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Can I sue a former employer for refusing to give a reference which caused the new employer to not hire me?

Daly City, CA |

I have interviewed for a position as a Human Resource Administrative Assistant, and I received a contingency offer depending upon my references and background check. The Human Resource manager called me and said my last supervisor "seemed extremely uncomfortable with giving you a reference, and she's avoiding my calls." And that is because I filed a wage claim with the DIR, in which I won. She gave me a high recommendation at the hearing but now her story changed to my would be new employer. She gave me a written letter of recommendation and I gave them a copy but they also wanted to speak with her. Can I sue my last employer for refusing to give a reference and by doing so caused the would be employer to be eerie about hiring me because she is trying to retaliate against me.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Best answer

    I disagree with the answers I read that indicate that you do not have a case. A more detailed intake of your situation is needed. There are anti-retaliation statutes that may be applicable in your case. Labor Code 98.6 may be applicable to your situation - it is the anti-discrimination/retaliation statute related to applicants of wage claims.


  2. No.

    I am licensed in California only and my answers on Avvo assume California law. Answers provided by me are for general information only. They are not legal advice. Answers must not be relied upon. Legal advice must be based on the interplay between specific exact facts and the law. This forum does not allow for the discussion of that interplay. My answer to any specific question would likely be different if that interplay were explored during an attorney-client relationship. I provide legal advice during the course of an attorney-client relationship only. The exchange of information through this forum does not establish such a relationship. That relationship is established only by personal and direct consultation with me followed by the execution of a written attorney-client agreement signed by each of us. The communications on this website are not privileged or confidential and I assume no duty to anyone by my participation on Avvo or because I have answered or commented on a question. All legal proceedings involve deadlines and time limiting statutes. So that legal rights are not lost for failure to timely take appropriate action and because I do not provide legal advice in answer to any question, if you are an interested party you should promptly and personally consult with an attorney for legal advice. Also, see Avvo's terms and conditions of use, specifically item 9, incorporated by this reference


  3. You sue when someone breaches a legal obligation owed to you under the law. The law does not obligate your former employer -- or your former employer's HR staff person -- to provide a reference for you. So, although you can sue, you cannot successfully sue.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.


  4. Yes, you can bring a lawsuit.

    However, your lawsuit will not be successful because the former employer has no legal duty to provide a reference.

    Moreover, in order to recover monetary damages, you would have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the prospective employer would have actually hired you if the former employer had provided a reference.

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.

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