What do we need to be able to sue for defamation of character?

UPDATED: Apr 24, 2012

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What do we need to be able to sue for defamation of character?

My wife works for a county school district. She has had a rough year with the principal and other teachers. She is being accused of drinking on the job and frequently going out to her car to drink. The principal is also accusing her of spiking her powerade. A few weeks ago she was sent home for having bags under her eyes and reported to the director of professional standards for this. The director has said she must undergo substance abuse counseling. My wife does not drink during school and never takes pills. We have a few with diner and that’s it. She doesn’t go out to her car during school because she doesn’t have time. I pack all of our lunches and put everything in the car in the morning. It is like they are attacking her for no reason. Is there anything that can be done legally?

Asked on April 24, 2012 under Personal Injury, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You and your wife should speak with a personal injury attorney--you and she may have a cause of action for defamation. Defamation is the public--which means to any third parties, including coworkers, administrators, a school board, etc.--of false factual statements which damage a person's reputation. A statement that someone drinks on the job, for example, if untrue, would certainly seem to be a false factual statement which damages a person's reputation. Therefore, if your wife does not drink on the job but the principal or other teachers have claimed to third parties that  she does, they may have committed defamation against her, and she may have a claim for monetary compensation.

Also, if she has a union or collective bargaining agreement covering her job, it would be worthwhile to see what rights she may have under that agreement in regards to these accusations. Good luck.

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