How do I prove defamation by a former employer?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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How do I prove defamation by a former employer?

I was trying to get hired as a State Trooper. I went through all of the hiring process and passed everything they asked of me. I was told to buy my uniforms and given a date to report for training. A few weeks before I was to report for training I

received a call from the State Trooper background investigator and he said I was no longer being considered. I said that they received a former employment reference check where my former supervisor said I left on bad terms with that

supervisor. The trooper would not disclose the former company. How do I prove a former supervisor is stating false information? Can I hold him/her and the former company liable?

Asked on October 5, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) If you sue the supervisor for defamation, in that lawsuit, you could use the tools of discovery--written questions or interrogatories; document prodution requests; subpoenas; depositions--to find out what he said about you.
2) If you can prove that what he said were factual untruths, you could potentially win the case and recover compensation from him. But they must be untrue factual statements, not opinions--people cannot lie about you, but they may legally have negative opinions of you. So if he said you stole or used drugs or were excessively absent when you were not, those are untrue factual statements and could be defamation. You can prove those things were not true.
However, if she said that you were "touchy" or "difficult to work with" or "unpleasant" or "lazy," those are opinions of his, not facts, and are NOT defamation. He may say those things and you would lose the lawsuit if he only stated opinions.
3) The employer would not be responsible if the supervisor did commit defamation. Employers are only liable for wrongful acts which are part of the employee's job or duties--but defaming former employees is NOT part of the the job. So you could potentially sue the supervisor, if you think he defamaed you, but you can't sue the employer.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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