Psst! Heard the good news? You’re not liable for gossip — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Psst! Heard the good news? You’re not liable for gossip

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A court has ruled that an employer isn’t liable for defamation when employees discuss what may or may not have led to disciplinary action.

Recent case: Ronald Ratkosky worked in a railroad yard. Another employee complained that he had seen Ratkosky urinate from a rail yard balcony in the direction of a female employee sitting at a picnic table below. Ratkosky was suspended without pay pending an investigation.

During the investigation, the employee who made the original accusation recanted and said he lied. Ratkosky was reinstated with full pay.

Sometime later, other employees discussed the allegations, and someone said that Ratkosky had been “shaking his [private parts] at some female.”

Ratkosky sued for defamation, but the court dismissed the case. It reasoned that the employer wasn’t responsible for the false statements. (Ratkosky v. CSX, No. 92061, Court of Appeals of Ohio, 2009)

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