The California court of appeals recently allowed a defamation claim to proceed against a company’s CEO for libelous social media posts made about a former employee after her termination. According to her complaint, the employee had been the company’s only female senior executive during her tenure. Following a brief, rocky stint with the company, the employee was terminated, and she filed a lawsuit against the company, asserting claims for gender discrimination, retaliation, and harassment.After learning of the suit, the CEO began authoring negative blog posts about the employee. The CEO claimed the employee failed to perform any of the tasks assigned to her, and that the suit was solely about money. Almost a year later, the CEO reposted a story across various social media platforms which claimed that the employee had a history of suing or threatening every employer she has ever worked for in the past, for a payday. On the basis of this social media activity, the employee filed a defamation suit against the CEO.
The CEO moved to strike the defamation claim through an anti-SLAPP (“Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”) motion, which was initially granted in part by the trial court. On appeal, however, the decision was reversed—allowing the defamation claim to move forward nearly in its entirety.
The decision serves as yet another reminder of the potential liability that executives expose themselves, and their companies, to when taking grievances to social media platforms. Moreover, it underlines the vital importance of maintaining robust social media policies, and enforcing those policies among all employees—from the rank-and-file to the C-suite.