One lawsuit shows gossip may not be illegal—but it’s not helpful. I’m Amy E. Feldman.
A Los Angeles city attorney received several workers’ comp payouts despite his supervisor’s belief he was filing claims to blackmail the office into letting him work closer to home. In fact, coworkers had a lot to say about him; one email called him a “lazy ne’er do well,” and in another it said he had the “fat, dumb, and happy look of someone leading a stress-free existence.” Which is highly specific.
He sued for age and disability discrimination and retaliation, which the office chose to settle for a million dollars rather than risk what a jury would have to say after a jury consultant said that the “vitriol and spite” in numerous emails would hurt the office at trial. Gossip itself is not illegal—but it sure makes you look petty and mean, which makes it hard to get a jury to like you. If you can’t say anything nice, call your bestie. Don’t put it in an office email.