact my ability to move up the ladder here.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  JBaxLaw replied 1 year ago.
Hello,

I am a professional here to assist you. I appreciate your use of this service. I see that you need information about privacy rights as to phone conversations and as to slander.

If a phone conversation occurs in an area open to the public and can be overheard without a listening device, there is no privacy issue. Someone who overhears a conversation is free to tell others or an employer.

Slander is a form of defamation. Defamation occurs when someone makes a false statement of fact concerning you resulting damage. For example, a lost job. A false statement of fact must have occurred. Subjective statements regarding speaking loudly would be difficult to address. Whereas a statement like "Bob is a thief," would certainly would be clear statement of fact which may or may not be false. Also, damages may not be recoverable unless you can prove you had some loss. You would want to consider if you could prove you did not get promoted for this reason. These types of civil suits can be costly and time consuming and employers typically frown upon employees pursuing civil suits against each other.

Other options including attempting to document any further negative behavior on the part of this person and pursuing a complaint within the employer's complaint system.

Please follow-up with me as needed. I hope you will take a moment to leave a positive rating for my efforts here. Please do not hesitate to follow-up with me if you cannot leave a positive service rating. Your satisfaction is my goal. I rely on these service ratings. I appreciate it.

Thank you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Let me clarify some issues.


 


In regard to the privacy issue: I called my co-worker on her cellphone during her lunch break. We work in a cubical office so its not a public environment but our structure is an open office. Most of the statements she alleged about my co-workers conversation with me in her email when complaining to management we fictitious. Either way I was at home so when she shared my co-workers conversation with management she also shared mine... Does this not violate my privacy, especially if my co-worker made attempts to ensure her conversation would be private (i.e. noise diffusers)


 


My other point is the defamation:


 


I must state that I am a trainer and superior to this person. I am currently training someone on her team and her supervisor is one of the people that she made this statement to. I recently had to resolve an issue with him (where he apologized to me) because he called into question my "professional integrity and training abilities" as he did not agree with a decision I had made in regard to the trainees work. When I informed him that my decision was clearly in the guidelines and regulations, he refuted that information and I had to go PROVE that I was right. I have been an independent trainer for 2 years and it is not common practice for a senior specialist with my experience to be questioned on my content knowledge (due to all of the training to get the position). I cannot help but to think this is correlated. Let me also state that her statement say it is "well known" which indicated "fully known or factual" also one of the people she mention in that statement has not work in our department for over 2 years, at which time she (the accuser) did not even sit on our side of the office. So how would she "fully know" this information when she was not even in our office? Would that not be making a defamatory statement about ones professional character? She also stated that someone feared retaliation of me, indicating that I may be intimidating in some way. I have received written reviews that in fact I am approachable, helpful and a resource to my peers. This is part of my job description so for someone to say the opposite affects others view of my professional integrity and character.

Expert:  JBaxLaw replied 1 year ago.
As to the privacy issue with the telephone, did this person use any device to listen to the conversation or did she overhear the conversation due to the close proximity of her work space?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

She stated that she heard the conversation through her ear plugs and noise cancelling headphones...Not to mention she sits on the opposite side of the cubical and four seats to the left at the end of the row. Our cubicles are also padded and the person I was speaking to had a small fan on to drown out noise. While I am not certain she had a listening device, this person is documented as a chronic complainer about everything. Her hearing sensitivity is not a medically documented issue. She did not follow organizational regulations in her reporting of the issue, as she sent an email (which by putting it in writing made it formal) to my friends (person 1) supervisor and now I (and my supervisor) have to meet with the Division Chief about this matter, which also has a negative effect on my professional stance.


 


I failed to mention there were a stream of back and forth email, none of which I part took in, but in her last email in order to make her point seem justifiable she chose to make a statement about me. Which was unnecessary to her cause. My supervisor was informed by me at which point I was informed I have to meet with our Division Chief.


