Can I sue an ex employer for keeping me from finding future employment?

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Can I sue an ex employer for keeping me from finding future employment?

I worked at a daycare for 5 years with no complaints about me as far as work. I was fired for stealing although it was never founded and was based off of another employees say so. My boss at the time was told that I had stolen a co-worker’s ring and that it was found in my coat pocket of all places. My employer never called the police or searched me or my belongings, she just fired me on the co-workers word. I found another job through my sister but the company went under 2 years ago. I’ve been applying to jobs, listing my previous 5 year work history with the daycare wondered why I haven’t had much luck until one place I applied to told me when the daycare was contacted for a reference, they were told I was fired for theft. Is this legally allowed? Isn’t it -slander? I was fired because of a co-workers say so.

Asked on September 4, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Defamation (slander is oral or spoken defamation; libel is written defamation) is the making to others of untrue factual statements about you which damage your reputation and/or cause you economic harm.
You could sue for defamation, but 
1) You have to identify the specific person making those statements and sue him or her;
2) You have to have evidence that he or she made those defamatory remarks--i.e. someone who have to be willing to testify in court that "John Doe told me that Jane Roe ws fired for theft";
3) And if they can show by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e. that it is more likely than not), such as based on other person's credible testimony, that you did steal (e.g. if whomever allegedly found the ring will testify that it was found in your coat pocket), then they are not liable--the truth is a defense to a defamation claim, and since this is civil (not criminal) court, they only need to prove the truth by a preponderane of the evidence. It is not necessary to call the police or have you convicted to termiante you for theft--it is enough if there is credible evidence or testimony that you stole.


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