What Can You Do If Your Employer Lies About You?
I have had many clients that are coming from a toxic work environment that they are concerned that their abusive employer will sink any chance that they have at a new job and as a result do not put their ex-employer’s information down on a resume. Obviously this can have huge ramifications because a prospective employer will see this unwillingness as a red flag. when they are looking for a new job that they don’t want to include their ex-employer’s contact information.
The common basis for this fear is that the abusive employer will try to punish them for leaving and will lie to the prospective employer to ensure that they do not get the job. This is not an unreasonable fear and this does happen quite a bit, but the employee has protection.
Everyone knows the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. What a lot of people don’t know is that this is not an absolute right, there are many limitations. One of the limitations is that you cannot make untruthful statements about an individual that damages a person’s life, that is known as defamation (defamation comes in two flavors: slander—spoken defamation—and libel—written or mass distributed defamation).
Essentially what you need to show to win a defamation case is (1) that someone made a false statement (and did not make a reasonable effort to ascertain the veracity of the statement) (2) about you (3) To another person (4) that statement resulted in a loss of standing in the community or with a person(s) (5) and as a result of that loss of standing you were injured either monetarily (harm to your property, business, trade, or profession or expenses you had to pay because of the statements) or non-monetarily (harm to your reputation or shame, mortification, or hurt feelings you sustain).
Additionally, if you can prove by clear and convincing evidence that your ex-employer made these defamatory statements with malice, oppression, or fraud then your former employer can be held liable for punitive damage which can be as much as ten times the loss that you actually received.
As a result, if your employer lies to a prospective employer about you with the intention of ensuring you don’t get the job, your employer can be held liable not only for your loss of income, but can be held liable for a much higher amount to punish your employer for acting so egregiously.