Is it legal for my administrator to criticize me to coworkers in private versus coming to me?

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Is it legal for my administrator to criticize me to coworkers in private versus coming to me?

I work for a private school. My administrator/principle has regularly gone to one of my teacher coworkers and criticized me personally and as a teacher. The “board” was hand-picked by her, so going to them would most likely be handled in favor of the administrator. I approached my principle to let her know that I’m aware of what she is doing. Her response was that she has no memory of bad mouthing me to this particular teacher. I’m feeling harassed and bullied. Do I have any legal rights to do anything?

Asked on February 2, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the comments made to the coteacher are untrue factual assertions, you might possibly have a claim for defamation. An untrue factual assertion would be something like accusing you of improper behavior with a student, excessive abseenteeism, financial impropriety, not having a certain degree or credential--all when those statements are not true.

On the other hand, a true factual statement about you, even if it is negative is not defamation. And an opinion, such as "John/Jane Doe is a bad teacher," is not defamation either. There is no general right to not be "bad mouthed," so if the administrator is not defaming you, you would not have a claim or cause of action.

If you feel that he or she is making untrue statements about you to other people, then you should consult with a personal injury attorney to explore your options.


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