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Calling tactic ‘blackmail’ isn’t necessarily defamation

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Publicly calling an innocent person a criminal can lead to a defamation lawsuit. But what if, during court proceedings, you call a lawsuit a form of blackmail? Is that defamation? Not in Minnesota, according to a federal district court hearing a case that has gained a certain amount of notoriety.

Recent case: Michael worked for the Minnesota Legislature and en­­gaged in an extramarital affair with a state senator. She resigned. Shortly after, Michael was fired.

Michael sued, alleging women who had had affairs with male legislators had kept their jobs. He opened up settlement negotiations. Michael added defamation to his lawsuit after one of the defendants publicly called his tactic “blackmail.”

The court tossed that claim, concluding that the public wouldn’t automatically view Michael as a criminal after hearing about the “blackmail” he allegedly committed. (Brodkorn v. Minnesota, No. 12-1958, DC MN, 2013)

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