What to do if a future employer calls a current/past employer and the current/past employer provides false information?

I have had an external conflict with my current supervisor outside of work and he has been making my days hell for about 6 months. Every time I get an interview with a new company and they call my current place of employment, I never receive a call back. I’m a good employee, come to work everyday, on time, and work the whole time I’m there. I’ve been late under 5 times since I’ve been there (13 months) and have never called in. What can an past employer say to a possible future employer? If I can prove that my current employer is falsifying my abilities or my work ethic, what can I do?

Asked on December 9, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Kentucky


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is defamation to make false factual statements to a third party (including a prospective employer) which damages a person's reputation and/or causes others to not want to do business or work with him/her. If your employer is defaming you, you may be able to sue the employer for monetary compensation.

Note that an opinion is not defamation: your employer could say "John/Jane Doe is a mediocre employee and I think he/she is lazy, too" and that is not defamation, since those are opinions, not facts. And true facts are not defamation, either, so if you have (for example) been written up for insubordination, the employer could state that. What the employer can't say is a false fact; for example, you can't be accused of excessive absenteeism or tardiness if that is not true.

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