What should I do if I suspect that my former employer is giving a negative reference on me?

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What should I do if I suspect that my former employer is giving a negative reference on me?

I also have proof that a former fellow employee is speaking badly of me to clients of mine. What can I do?

Asked on May 4, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

Archibald J Thomas / Law Offices of Archibald J. Thomas, III, P.A. - Employee Rights Lawyers

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You may want to consider retaining a service to check your references such as www.badreferences.com.  Once you receive a written report, contact the company and demand that they disparaging you.  Send them a copy of the report for verification.  If they refuse to stop, you may want to consult an attoney in your state to determine if legal recourse is available. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It depends what you mean by a negative reference or speaking badly of you. Defamation is the public (so, to any third parties or other people) making of untrue factual statements which damage your reputation. However, true facts, no matter how negative for you, are not defamation; and opinions are not defamation, either. If it is not defamation, it is legal.

So, to provide some examples: say your former employer or co-worker is saying that you were fired for excessive absenteeism when that is not the case--that is likely defamation, and you should be able to sue them for monetary compensation.

On the other hand, say they claim you were fired for excessive absenteeism, but that is the truth--you missed work without approval or permission and that's why you were terminated. That is not defamation, and they may say that.

Or say your former employer says you were a "poor" worker--that's an opinion, not a factual statement, and it's legal; you can't sue over it. And similarly, if the former co-worker says you were rude and lazy, that's an opinion too, and he may say that.

So whether you have a cause of action or not depends on what is being said.


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