What is my recourse if a reference is preventing me from acquiring a new job?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What is my recourse if a reference is preventing me from acquiring a new job?

My new boss hired me 2 days ago offering me wages and a sign on bonus. I accepted the deal. My new boss contacted a couple of my previous employers and received a bad reference. My new boss was told that I am unemployable with no explanation as to why. My new boss was basically led to believe the worst. I wasn’t told which employer is was but I was terminated immediately because I am no longer trustworthy. I don’t believe unemployable is a responsible answer and

sounds like defamation of name. I have 11 1/2 years in the industry that I’m in. The definition of unemployable is,

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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, "unemployable" is considered an opinion legal, since it is based on a subjective judgment: whether you can do a job. It is not a factual assertion, such as claiming you have been arrested for drug use, or that you stole from the employer, or that a sexual harassment complaint was filed against you at work, etc. Only untrue factual assertions may be defamation and may be actionable. Since this was an opinion, your former employer is legally entitled to it, and you have no recourse or rights against him, and you cannot sue him or force him to stop saying this. There is, unfortunately, nothing you can do about this. You may need to consider a different industry or change in career--that's what I did, and is why I now practice law rather than heading up an editorial department in a large pubishing company, because I was blacklisted by a former employer in a tight-knit industry.

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