Can an employer threaten to not give a good recommendation if you don’t resign?

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Can an employer threaten to not give a good recommendation if you don’t resign?

I’ve worked as steward for 3 local restaurants for about 2 1/2 years; 1 of the restaurants recently just went under. With money being tight, they are trying to downsize and that includes my job. My boss has personally told me that I work well and he has no issue with how I do my job. They gave me the option of being fired or resigning and getting a good reference. I personally think this is a ploy for them to not have to pay me unemployment. Is this legal? What actions should I take?

Asked on January 5, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It is legal: the law does not require a good recommendation (or any recommendation), so an employer can predicate getting a good recommendation on doing something for it, such as resigning; it can require you to leave voluntarily if you want a good recommendation.
The above said, the employer may *not* lie about you--doing so is defamation. So while it does not have to give a positive recommendation, and is free to not give any recommendation at all, it cannot give an untrue bad recommendation about you, either--though it is free to simply not say anything at all about you, or to give what is often called a "neutral recommendation," which is essentially simply verifying or confirming that you worked there and when.


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