What constitutes defamation of character or damage to professional reputation?

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What constitutes defamation of character or damage to professional reputation?

My husband is a police officer and a man in our community who is disgruntled with the police department for some unknown reason has set up a website with the purpose of embarrassing and/or ruining the reputation of individual officers and the department as a whole. Through the Freedom of Information Act, he has acquired performance evaluations and is posting them, pointing out that one officer has ADHD (even though it did not interfere with his performance) and basically picking out embarrassing information he has learned through these and other documents. He has also repeated or created gossip.

Asked on August 27, 2011 Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Defamation is the public (so a website would count) posting of untrue factual information which damages another's reputation or makes others less likely to work or do business with that person. The problem is that, first, true factual information, no matter how negative or unflattering, is not defamation, so posting actual performance evaluations or a true fact about someone's ADHD is not defamation. Second, an opinion is not defamation, so saying "I wouldn't trust Officer John Doe with a water gun, let alone a real gun," is not defamatory, since that is an opinion.

However, there is no protection for "repeating" gossip, so if anything he posts is an untrue factual staement, you may have a claim for demation. If you think this may be the case, you should consult with a personal injury attorney. Good luck.


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