Can a former supervisor legally give a bad reference?

UPDATED: Sep 21, 2012

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Can a former supervisor legally give a bad reference?

When leaving a previous employer, I gave a 2 week notice. However, my supervisor asked for a month notice which I was not able to do as my new job was scheduled to begin in 2 1/2 weeks. I was a regular employee, not at a managerial level. Now several years later, I am seeking new job opportunities. I’ve learned that when prospective employers contact this former supervisor, they are told that I am not eligible for rehire due to inadequate notice I had been previously unaware she was doing this. This of course has cost me several good job opportunities. Can she legally do this and if so, for how long?

Asked on September 21, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Under the laws of all states in this country the "negative" references that you are receiving from your former employer could be deemed defamatory if not true. Ordinarily most former employers simply comment upon the length of time, scope of work and pay scale of the former employee and no references are given in order the prevent the issues that you have. As a matter of course I advise my clients not to give any references good or bad with respect to a former employee.

I suggest that you consult a labor law attorney with respect to your matter to see what legal recourse if any you may have against your former employer.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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