 


 

Expert:  JBaxLaw replied 1 year ago.
DC is a "one party" state when it comes to intercepting communications via phone. That means one of the parties on the phone call must consent to eavesdropping, but that does not prohibit someone from overhearing a conversation. You would need to show this person was using some type of device to intercept the call and not simply hearing the conversation without assistance.

As to defamation, you would have the burden to prove your case if you filed a civil suit. That allows a defense in many situations to try to show the statement was not made, or worse the statement is true. This can be a very difficult process. Many attorneys will charge in the range of $200 to $300 per hour of work and such a case would require many hours. If addition, it is not enough to show a statement may have cause you professional problems. You must prove it actually did cost your lost wages or was the reason you are not making a higher wage. This is a very difficult burden.

Please follow-up with me as needed. I hope you will take a moment to leave a positive rating for my efforts here. Please do not hesitate to follow-up with me if you cannot leave a positive service rating. Your satisfaction is my goal. I rely on these service ratings. I appreciate it.

Thank you
JBaxLaw, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 11319
Experience: Government and private sector employment law experience
JBaxLaw and 5 other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

If I have found that my division chief has discussed this situation with people who are outside of the chain of command and are not supposed to be involved with the process per our LCR Library of Congress Regulations what can I do? The actual dispute process has not been followed by others in this process aside from my supervisor and myself. My division chief continues to state that this is not a formal dispute issue however, when the complaint was made about the other co-worker in writing per our LCR's it became formal, also with the fact that her supervisor gave her a verbal warning without doing an investigation.


 


Once I brought up the issues of the LCR which I was never informed about, I found them through my personal research, the division chief decided to meet everyone. I was the last meeting that occurred yesterday as the other two were on Wednesday.


 


I expressed that my issue was a very separate one because:


1.I never had any interaction with co-worker who slandered my name.


2. Her actions towards me were unprovoked and malicious


3.Her statement was stated as a fact and it was actually false, and she knew it was false when she made the statement. Also it was not her first hand knowledge.


4. Her actions were intend to cause me embarrassment and to be intimidating. Which they were.


 


I expressed the high level of anxiety and stress this has cause me. I also express that I feel bullied by her actions.


 


I feel that after my discussion with the division chief, that he is trying to find a way to sweep her clearly aggressive action towards me under the rug. He kept stating that she was "emotional and upset" because of her issue with another co-worker, and because I am friends with that co-worker that may be why she did what she did to me. I stated to him that it was unacceptable and it should be rectified as that is a separate issue completely and that even during that time I was absolutely kind and profession with her in my interaction. I never did anything to her, I was only in the office one day while she was their and I spoke to her as I always.


 


He continued to try to place her actions towards me on her issue with someone else, and I continued to state to him that her issues with another co-worker does not give her the right to purposely a false statement about my professional conduct to my superiors, in order to bolster her claim regarding someone else.


 


Is there anything I can do. I told him that I feel that since she slandered me intentionally to management in writing unprovoked, that in the very least I deserve an apology in writing from her. I also told him she could send it over email to avoid her feeling humiliated by having to apologize in person. He doesn't seem to want to request his from her. My supervisor who is actually the woman who slandered me friend, stated that she agree's with me. She feels I deserve at the least and apology in writing. The division chief even at this time seems to not be serious about what she did. I told him that I feel this is workplace bullying clearly... Is there any thing I can do?

Expert:  JBaxLaw replied 1 year ago.
As a government employer you do have the option of pursuing a complaint against your superiors if they are not following required procedures. You mentioned a superior told others of this situation and this should not have occurred. This does not give rise to legal recourse typically, but you may pursue a complaint to higher level management or human resources regarding the deviation from procedures.

Thank you again
Expert:  JBaxLaw replied 1 year ago.
Thank you so much for allowing me to assist you.

Please let me know if you need any other assistance. Thank you for leaving me a positive rating and ensuring that I receive credit for assisting you.

Thank you again

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