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Can a corporate employer sue a former employee for defamation?

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia - United States

In a paper they presented at the CLEBC Employment Law Conference 2013 (held on May 9 - 10, 2013 in Vancouver), Mark Hamilton and Scott MacDonald addressed whether a corporate employer can sue a former employee for defamation for making disparaging claims against their former employer.

Mr. Hamilton and Mr. MacDonald are lawyers at Richards Buell Sutton LLP in Vancouver. The title of their paper was: "Potential Claims Against Departing Employees Without Written Agreements".

Based on their paper and presentation, here are some points of note:

  • "there is nothing precluding a corporate employer from pursuing a defamation claim against a former employee: Walker et al v. CFTO Ltd. et. al. [1987] O.J. No. 236";
  • "an example of a case where an employer made a defamation claim against employees can be found in the California decision of Overhill Farms, Inc. v. Lopez, G042984, December 14, 2010";  
  • an attendee at the conference advised that there is currently a BC decision under reserve (from the New Westminster Registry) involving an employer who sued its former employees for defamation. The name of the case (I believe) is Canuck Security v. Gill and apparently it involves Temporary Foreign Workers who filed an Employment Standards Act complaint against their employer, and the employer in turn filed a defamation claim against the employees.