What are my legal options against a company that has given me a bad reference which as resulted in preventing me from obtaining employment?

I have been unemployed since 10/08 (outside a temporary job I have held for a week in February). Ihaven’t been collecting any benefits for unemployment; I have been living by the generosity of others while searching for a job. I have just recently found out from a follow-up interview that this company I have been working for has been giving me a negative reference and omitting details about me being let go. We were understaffed, the company was having financial trouble at the time, they were looking for a person to replace me that could do 2 jobs, etc. Is there anything I can do?

Asked on July 20, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It depends on the circumstances. Defamation is illegal: that is, a person may not publically (even to one other  3rd-party) make an untrue statement of material fact that damages someone's reputation and causes them damages of some kind. To do so would be defamation. However, true statements are not defamation; and also opinions are not defamation. So if, for example, you did not complete projects on time, your former employer could say, "Doe did not complete projects on time." Or they could offer the opinion: "Doe was our worst worker."

There is no protection for negative opinions or true statements. Negative untrue factual statements may give you a cause of action for defamation. Good luck.

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