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Defamation Argument Serves Fired Workers Best

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Gold River, CACalifornia employment lawyer Chris Whelan has a rather unassuming demeanor. However, make no mistake, he’s deadly in a defamation deposition when representing fired workers. With more than 30 years’ experience under his belt, he’s won a number of multimillion-dollar lawsuits by arguing that employees were defamed by employers bent on driving them out their job.

“First of all,” says Whelan, “defamation is a lot easier to prove than wrongful dismissal. The point of the suit is to get compensation for your client and it doesn’t really matter whether that is won by arguing wrongful termination or whether it’s done by arguing defamation.”

Workplace defamation has lifetime consequences for terminated workers. It carries a lifetime stigma that makes it difficult for them to get other jobs. These are important cases.

In August 2014, Whelan won a $5.65 million verdict on behalf of Robert “Bob” Sallustio against Kemper Insurance in an employment defamation suit. Sallustio’s managers claimed that he only worked 15 or 20 hours a week, that he was “hardly around” and otherwise “unavailable.” The accusations had been repeated by a number of managers including one who was hoping to take Sallustio’s management job after he was gone.

Sallustio’s issues started when he went to bat for his ex-wife who also worked at the company and had some emotional issues and crying bouts in the office after the breakup of the marriage. Her direct supervisor wanted her gone but Sallustio thought an internal reassignment would allow her to continue working.

When Sallustio succeeded in finding another position for his ex-wife at Kemper, her supervisor went to war against him - slandering him in the process.

“Lawyers often confuse employment defamation with traditional cases of media defamation. They are very different,” says Whelan.

“They go back to their law school training that a corporation is a person and they believe the discussion of your client’s alleged failures isn’t a publication to a third person. However, there is case law that says publication to anyone other than your client is a publication to a third person.”

The defamatory accusations flew in the face of the Sallustio’s performance history. He’d supervised dozens of employees over the years without a single complaint. He actually worked about 45 to 50 hours a week and had had very positive performance reviews.

“As they are trying to convince you that your client is a bad person, they are giving you additional publications of defamatory material, and also they are helping you support the key issue in any defamation case, which is malice,” says Whelan.

Kemper’s assertion that it had a very fair and thorough human resources investigation process proved false when the VP of HR testified that they had never looked at Sallustio’s monthly reports, attendance records or key card records. They had never even given Sallustio a chance to respond to the allegations or even told him about the allegations until the day he was turfed out of his job.

A video recording shown at a recent Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) conference showing Whelan taking the Kemper HR manager’s deposition demonstrates Whelan’s finesse.

“Did you know whether the allegations were true or false,” asks Whelan.

“No,” says the manager. “I did not.”

“Did you care if they were true or false?” asks Whelan.

“No, I did not.”

The jury returned a verdict of 9 to 3 in favor of Sallustio’s defamation suit. He was awarded $509,295 in lost wages, $724,854 for future lost wages, $500,000 for past emotional distress and $3 million in punitive damages, plus $919,455.38 for costs plus interest.

Sallustio will not need a new job.

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
I been wrongfull terminated Based on 4 company's who belive i was a criminal.

First of all i am 40 yrs old and to work on this kind of job you need Two forms whitch
FBI and other background checks. I never had any goverment or any police problems.

But the litigation persist; I put this isues on my Mgr desk But they said
this not true and i might having mental
problems.
We have UNION and hen i call the union rep
to come in and see for her self what this people are doing. But she said this is crazy. Never pay attention to my peticions
Then everything get public. People who don't even work with us they are passengers
Starting to point me as what ever they told them about me. Then my suprise they comeback to get there rewards by what they did to me in the morning.
Some people got amazed by still see me working then they react like if there first time they travel, Others got consern because they have kids on there free 3 day vacations.
This sound comfusing but if i can detail
would make you mad.
I work with CONTROL BORDER PATROL. and they
knew what going on; But they just look and dont say a word. and really make me sad
I thought if they see whats going on probably they will help me...

Wrong i was by my self Not even attorny's
can help me... Where is the law ?
Where was my Rights?
My parents know all this accusations and
they feel helpless my emotions are so frustraded my mother when to the hospital
because stress.
this become in anger... my mother dont wanna heard no more about the harassment
and all the false accusations.
I felt like i have to protect my job to
fight for something i work for 3 1/2 years
with nothing they can complain.
the end of my begining was when i call
one of this companys to make a complain related to the employees who retaliering me
somebody tramfer my call to the vicepresiden, from this people
we talk and he said he will help me.

Not true..... next day i got terminated
because he call the building owner, the executive managers from the building,
and the owners of my company.

Where is my UNION rep????

That day i was on that office Smashed like a Dumbster trash bug.
Everything i said all i try to show them just not work... they got what they want
so no turning back i have to get terminated
and if i show my face to the even the parkinglot they will call the police on me
and......

Where is my UNION rep.

Posted by

on
I went out for total knee replacement in dec 2015 I gave. them fmla paperwork 30 days prior they denied me the leave but told me that they would get tem while out and only home 3 weeks and they called me and said the doctor decided to hire the temp and laid me off I said why I was here 5 years and had excellent reviews office manger didn't know what to say so I decided to sue because I didn't think I should be fired for just getting operation now I went on job interview they were reedy to hire me I am medical asst 11 experience excellent reviews so they said I didn't get job because references didn't give go reviews which are lie I had 5 excellent reviews can my lawyer call former employer and make them stop they are lying cause lawsuit I lost a amazing job thx j.b

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