Employers often claim that the employee cannot have a defamation claim unless the publication of false information was made to a third party (someone other than the employee and the employer). However, this argument is without merit, as publication occurs when a statement is communicated to any person other than the party defamed (the employee falsely accused). Bindrim v. Mitchell (9179) 92 Cal.App.3d 61, 79. Even internal corporate statements can be considered publications within the meaning of the defamation law. Agarwal v. Johnson (1979) 25 Cal.3d 932, 944. In Agarwal, the court stated that internal company statements regarding the plaintiff's "lack of job knowledge and cooperation" were considered "published" for the purposes of alleging libel.
Employers and especially their attorneys like to argue that "falsifying" is the same as making a mistake. First, it is important ton ote that the code definition of libel has been held to include almost any language which, upon its face, has a natural tendency to injure a person's reputation, either generally, or with respect to his occupation. Schomberg v. Walker, 132 Cal. 224. At least in one case the court held that the statement that plaintiff falsified invoices were slanderous per se in that it charged plaintiff with forgery. This kind of statement clearly implies that the accused employee did so with intent do defraud. Kelly v. General Telephone Company (1982) 136 Cal.App.3d 278, 285.
The defendant empoyer cannot avoid liability by claiming that the employer gave a more innocent meaning to the term "falsify" or any other accusation damaging the employee's reputation, than the employee sees in it. However, the California Supreme Court observed that the language used is to be considered not only in terms of actual words used by also according to the sense and meaning under all the circumstnaces attending the publication which such language may fairly be presume to have conveyed to those to whom it was published. Grover v. Tribune Publishing Company, Inc. (1959) 52 Cal.2d 536, 546.
Further, the fact that an implied defamatory charage or insinuation leaves room for an innocent interpretation (such as considering falsifying to be equivalent to mistake or negligence), does not establish that the defamatory meaning does not appear from the language itself. The language used may give rise to conflicting inferences as to the meaning intended, but thwne it is addressed to the public at large, it is reasonable to assume that at least some of the readers will take it it its defamatory sense. Id. at 549.