Can my former employer sue me for negative comments I made after being fired?

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Can my former employer sue me for negative comments I made after being fired?

I was wrongfully terminated from a private college. It was reversed but I turned down their job offer to return. Two of my former students asked if they should continue to attend school there. I told them my opinion which was to attend a different school. My employer is now threatening to sue me. Can they sue me for giving my opinion when I was no longer an employee of theirs?

Asked on August 16, 2011 Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The first issue is *what* exactly did you say? If you made it truly an "opinion"--e.g. "I think you'd be better off at private college beta"--or only stated true facts--e.g. "Did you know our tuition is $3,000/year more than that of private college Beta?" (assuming that it is for the sake of this example)--you should not be subject to liability for defamation. That said, it is hard to prevent someone from at least initiating a lawsuit if they are determined to, thereby forcing you to at least spend the time and money to defend against it. And if you stated any untrue facts, that could be grounds for defamation. (So, for example, if your school is ranked 87th on that national ranking of schools that one of the news magazines publishes each year, but you claimed that your school was ranked in the 300's, that could potentially provide grounds for a defamation claim.)

The second issue is whether you have at any time signed any agreement, contract, etc. which includes some sort of anti-disparagment clause or precluded you from speaking to students after your job terminated in some fashion. If you did, then that agreement would be enforceable.


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