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Don’t fear investigation will mean defamation lawsuit

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

When you conduct an internal investigation, other employees involved in the investigation are going to figure out what the allegations are. But you don’t have to worry about a defamation lawsuit following the investigation if you strive to keep the matter confidential.

Recent case: Schewislzer Lewis worked as a photographer for a news station. A co-worker reported that he had seen Lewis view “inappropriate material” on company video equipment and the company launched an investigation. It spoke with co-workers, but told them to keep the matter confidential.

The allegedly inappropriate material turned out to be video footage for a commercial, and Lewis was cleared.

He sued, alleging the company defamed him. But the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed the case, reasoning that “statements made during private, intra-corporate investigations conducted in good faith” aren’t defamatory. (Lewis v. Meredith Corp., No. A08A1173, Court of Appeals of Georgia, 2008)

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