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Employer Found Liable for Defaming Former Employee
June 23, 2015
Author(s): Lou L. Poskitt

The British Columbia Supreme Court recently awarded a plaintiff $30,000 in connection with defamatory statements made about him by his former company’s owners.

The plaintiff, John Batyka, at one point a one-third shareholder in the business, resigned from his employment with the web-hosting and software development company, Binary. Binary was owned by Mr. Johnathan Barber and Mrs. Lucy Barber.

The plaintiff alleged that on three separate occasions, the Barbers made statements to other individuals in the web-hosting and software development industry that Mr. Batyka had engaged in theft from Binary, that he had breached his professional obligations, that he was incompetent and that he had been terminated for unscrupulous practices. The Court concluded that employer knowingly made the false statements in question and had no basis for making the impugned remarks. The Court also noted that the Barbers never retracted the statements or offered Mr. Batyka an apology.

The Court found that Mr. Batyka’s livelihood was predicated on his good reputation and that the employer’s conduct was specifically aimed at undermining his reputation and intended to harm him financially. The lack of apology or retraction made by either of the defendants was a significant factor in the Court’s decision to award Mr. Batyka a combination of general and aggravated damages for defamation. The Court ordered that each of the defendant’s pay the plaintiff $15,000 for a total award of $30,000.

Employers should ensure any statements made about former employees are truthful. The old adage remains good law – if you do not have anything nice (or true) to say about a former employee, do not say anything at all.

Batyka v. Barber, 2015 BCSC 63

Questions relating to the content of this article may be directed to Scott A. McCann.