If you work for the federal government and a co-worker
spreads false and malicious rumors about you that damage your reputation, it
will be very difficult to pursue a
claim for libel or slander against the individual in question. The recent
Maryland case of Shake v. Gividen [an enhanced version of this opinion is available to lexis.com subscribers]
demonstrates the hurdles a prospective
plaintiff would face in pursuing such an action.
Donald Shake worked for the Department of Veterans
Affairs until he was terminated in 2011. Teresa Gividen and Brian Sexton also
worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Gividen was the Assistant Human
Resources Chief. Shake claimed that Gividen and Sexton accused him of accessing
the medical records of a veteran and not completing hundreds of work orders. He
asserted that Gividen and Sexton started rumors that Shake was the subject of
disciplinary proceedings and that numerous complaints had been lodged against
him. Shake sued Gividen and Sexton for defamation, alleging that they slandered
his name and reputation by making false and malicious statements about him.
Shake alleged that he lost his job and retirement benefits as a result of the
slander and that his reputation was harmed such that he was unable to secure
The United States filed a motion contending that Gividen
and Sexton should be dismissed because they were acting within the scope of
their employment, and it asked to be substituted as the sole defendant in the
case pursuant to the Federal
Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The United States further argued that Shake's
defamation claim should then be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and on sovereign immunity grounds.
The court agreed.
Read the rest of the article at the Virginia
Defamation Law Blog.
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