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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 49071
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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If a private conversation is held between two people [ X &

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If a private conversation is held between two people [ X & Y ] in the workplace and it is overheard by another person [A] who arguably misinterprets what has been said / creates mischeif by alledging something was said which was not...then by way of msn messaging advises a third party B [ who had been mentioned in the conversation ] that X 7 Y were ostensibly 'bad mouthing' B ...........What rights do either of the X & Y have over any libellous comments / untruths written by A. - B having gone to line management to report accordingly....

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Ben Jones :

Is the employer taking any formal action as a result?

Customer:

That remains to be seen - the line manager advised the person who was alledgedly being spoken about to speak direct with my wife who was one of the conversationalists about the 'issue' on the grounds that one should not belive everything that may be said / written by others...This she did...but my wife is appalled at the occurrence and wishes the organisation to act as necessary to clear her name...she has yet to see what was written in the msn message....

Ben Jones :

How long has she worked there for?

Customer:

My wife has been there 7 years....the person who wrote the msn message - a little over a year

Ben Jones :

So apart from the 3 people's accounts there is no other evidence about what was actually said?

Customer:

As I am informed - yes

Ben Jones :

ok let me get my response ready please

Customer:

Ok..thank you

Ben Jones :

The initial act of overhearing the conversation or listening in is not unlawful as there is no general breach of privacy laws that can be relied on and there would have been no expectation of privacy by discussing this in an open workplace.


 


The issue is the comments made by the third person afterwards and the effect this has had on the original parties to the conversation. Whilst she can argue this is potential defamation, the most she can do about it is accuse the person of it, rather than take formal legal action under defamation laws. Such claims are rather unrealistic for the ‘general public’, due to the complexity and costs involved and as such are generally reserved for corporations and the well-off. She is easily looking at a five-figure sum to proceed with this to the courts.


 


Instead, as this is a workplace-related issue it is something that is best pursued internally. A lot will depend on what the employer does in relation to this. For example, will they investigate the allegations made by this person and pursue them, for example by taking formal disciplinary action against your wife and her colleague. If that was to happen they can both formally defend any allegations and appeal any decision taken against them. At the same time, and even if the employer does not take any action against them, they can pursue a formal grievance again person A. this is a formal complaint to the employer where they raise the current issues with them and it would then be for the employer to investigate them and consider what, if any action, is appropriate. The tables could turn then as the disciplinary action could be taken against person A if it is found they had acted maliciously.

Customer:

So arguably the best form of defence is an attack from the outset...thereby establishing a basis which the employer will be obliged to investigate putting A on the back foot .....Could my wife further demad an apolog,a ccordingly and any retraction of comments so made?mments yan My wife demand an apolofgyas to any potential malicious commentsmrom wr will be obliged to act hrebyesatbalishing not least as it is 'believed' that person A has a history of 'problems' within the organisation........hack from teh outset..ece is

Customer:

Sorry pressed the button too quickly.....So arguably the best form of defence is an attack from the outset...thereby establishing a basis which the employer will be obliged to investigate putting A on the back foot .....Could my wife further demand an apology, accordingly and a retraction of any comments so made?

Ben Jones :

Yes, if she just sits back and does nothing it leaves this in the hands of the employer and for them to decide whether any further action is necessary, depending on their investigation. If she raises a formal complaint now, alleging untrue and malicious rumours being spread, then the employer should hopefully try and resolve this before deciding whether she is to face any action. She can ask for an apology/retraction but cannot force these, so it could end up with the employer disicplining the other employee, they can go as far as dismissal if necessary, but it does not guarantee an apology.

Customer:

Thank you most helpful .....I have made a note of your bookmark...

Ben Jones :

You are most welcome. Please take a second to leave a positive rating for the advice I have provided as that is an important part of our process. Thank you and all the best

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