Saying untrue bad things about a private school

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Saying untrue bad things about a private school

I am a small private school Director having an issue with a former employee. She is telling people to withdraw students and indicating of social media that it is an awful school and she can’t talk about it because I made her sign a non-disclosure. I did not. I actually do not make them sign it. On advice of a lawyer friend and hopes that this was somehow a misunderstanding, I contacted her via email and asked to have coffee. I can send the emails. They were non-specific and did not address any concerns. I really just need her to be quiet. I did not know at the time of taking her in as a long-term sub that she has a history of doing this and did this at a previous location in GA. She destroyed a woman’s life by claiming she molested her daughter. There wasn’t any proof. She did it through social media. What can I do?

Asked on December 3, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

If she did not sign a non-disparagement (basically, "don't badmouth") agreement (either a stand alone agreement, or a nondisparagement clause as part of another agreement), all you can do is sue her to stop actual defamation and/or to get monetary compensation for defamation. 
Defamation has a narrow meaning in the law: it is not merely badmouthing you. It is specifically making a false factual statement which damages your reputation. Opinions, no matter how negative, are not defamation: someone can call you "awful" and that is legal, since that is an opinion. True facts, even if bad for you, are not defamation, either. As stated, only an untrue negative factual claim about you is defamation. An example would be if she claimed that a teacher at your school commited sexual abuse, or that your school lies when applying for government funding, or has abestos or lead paint--those are all negative factual assertions.
If she has made such untrue negative factual assertions, then you can, as stated, sue for monetary compensation or a court order prohibiting her from doing this. If you wish to pursue this option, consult with a personal injury lawyer (the same attorneys who do slip-and-falls or car accident cases also do defamation cases).


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