Question: My current employer just received a scathing email from a former client of mine absolutely bashing my reputation terribly. The statements are all false and they are really bad.
We are currently pursuing a five million dollar contract with the State of Arizona. In the letter my former client stated that he contacted one of the state senators we are dealing with, with the same things about me.
What should I do?
Saint David, Arizona
Answer: Dear Michael:
Without a doubt, you have a right to protect yourself from what seems to be defamation and interference with your employment/business relations. Here’s what I suggest you do:
a. First, you should demand a retraction of any false statements about you that serve to harm your reputation. In a letter sent by Federal Express, or Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, you should insist that a retraction of the false statements be sent to your employer. A false statement of fact sent to another person that serves to harm your reputation is the definition of defamation. Under Arizona law, you have every right to sue your former client for doing what he or she is doing. By sending him or her a letter demanding a retraction you (1) might get the retraction, and (2) will have a stronger case if you do, in fact, have to sue.
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b. Second, your letter should also demand that the writer “cease and desist” from interfering with your employment and the prospective business relation you are pursuing. In most states, including Arizona, the law permits a person to sue another person who interferes in bad faith with either contractual relations or “business expectancy.” (This violation of your legal rights is referred to as “tortious interference.”) By sending your former client a letter insisting he or she “cease and desist” from interfering with your efforts to succeed in getting the five million dollar contract, you (1) might get him or her to stop, or (2) if he or she causes you to lose out on that “business expectancy,” you may have a stronger legal case against him or her.
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c. Third, and finally, it sounds like a consultation with an attorney might be worthwhile. I don’t like to tell everyone who writes in to use the services of an attorney. However, the facts you present are very compelling, urgent, and extreme. What is at stake is no less than (a) your employment, (b) your reputation, and (c) five million dollars. Ouch!! You really do need to get your former client to stop, and to stop quickly. I encourage you to ask around for a referral to a tough attorney who might be able to do what needs to be done, and to do it soon.
What you describe indicates that your former client is wildly ignorant of the bounds of proper behavior, and will not likely stop unless forced to do so. I encourage you – strongly – take aggressive and prompt action. It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, but only a moment to lose it. Don’t hesitate. And best of luck to you in your efforts.
© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.