Employer Defamation Of Employee
If your former employer tells lies about you that damage your career, you might be able to sue for money damages.
Each state has its own defamation of character laws. Generally, though, if your employer is spreading lies about you that damage your career and future job prospects, you might have a lawsuit for defamation against your former employer.
Types Of Defamation
When someone lies about you to another person, that’s called “defamation of character”. Spoken lies are called “slander” and written or printed lies are called “libel”.
Your case will be stronger and you might be able to recover punitive damages if you can show that your employer acted “maliciously”. If someone heard your employer say something like “I’m going to say whatever I need to make sure she never works in this town again,” you’ve probably have a particularly strong case.
Facts, Not Opinions
You may sue for defamation only if your former employer made a statement of fact, not opinion. If he tells someone that you were “a unproductive employee,” that’s just his opinion. But if your former employers tells someone that you “stole money from the company,” that is a specific fact statement that might allow you to sue for defamation.
Statement Must Not Be True
If the statement was true, you will lose your defamation of character lawsuit. So think carefully before you sue. If there is a trial, the employer might try to show that the statement was true – further damaging your reputation.
Job References And Defamation
What if your former employer told lies to another company that asked for a job reference?
False statements of fact could give rise to a suit for defamation, particularly if these lies cause the new employer to refuse to hire you.
To avoid this potential problem, some employers have adopted a policy of giving out only your dates of employment.