Like a lot of self-employed people, your business relies on word-of-mouth and your reputation to bring in new customers – and the quality of your work to keep them coming back.
It’s painful and destructive to your livelihood, then, when you (and your company) are unfairly maligned. Maybe you’re a contractor and someone is telling people all over that you left work unfinished and used subpar materials, or maybe you’re the victim of someone’s ire online and the negative – and false – reviews about your bakery are piling up. Whatever the situation, your business is suffering through no fault of your own.
How can you handle this situation and reclaim your life? Sometimes, it’s necessary to sue.
Slander and libel are both defamatory acts
Slander is defamation that’s spoken, and libel is defamation that’s written. To be defamatory:
- The statements must not be true but presented as facts (not opinions).
- The statements must be published or spoken.
- The statements must be read or heard by others.
- The statements must cause injury to your reputation.
- The statements are not protected under any kind of legal privilege.
For example, if a customer says they thought you were rude and unprofessional, that’s really an opinion – and opinions vary. That wouldn’t rise to the level of defamation. However, if a customer says that you stole money or jewelry from them while working on their home, that’s presenting something as a fact. Unless they can back up their claims, that’s defamation.
There are ways that the damage to your reputation can be minimized when this kind of thing happens, but you need to act quickly in order to best protect your future.