If a former manager says negative things about you in an informal setting to another hiring manager, is that ground for some type of legal action?

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If a former manager says negative things about you in an informal setting to another hiring manager, is that ground for some type of legal action?

I never received a written warning, a negative performance review, etc. I left after 1 year of employment-working through 1 month notice at her request. I found out from another hiring manager’s assistant that she is bad mouthing me despite the organizations policy that HR handles all types of recommendations/references. She is by the organizations rules not supposed to comment on my performance. What should I do?

Asked on October 23, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First, IF the statements are untrue statements of fact, this may be defamation and you may have a legal cause of action. Note that opinions (e.g. "John/Jane Doe  is the worst employee ever.") are not defamation, no matter how negative, nor are true factual statements (e.g. saying that you had a negative performance review, if  you in fact had one); only untrue facts could be defamatory.

Second, the law does not enforce the voluntarily adopted polices (e.g. only HR provides recommendations) of employers. If you had an employment contract, separation and release agreement, severance agreement, etc. which said that they could not disparage you or that only HR could give out references/recommendations, you could enforce that agreement; but in the absence of an agreement or contract, you can't enforce the internal policy.


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