What are my rights regarding negative comments made by my former employer to my new employer?

UPDATED: Apr 10, 2011

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What are my rights regarding negative comments made by my former employer to my new employer?

Basically my old employer told them way more information on me than is legal to be said. The lady that hired me told me to call tomorrow I have the job then tells me several bad things were said about me and she couldn’t say what. Seems a little weird how I have a job then someone gives their opinion and now I have no job even though I was already hired.

Asked on April 10, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you apply for a job and your previous employer is contacted for a reference, that employer cannot knowingly give false information about work performance in an attempt to try and prevent a former employee from getting a new job.  However, the employer is not limited the merely the discussion of basic information (e.g. confirming that you actually were employed there and the dates of your employment, etc.).  In fact, there is no action against a former employer for giving detailed responses (even if negative) to a prospective employer's inquiry. It is perfectly legal for a previous employer to provide subjective assessments of work performance (such as “he was unreliable”) or say things which although they may be untrue, the former employer reasonably believes are true. (CA Labor Code Section 1050).  This means that a former employee can only sue for willful or reckless remarks; that is for things that are false and grossly untrue.  This "qualified privilege" for answers to pre-employment inquiries is permitted so that companies will be free to answer these-type questions fully without fear of a lawsuit.  Additionally, in your specific case, you are apparently going to have a problem here even proving what what said about you in the first place.

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