What is my recourse if a colleague from my old job contacted my new employer and told them not

to hire me?

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What is my recourse if a colleague from my old job contacted my new employer and told them not

to hire me?

It was false information. What can I do?

Asked on August 2, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Alaska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, any person--including a former colleague--can contact your prospective or new employer and offer their advice or opinion to not hire you. So the issue is whether this was defamation: if it was defamation, you could sue your former colleague; if not, there is nothing you can do, since anyone may make non-defamatory statements.
Defamation is making a false factual statement about you to another person, which statement damages your reputation. The key is, it must be a false fact: true facts, even if damaging, or opinions, even if negative, are not defamation. Examples:
1) You had a habit previously of using most or all sick or vacation days each year.  If your colleague told the employer that you are likely to be out as many days per year as you have sick or vacation days, that is not defamation because it is true.
2) The former colleague said he thought you were "nasty" or "untrustworthy" or "lazy." That is not defamation, because it is an opinion or personal judgment, not a factual assertion.
3) But if the former colleague said you had been fired "for cause" when you had not been (e.g. you were not fired for violating policy, insurbordination, absenteeism, etc.), that may well be defamation because it is a false factual assertion about you.
If you want to explore a defamtation suit, consult with a personal injury attorney: the lawyers who do slip-and-fall cases are generally the ones who also handle defamation. 


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