Can You Sue Former Employer For Bad Reference?

When you are in search for a job, it really helps to have an organized and presentable résumé that shows the most important details of who you are as an employee. And aside from putting the basic information about yourself, it would also help to include positive references from your previous employers who have already seen how you work. But if you were given negative statement from your previous employer, then expect to have fewer chances of getting the job you are applying for.

Can you Sue for a Bad Job Reference?

In the case when you, unfortunately, lost a job because of the bad references from a former employer, can you sue for a bad job reference?

Apparently, there is a law that does not permit employers to disclose any kind of information about their former Referenceemployees to prospective employers. But it does not discourage or stop the employers from giving their honest opinions and assessments, whether good or bad, of a former employee based on their performance.

However, there are always limitations as to what employers can say. If for instance, they make misrepresentations or say lies about you, then suing for bad reference by former employer is something you can do. The legal actions with regards to misstatements or bad references are under the laws of defamation, which prohibit employers or any person, in general, from intentionally spreading or publishing false information about another individual.

Proving Defamation

It has already been mentioned that suing for bad reference by former employer is based on defamation laws. So, when can you sue for a bad job reference? You can file a lawsuit anytime, as long as, you can show the following circumstances:

*Your previous employer made a defamatory statement or a false statement of fact about you. However, opinionated statements, like “I think Maria was not productive while she was working here”, and true statements, regardless of how damaging it is, can not be grounds for defamation. If for instance, your former employer has caught you in the act of stealing, then you can not file a defamation case if that really happened.

*Your previous employer “published” the bad reference or defamatory statement, but this does not refer to publishing in any type of printing material. This simply implies that your former employer made the malign statement to another person, in this case, the prospective employer or the hiring manager of the company where you wanted to apply.

*Your previous employer was aware that the statement he or she made was not true. But if the employer strongly believed that the statement was true, then you can not claim for defamation damages.

*The defamatory statement, which in this case is the bad reference, was not a qualified privilege. In legal terms, a qualified privilege means that the person, who made the defamatory statement, may have the right to make such statement. If for instance, it was a qualified privileged statement, then the employer is immune from being sued for defamation, even if the statement he or she made was defamatory.

Apparently, some states recognize a privilege of statements made in relation to an employment reference, as long as, the statements have been provided without any form of malice. Furthermore, you can not sue your former employer based on a non-malicious reference.

*You, as the employee, suffered harm and losses from the bad reference given by your former employer. If you are able to prove that you did not get the job because of the bad reference, then you can claim defamation damages.

How to Avoid Problems Caused by Bad References?

Having a decent and good-paying work is much better than taking care of a potential defamatory lawsuit. The best way to avoid employment problems caused by bad references is to get in touch with your former employers or managers, letting them know that you are in the middle of searching a job. Respectfully ask them if they can be your references. While you are at it, ask them if they can provide positive feedback about you. And if possible, try to know what your references are going to say if a prospective manager or employer calls them.