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I was sexually harassed at my previous job. I filed a complaint to the company, but they downplayed and dismissed it. I've heard that workplace harassment cases are hard to win, and I didn't think I had enough proof for a successful lawsuit, so I quit. I however, contacted a few of my former colleagues to warn them about the harasser. The company found out about this, and started threatening me with legal action. They didn't specify what law I violated, but obviously they want to keep the rest of team from knowing about what happened.

Is what I did illegal? Can a company sue me for contacting employees if they consider it unwanted communication?

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A person can, in extreme cases, get a court order prohibiting you from contacting them – nothing that you've said even remotely make this a plausible outcome. Furthermore, the company would have absolutely no standing to get such an order.

If you say certain untrue things about the company, you can be sued for defamation. You should be careful about saying things like "This company encourages sexual harassment".

There is some chance that you are bound by a clause in your employment that prevents you from disparaging the company after you leave. If you find such a clause in the contact, you should hire an attorney to advise you whether your planned statement would be in violation of that clause (which could lead to a lawsuit).

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This isn't in itself illegal. However, it could involve other aspects that are tortious. You may have signed a contract that bars this behavior, although such a clause would likely be found to be against public policy, so its enforceability would be questionable. Also, if you used a company directory to get contact information that you are now using to contact your former coworkers, or if you are using company resources such as emailing them at their work addresses, that could give rise to a claim.

The fact that the company hasn't articulated a legal basis, however, does suggest that they don't have one.

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It might be

You are not allowed to make untrue statements of fact that are damaging to a person’s (including a company) reputation to a third-party. This is called Defamation and the aggrieved party can sue you.

While “untrue statement of fact” might seem to be an oxymoron, what it means is that the statements that you make are about things that can be objectively true or false - that Donald Trump is the worst President ever is a statement of opinion, that he was impeached twice is a statement of fact. You cannot defame someone by stating an opinion but you can by stating something that has a factual basis and being wrong about it.

You being “sexually harassed” is a statement of fact - you either were or you weren’t. While I do not doubt that you were subjected to unpleasant behaviour, whether that rises to the legally accepted definition of sexual harassment in your jurisdiction has never been tested. It hasn’t been ruled on by a court. So, a statement that you were sexually harassed is simply not true - if you say that, you are potentially defaming someone.

What is true is that you were subjected to X, Y & Z specific behaviours (that you can definitely prove happened), that you reported them to the company, and that you were dissatisfied with their response.

As an analogy, you can’t call someone a murderer just because they kill somebody. You have to wait until they are convicted of the crime.

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  • In the United States (per the tag), the burden of proof is on the person claiming to be defamed to prove the statement is false. Therefore, that it was not ruled on in her favor is irrelevant.
    – Mary
    Jan 16, 2023 at 3:33

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