Can one get sued for gossiping about an incompetent tech lead if you believe you're saying the truth? Let's say a person tells one of his or her coworkers that this tech lead isn't qualified for his job and cannot tell whether a junior developer is a senior developer. Can teh speaker get sued for it?

I think I had to say it, because the guy literally hired junior developers and tried to gaslight me into believing they were senior when they could not complete a landing page after 4 months and returning their terrible work with constructive feedback and identifying several bugs in an interminable circle of mess where they would generate 2 bugs for every fix they made, which is completely absurd.

Would a potential suit have merit, and how would it play out?

  • sure. You can get sued pretty much for anything by anyone. The question should focus more on whether a potential sued would have merit and how it may play out.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 2:01

2 Answers 2


Your belief in the truth of a statement is of only limited value in a defamation suit. Saying that a person is incompetent in that person's profession can certainly be defamation, and may even be defamation per se, depending on the jurisdiction. If the person sues and the speaker asserts truth as a defense, the speaker may have to prove that the statement is true.

Why would one need to say anything at all in such a situation?

Whether such a statement was a factual statement or a statement of opinion would depend very much on the detailed circumstances. But it is at least possible that a suit might be filed and won on this fact pattern.

See this answer for more on defamation under US law.

  • It is an opinion, so how can you claim it's a statement of fact? It doesn't even pass the first criteria.
    – Sayaman
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 14:11
  • 1
    @Sayaman That someone is "an incompetent tech lead" could well be a purported statement of fact. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 14:13


What you believe it irrelevant.

For defamation law, what matters is if the statement is an opinion or a statement of fact and if it is objectively true or not.

Saying someone is incompetent or not qualified for their job is a statement of fact because competence and qualifications are objective - not a matter of opinion. So, if they sued you for saying that, you would need to prove that it was true. For example, by demonstrating that they lacked a required qualification for their job or that they had been formally disciplined by a governing body that had demonstrated “incompetence”.

Saying that you weren’t satisfied with their performance and wouldn’t use them again is not defamatory because that is your opinion, not a statement of fact.

  • showing incompetent handling of the consumer interaction might suffice. e.g. "Peter acted incompetent [in the handling of Paula's case]." There doesn't need to be a reprimand, just it being on notice.
    – Trish
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 2:10
  • @Trish incompetence is far more broad that that - it means Peter is incapable of doing it, not that he failed in a specific instance.
    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 2:37
  • note the tiny word acted - it makes the general allegation to a description of one instance where they failed.
    – Trish
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 6:57
  • 1
    State the facts. “Jack hired four developers who couldn’t create a simple website in four months, I let you draw your own conclusions”.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 15:15
  • @gnasher729 replace “couldn’t” with “didn’t” and then you’re stating the facts. Couldn’t implied they were incapable - that’s defamation. Maybe they were just lazy.
    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 22:03

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