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legalgems, Lawyer
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Just Answer consultant at Self employed
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I am a school teacher. My principal wrote a bunch of false

Customer Question

I am a school teacher. My principal wrote a bunch of false information and statements that construed as defamation of character on a document to human resources. As a result of this memorandum, I am transferred to another school. The information the principal presented is unsupported and the some of the statements made can be considered libel. Can I bring a cases against the principal?
JA: Because education law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: Louisiana (East Baton Rouge Parish school system)
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: Just the one memorandum to HR. I have received "exceed expectation" performance evaluation for the last 10 years. There is nothing to indicate in writtng that I am not doing my job. The also made false and unsubstantiated claims about things I did and said in that memorandum
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No. I need to clear my name and reputation.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  legalgems replied 10 months ago.

Hello! I will be reviewing your question and posting a response momentarily; if you have any follow up questions please respond here. Thanks!

Expert:  legalgems replied 10 months ago.

Thank you for your patience; I am sorry to hear that you were transferred - that must be most upsetting. There is no statute directly on point, so I am including the statute that is most similar- basically it deals with employer referrals. The court generally exempts employers from liability for defamation unless the plaintiff can prove the employer acted in bad faith- ie the employer knew the statements were false. The idea behind this is that they want to allow employers to be able to communicate internally, and to third parties, statements concerning an employee's behavior, work performance, etc. However, that is not absolute, so if the employer makes a false statement and it is in bad faith, the employee can sue for defamation. Libel is written; slander is oral.

Here is the statute:

§291. Disclosure of employment related information; liability for hiring certain employees; presumptions; causes of action; definitions

A. Any employer that, upon request by a prospective employer or a current or former employee, provides accurate information about a current or former employee's job performance or reasons for separation shall be immune from civil liability and other consequences of such disclosure provided such employer is not acting in bad faith. An employer shall be considered to be acting in bad faith only if it can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the information disclosed was knowingly false and deliberately misleading.

B. Any prospective employer who reasonably relies on information pertaining to an employee's job performance or reasons for separation, disclosed by a former employer, shall be immune from civil liability including liability for negligent hiring, negligent retention, and other causes of action related to the hiring of said employee, based upon such reasonable reliance, unless further investigation, including but not limited to a criminal background check, is required by law.

C. As used in this Section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings contained herein unless the context clearly requires otherwise:

(1) "Employee" means any person, paid or unpaid, in the service of an employer.

(2) "Employer" means any person, firm, or corporation, including the state and its political subdivisions, and their agents, that has one or more employees, or individuals performing services under any contract of hire or service, expressed or implied, oral or written.

(3) "Job performance" includes, but is not limited to, attendance, attitude, awards, demotions, duties, effort, evaluations, knowledge, skills, promotions, and disciplinary actions.

(4) "Prospective employee" means any person who has made an application, either oral or written, or has sent a resume or other correspondence indicating an interest in employment.

(5) "Prospective employer" means any "employer", as defined herein, to which a prospective employee has made application, either oral or written, or forwarded a resume or other correspondence expressing an interest in employment.

D.(1) Any employer who has conducted a background check of an employee or prospective employee after having obtained written consent from the employee or prospective employee or at the request of the owner or operator of any facility where the employer performs or may perform all or part of its work shall be immune from civil liability for any and all claims arising out of the disclosure of the background information obtained. This limitation of liability shall extend to all claims of the employee based upon a failure to hire, wrongful termination, and invasion of privacy, as well as all claims of any owner, operator, or any third person for claims of negligent hiring or negligent retention.

(2) The term "background check" shall mean research by any lawful means, including electronic means, into the background of a "prospective employee" or "employee" as defined in Section C of this Subsection, including research into state or federal criminal history repositories, social security status or verification, and research conducted pursuant to the U.S.A. Patriot Act, 31 U.S.C. §5318l, regarding politically exposed persons, including known or suspected terrorists, money launderers, drug kingpins, and persons debarred from conducting business with the United States government, as well as any permissible purposes under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §1681.

(3) The term "owner" shall mean any person, firm, or legal entity that is engaged in the production of goods or services and who may engage in contractual relations with contractors to perform any type of work on any leased or owned premises of the owner.

E.(1) Any employer, general contractor, premises owner, or other third party shall not be subject to a cause of action for negligent hiring of or failing to adequately supervise an employee or independent contractor due to damages or injury caused by that employee or independent contractor solely because that employee or independent contractor has been previously convicted of a criminal offense.

(2) The provisions of Paragraph (1) of this Subsection shall not apply to any of the following:

(a) Acts of the employee arising out of the course and scope of his employment that give rise to damages or injury when the act is substantially related to the nature of the crime for which the employee was convicted and the employer, general contractor, premises owner, or other third party knew or should have known of the conviction.

(b) Acts of an employee who has been previously convicted of any crime of violence as enumerated in R.S. 14:2(B) or any sex offense as enumerated in R.S. 15:541 and the employer, general contractor, premises owner, or other third party knew or should have known of the conviction.

(3) Nothing in this Subsection shall be construed to prohibit or create a cause of action for negligent hiring or inadequate supervision in situations not covered by this Subsection. Furthermore, nothing in this Subsection shall be construed to supplant the immunity from civil liability provided for in R.S. 23:1032.

(4) Nothing in this Subsection shall affect the employer's vicarious liability pursuant to Civil Code Article 2320.

Acts 1995, No. 632, §1; Acts 2003, No. 853, §1; Acts 2014, No. 335, §1.

Here are the elements in a typical case:

A plaintiff must prove that the defendant: (1) published, (2) defamatory words, (3) that were false, (4) with malice, actual or implied, and (5) the plaintiff suffered injury as a result. Cangelosi v. Schwegmann Bros., 390 So.2d 196 (La. 1980).

Also please see:

Bradley v. Hubbard Broadcasting, 471 N.W.2d 670

Although an employer’s nonmalicious communications are conditionally privileged,… the jury found that the supervisor’s statements were made with actual malice, defeating the privilege. After plaintiff declined to resign voluntarily, the supervisor became noncommunicative and, according to her memo, began building the appropriate file to replace plaintiff. The supervisor, without investigation…accused plaintiff of retrieving the memo from her waste basket and caused the allegation of gross misconduct to circulate as office gossip. This conduct supports the jury’s conclusion that the supervisor harbored an improper motive or acted causelessly and wantonly for the purpose of injuring plaintiff. "

I certainly hope this information is useful.

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Information provided is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a personal attorney is always recommended so your particular facts may be considered. Thank you and take care.

Expert:  legalgems replied 10 months ago.

Hello again; just checking in to see how things worked out;
if you have further questions please don't hesitate to reach out to me here on Just Answer.