Can my former employer tell people that I was fired, if in factI was laid off?

UPDATED: Dec 29, 2010

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Can my former employer tell people that I was fired, if in factI was laid off?

Is for it legel for him to be lying and telling people this? 

Asked on December 29, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, West Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

The question is, IS it lying? By that, I mean that one person's "fired" is another's "laid off," and there is no strong legal distinction between them. Thus, if your employment was terminated by the employer, not by you (i.e. you didn't quit or resign), then you *were* fired. Your employer cannot lie about the cause or circumstances of it--they can't claim, for example, that you were fired "for cause" (which is usually theft, insubordination, excessive absenteeism, etc.) if you were instead let go because of slightly suboptimal performance), but technically the word "fired" covers most employer-initiated separations. Arguably, if you were laid off as part of a mass lay off, reduction in force, restructuring, etc., then it is disingenous to call what happened being fired, and you might therefore have a defamation claim; but if there wasn't such a larger-scale occurence and you were simply "laid off" more or less on your own, it's not a lie to call that being fired.

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