What can I do with my past employer is giving me a bad reference?

UPDATED: Mar 15, 2012

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What can I do with my past employer is giving me a bad reference?

Asked on March 15, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If the past employer is making an untrue statement of fact which damages your reputation, you could sue the employer for defamation. Note that opinions are not defamation, so there is no cause of action if the employer says, for example, "John/Jane Doe is lazy, crude, and the worst worker we had"--that is an opinion. And a true fact, no matter how harmfu,l is also not defamation, so it's not defamation to say, "we fired John/Jane Doe for excessive absenteeism and lateness," if that was why you were fired. Only untrue facts--like saying you were fired for theft, when you were not or did not steal--are defamation.

If the employer is not defaming you, you most likely do not have a cause of action--an employer does not have to give you a good or even neutral reference, and may in fact give  you a bad reference if it chooses.

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