Told With Ill Will, Even Truth is Grounds for Libel Suit

The truth can really hurt, as Staples Inc. learned the hard way after mass e-mailing its employees to inform them that a co-worker had been fired for breaching the company's travel and expense policies. An expense claim of $1,129 for a Big Mac was one tip-off that something was seriously wrong with Alan S. Noonan's expense reports.

The traveling salesman admitted to auditors for the Boston-based office products giant that he had been careless. He explained he had inadvertently misplaced the decimal point on the $11.29 meal he bought at the airport. But other anomalies in his expense claims convinced a special forensics team that Noonan had deliberately falsified his expense reports.

Alarm Bells

The court's ruling that true statements can be actionable if made with "actual malice" rang alarm bells with some employment law practitioners.

Cristin Schmitz

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