By: Timothy M. Watson and John P. Phillips
Seyfarth Synopsis: Compelled self-defamation claims most commonly occur in the wrongful termination context, when plaintiffs allege they are required to defame themselves to prospective employers because they are required to tell such employers the reasons for their discharge. However, in a win for employers, the Texas Supreme Court recently ruled that Texas does not recognize such a claim, joining the majority of states and providing certainty to Texas employers.
Recently, and as a matter of first impression, the Texas Supreme Court decided whether Texas recognizes a claim for compelled self-defamation—it does not. A typical defamation claim requires: (1) the publication of a false statement of fact to a third party; (2) that was defamatory concerning the plaintiff; (3) with the requisite degree of fault; and (4) damages, in some cases. Claims for compelled self-defamation generally occur in wrongful termination lawsuits, when plaintiffs allege that their former employer terminated them for false reasons and they were subsequently required to disclose the false reason to prospective employers, thereby harming their reputations. The majority of courts to address the issue, however, have declined to accept the theory of compelled self-defamation, and the Texas Supreme Court found it to be incompatible with the at-will employment doctrine and unwise as a matter of policy.
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