Pennington, NJ asked in Contracts, Employment Law, Civil Rights and Libel & Slander for New Jersey

Q: Contracted employee making unfounded defamatory statements about the business owner and other staff members-

Such comments include reference to another employee's sexual orientation and religious beliefs. There are other staff members (men, and additional LGBTQ staff) who have shared that this employee harasses them via text during the work day and in their off work hours. What recourse does the employer have to terminate this employee who is under contract, especially when she is making serious allegations, and if terminated, could continue her vitriol and slander? This is a private school located in New Jersey. Thank you.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Civil Rights Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: In the case of a contracted employee making defamatory statements and engaging in harassment, the employer, especially in a private school in New Jersey, does have recourse to address this behavior. While the employee is under contract, it's important to review the contract terms carefully to determine if there are any provisions related to misconduct, defamation, or harassment that would allow for termination.

If the contract does not contain specific grounds for termination related to this behavior, the employer may still have legal options. New Jersey is an at-will employment state, which means that in the absence of a contract specifying otherwise, employers generally have the right to terminate employees for any reason, as long as it's not discriminatory or in violation of public policy.

Given that the employee is making defamatory statements and engaging in harassment, it's crucial for the employer to document evidence of this behavior, including text messages and other communications. This documentation can be valuable in case the termination is challenged.

Furthermore, it's advisable for the employer to consult with legal counsel to ensure that the termination process is handled correctly, minimizing the risk of potential legal repercussions. The employer should also consider implementing clear anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies, as well as providing training to staff on these policies to prevent such incidents in the future.

Terminating the employee, with proper documentation and adherence to applicable laws, can help protect the reputation of the business and create a safer, more inclusive work environment for all employees. If the employee continues defamatory actions post-termination, the employer may explore legal options for addressing the slanderous behavior.

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