Visitor Question

Can I sue my employer for defamation in an annual evaluation?

Submitted By: A (USA)

Approximately 1 year ago I received my annual evaluation where my supervisor called me “aloof, incompetent and unknowledgable in my job.” There were other comments as well, and this is all in writing.

I have worked in the “Prison Business” for over 30 years and currently hold the position of Assistant Warden at a private facility.

I retired out of the State of Arizona Prison with over 23 years of service and many accommodations. I know my job. I have been with this company for 3 years now, the last year since this review has been a nightmare.

This review caused me to be off from work for over 2.5 months, I required psychiatric care, my marriage has suffered and although I am highly qualified, I have been “passed over” for many promotions. I have been humiliated in the workplace and have had to try to repair my reputation with the 80 people who work under my supervision.

I believe that I have a defamation of character lawsuit. I am 65 years old and just one class shy of receiving my PhD. How can I get help for this? Do I need to hire a lawyer?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear A,

It is implied in your presentation of facts that your supervisor’s duties included rating you. The statement made by your supervisor calling you

“aloof, incompetent and unknowledgable in (your) job” is not defamatory in itself. If, in the opinion of your supervisor you were aloof, incompetent, and unknowledgeable, then unless you can prove otherwise, the statement stands and is not defamation.

When it comes to defamation, truth is an absolute defense.

If your supervisor had sufficient good reason to rate you as he or she did, then you would need strong and decisive evidence showing those statements were not only untrue, but they caused you a financial hardship, or resulted in a demotion or firing.

To prove the statements were defamatory as untrue, you will need witnesses who would be able to testify on your behalf that you were not aloof, incompetent, and/or unknowledgable. Moreover, to disprove those statements would also require you to present documentation, including past ratings, showing the defamatory statements had no basis in fact.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: February 10, 2015

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