Emmett Jafari sued the Greater Richmond Transit Company
for defamation and retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards
Act. Jafari was a Specialized Transportation Field Supervisor for a Virginia
company that transported clients enrolled in a state economic program. John
Rush, a GRTC driver, told Jafari's Chief Operating Officer, Eldridge Coles,
that (1) he had seen Jafari in a heated discussion with a client in front of
her home and (2) when the client boarded the van, she said Jafari had told her,
"If you have something to say, say it to my face." Coles allegedly told
Jafari's supervisor, Von Tisdale, "a customer had complained that Mr.
Jafari told her 'if you have something to say, say it to my face.'" When
Jafari was later fired, he sued, alleging Coles' statement to Von Tisdale was
In Virginia, defamation requires (1) a publication, (2)
an actionable false statement, and (3) negligence or malicious intent
(depending on the circumstances). Statements made between co-employees and
employers in matters pertaining to employee discipline and termination enjoy a qualified
privilege, which insulates those statements from liability unless they are
made with malice or shared with people (including fellow employees) who have no
duty or interest in the subject matter. If a defendant makes a statement within
the scope of a qualified privilege, then the statement is not actionable, even
if false or based on erroneous information. The law presumes absence of malice.
Read the rest of the article at the Virginia
Defamation Law Blog.
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