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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Jones I believe I have been defamed in an email sent

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I believe I have been defamed in an email sent by a colleague at the FE college where I work. HR are insisting that I am misinterpreting his words. I have requested an emailed apology from him, withdrawing the comments - I have also requested that he circulate this apology to the group of people who read the original defamatory comments. I am meeting with them again next week and would really appreciate some advice. Many thanks.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
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Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. What were the contents of the email and why do you believe you were defamed?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I work as a teacher and after complaining about the misbehaviour of some students, their form tutor sent an email to me and several others implying that my complaint was based around what he perceived as my fear of the students. He made several references to my "opinion" and "issues" in the email. I feel this suggests that I did not act in a professional manner.
First of all, certain conditions must be met for the statement to be classified as defamatory. These are: 1. The statement has to be untrue.2. It must directly identify the complainant.3. It must have been published, usually communicated to at least another person.4. It must be in a form of words, which would tend to lower the claimant in the estimation of ‘right thinking members of society generally', expose the claimant to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or cause the claimant to be shunned or avoided.5. Its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant. So consider whether these conditions have been satisfied. Even if that is the case, you cannot force the person making the statement to retract them or to issue an apology, even if you were to go to court. So this is really something left at their discretion. I certainly would not recommend legal action here because defamation law suits are very complex and expensive so try to deal with this internally. You have the grievance procedure if you need it and you can use the employer’s help through that to try and get a successful resolution. However, if the grievance is rejected and the colleague does not wish to apologise or rectify this, your options are rather limited so be realistic in what you can achieve in the circumstances. I hope this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (3, 4 or 5 stars) as that is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I suppose the issue here is point 4. Suggesting that I acted because of personal feelings rather than out of professional obligations undermines my professional reputation in the workplace. The fact that the email was circulated to senior management could possibly damage my future promotion prospects.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I assumed that HR would recognise this and instruct the colleague to apologise. However, they have said that I'm interpreting his words wrongly even though other colleagues have assured me that the content is insulting and demeaning to me. Does defamation rest on 'interpretation'?
HR cannot instruct someone to apologise - they may ask them to but they cannot force them to. Also for this to happen you have to rely on those dealing with your complaint to agree with it and that will not always happen. So yes, there will be a degree of interpretation involved and whilst to you this may seem like a clear cut case of defamation which deserves an apology, to others, including HR who are dealing with it, it may not. It would be the same in court - a court may or may not agree with you and it could depend on the law and the judge's interpretation of what has happened so you cannot guarantee they will side with you
Hello, I see you have read my response to your query. If this has answered your question please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars from the top of the page. I spend a lot of time and effort answering individual queries and I am not credited for my time until you leave your rating. If you still need further help please get back to me on here and I will assist as best as I can. Many thanks.
Ben Jones and 3 other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks Ben - not the answers I wanted, but I do appreciate your assistance!
You are welcome, all the best