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RobertJDFL, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Experienced in multiple areas of the law.
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My husband works for a retail hardware chain based in

Customer Question

My husband works for a retail hardware chain based in Massachusetts, with locations in Maine New Hampshire and Vermont. For about eighteen months he worked at one of the stores in Maine, in the town in which we reside, and had a lot of issues with his manager. She would often write him up for minor infractions, ridicule his job performance etc. Upper management finally transferred him to another location. He's been at that location for four months. Recently I was in a grocery store in our town and ran into sometime I've known my whole life. His son works at the same store my husband was transferred from. The person told me that the manager has been telling people the reason my husband no longer works there is because he was showing up to work late and drunk, and they had to let him go. This is completely false. The manager is well aware of why my husband was transferred. My husband spoke with the regional manager, who spoke with the manager saying these things. She flatly denied it. Do we have a case for slander? Our whole family lives in this town, our kids go to school here. We have no idea how many people she's said this to at this point, and it appears corporate isn't going to do anything else.
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  RobertJDFL replied 2 months ago.

Thank you for using Just Answer. I look forward to helping you.

Your husband may have a claim for defamation, though it may not be the strongest. False and negligent statements about a person or business, which materially injure the reputation of a person or business, are considered defamatory under Maine defamation law. In order to fall within the realm of defamation, statements must be made to a third party without consent (to put it another way, the defendant must have intentionally or negligently made the false statement(s) to a third party). The defamation statute of limitations in Maine is two years, meaning any suit would have to filed within two years of the statement(s) having been made.

Maine further allows plaintiffs to file defamation suits under a provision known as defamation per se. Defamation per se means that the alleged defamatory statement(s), which are repeated by a defendant to a third party, are inherently defamatory.

False implications of:

  1. Criminality;
  2. Moral turpitude; and
  3. A loathsome disease

fall under the per se umbrella according to Maine defamation case law. In defamation per se cases, the plaintiff does not have to prove actual damages to successfully litigate a slander or libel case because the aforementioned are enough to ruin a reputation.

Moral turpitude is sort of a catch all that refers to conduct that is vile, contrary to the rules of morality, depraved, etc. Essentially, behavior that may "shock the conscious."

My opinion is that it would be hard to argue that alleging a person was let go because they were drinking and tardy doesn't necessarily rise to the level of moral turpitude. This means that unlike defamation per se claims, your husband would have to show actual damages from her statement to be potentially be successful. Damages cannot be something like hurt feelings, because a court has no way to measure that economically --they need to be something like the loss of a job, business losses, etc.

I'll be honest and say you don't see a lot of defamation suits from private individuals, because the damages simply aren't there to litigate often times. Compare that to, say, a celebrity, who is falsely accused of a vile crime in a publication like the National Enquirer, which then causes them to be fired from a movie, and they fail to earn $25 million dollars they otherwise would have been paid. The latter case has much more appeal.

It's certainly worth your husband still talking to someone and seeing what they recommend. This may be a situation where a "cease and desist" type letter from a lawyer to the old manager may be enough to scare her into no longer making comments to anyone.

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Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you for your response. Is it possible for me to file a cease and desist letter, given that her statements could negatively impact me and our children?
Expert:  RobertJDFL replied 2 months ago.

You could (it's not required that a lawyer write it, and I'm sure there are samples available online), but the whole point of a cease and desist letter is that coming from a lawyer, it might actually scare the person into stopping their behavior. Most people fear lawyers to a degree and will take it to heart when a lawyer says that they will consider taking any and all possible legal action against them.

It's not going to have the same kind of impact coming from you, unfortunately. A lawyer could make clear that she should not disparage your husband, his family, etc. but I think coming from you it would just appear to be the letter of an angry wife and mother.

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