Can I sue my former school district and HR director?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I sue my former school district and HR director?

I resigned from my first teaching job due to harassment and a vicious rumor spread about me. I was advised not to put it on my application. In my current district, I was in my second year of teaching when I was called into HR and put on administrative leave for lying on my application. At my hearing with the HR director, district lawyer and principal, I was asked once why I did not put my first job on my application. The rest of the hearing was questioning about the rumors spread about me 4 years ago. Someone had brought it up to my district. My principal knew at the time of hiring about my first job. For about 45 minutes I had to recount my first year teaching and provide details that embarrassed me and brought back the emotional pain I endured before. I had to get my medication increased after this meeting because of the emotional distress I was caused. They ended up telling le I was a liar and could not be trusted with the students and never to apply to the district again, yet I was allowed to finish out the year. For 3 months I endured looks and whispers about my situation until the end of the school year. I was forced to work in conditions that did not support my mental or emotional health. I also now cannot find another job because of this. Can I sue the district for harassment and emotional distress?

Asked on June 25, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) There is almost never grounds to sue someone for emotional distress unless you can prove they deliberately intended to cause you emotional or mental harm (e.g. a stalking or cyberstalking situation). What you describe does not appear to be a deliberate attempt to cause you emotional harm; rather, the emotional harm is a side effect of the job-related action they took.
2) Based on what you write, you did lie on your application by not disclosing your first teaching job. When they found about about it, that would justify an investigation and termination due to application fraud.
3) Defamation is the making to other people of false statements of fact about you which damage your reputation. True facts, even if harmful, are not defamation; opinions (like that you are not "trustworthy"--trustworthiness is a subjective value judgment or opinion, not a fact) are not defamation, either, no matter how negative they are. If you believe that you did suffer defamation in that untrue factual allegations were spread about you to other people, you could sue for defamation.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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