Thank you. Your main remedy would really be against the individual rather than the employer because the employer has not really done much wrong if they are simply investigating a complaint made by another. They would not know what is true and what is not until they have satisfied themselves by investigating. So they cannot really be blamed for investigating this further because if they did not and the allegations were true, they would be in the wrong as well.
The issue is that the complaint was made anonymously. They may or they may not know the identity of the complainant. If they did not then there is not much you can do to take this further because you would simply not know who to complain about. If they did know their identity, they will not be obliged to disclose that to you. So what you will have to do instead is make a formal complaint against the complainant and the employer will investigate that themselves because they will know who to investigate.
In terms of taking direct legal action against the individual, the only potential way of doing so would be defamation. Whilst this may appear to be a potential case of defamation (this includes libel if it is in written form, or slander if it is in oral form), such claims are rather difficult to pursue. Many people are keen on suing for defamation without having full appreciation of the law or practicalities in doing so. I will try and clarify the position below.
First of all, certain conditions must be met for the statement to be classified as defamatory. These are:
1. There has to be a defamatory statement - the assessment that is often used to establish this is whether the statement tends to lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally
2. Its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant – this will vary based on what effect it will have but it really has to be something sufficiently serious
3. The statement has been published by the defendant to a third party
4. The claimant must prove that the words complained of were published about him - this should not be an issue if the claimant is named or clearly identified.
Whilst it may be easy to prove that defamation has taken place, the legal process of pursuing such a claim is often complex and prohibitively expensive. A claim must be made in the High Court and will likely require the help of professional defamation lawyers, so the costs will often be high right from the outset, usually in the thousands. There is also no legal aid available for such claims so the complainant must fund these personally.
You must also consider whether the publisher of the statement can potentially defend the claim. For example this can happen by proving the statement was true or an honest opinion which could have been made based on the available facts.
Instead of starting legal proceedings it would be best to contact the publisher of the comment (this would be done through the employer), advise them that what they have done amounts to defamation and that you will consider pursuing the matter further if they do not retract their statement and issue an apology. This could prompt them to reconsider their position, which would avoid the need for court action. Of course, if they refuse to comply the option of suing still exists, but consider the above information before going down that route.
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