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No self-defamation claim possible in North Carolina

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

A former employee has lost a novel claim that could have opened the litigation floodgates in North Carolina and destroyed the at-will employment concept.

Recent case: Sylvester Johnson worked at a North Carolina Walmart for 14 years, eventually earning a promotion to market manager. He was terminated after he questioned the way his store conducted inventory. Johnson claimed he was told he was being discharged because it was he who was doing inventory incorrectly.

He sued, alleging he had been forced to reveal why he had been fired, which in effect amounted to self-defamation.

The court dismissed his claim, noting that if North Carolina courts were to recognize such a right, at-will employment would essentially die. That’s because employees could claim that whatever reason they received for being fired was false and could then sue for self-defamation. (Johnson v. Wal-Mart, No. 3:10-CV-659, WD NC, 2011)

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