What constitutes defamation in the workplace?

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What constitutes defamation in the workplace?

This is the third year that I haven’t been permanently hired after covering in a fill-in math position in a school. The last 2 times I had proper credentials but no hire. Last year a person with less credentials was hired. This year, after solid reviews from colleagues, not rehired. I was told that I had classroom management issues and didn’t connect well with students. Besides regular issues with students (all teachers have these), nothing substantial has ever been documented regarding this. Feels like a raw deal and school board normally wants to promote credentialed people from within. Does this fit any defamatory laws?

Asked on July 2, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, New Hampshire

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Defamation is a false factual assertion which damages your reputation and/or makes others not willing to work with or do business with you. It must be made "publically"--i.e. to 3rd parties and, as stated, must be a false statement of fact--something which is true, or which is an opinion (e.g. "John/Jane Doe is a bad teacher"--that's an opinion; "John/Jane Doe had sex with a student"--that's a factual assetion) is not actionable. That is, if it's an opinion about you, there is no defamation.

If there is no *specific* assertion you can point to that meets the tests above, there is no defamation. As a general matter, employers and supervisors are free to favor internal candidates and possess considerable discretion in who to hire.


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