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If my old employer disparages me to my new employer, what recourse do I have?

Los Angeles, CA |

I was laid off from a job recently and told the reason for the layoff was they were eliminating my position. I then obtained a new job. The CEO of the new company is friends with the CEO of my former company. I know they talked recently and I have reason to believe the CEO of my old company said some disparaging things about me and my performance. If I confirm this, do I have grounds to sue the old employer?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

You may have a defamation claim against the old employer but it could be difficult to prove. California employers enjoy a qualified privilege when they provide reference information to other employers. This means that an employer is immune from liability and cannot be sued for defamation, as long as the employer provides the information to a prospective employer who requests it and acts without malice. This protection extends to statements about job performance, qualifications, and eligibility for rehire.

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Posted

There are very many "disparaging" remarks that could be made about you that would be fully lawful for your former company to make. In fact, the scope of what could be a legitimate claim for defamation is very narrow.

First, a former employer is allowed to state its opinion about you without exposure. Even if that CEO is the only person in the world who holds that opinion, and you would find 100 people to say that his opinion is off base, that CEO is allowed to state his opinion about you, your work, your work ethic, your integrity, your skills, etc. Opinions cannot be the basis for a defamation claim.

Second, the California Civil Code gives employers a great amount of latitude to speak to other prospective employers about a former employee. There is a qualified privilege that allows as much. Essentially, to state liability against a former employer for defamation, you need to show the statement of a false present or past fact with something close to malice, meaning an intent to injure, as the motivation for the communication.

Finally, your facts suggest you are guessing that such a communication occurred. If you were to try to litigate this issue you would find out very quickly that most employers stick together and neither will admit to such a communication occurring.

Good luck to you.

This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.

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Neil Pedersen

Neil Pedersen

Posted

I should note that there are very specific statutes that can be used at times if you can prove intentional blackballing.

Posted

Depending on the circumstances, you may have a defamation claim, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, and a right to recover damages and punitive damages. Feel free to contact us for a free consult.

This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship between Jassim & Associates or any of its attorneys. We are not your attorney unless we both sign a written contract that describes our relationship and terms, the scope of our representation, and terms of payment for representation. Any information provided to you here should not be construed as legal advice, and an in detail review of the facts of your matter would likely affect any information provided. There could be deadlines to act in any case, after which your legal rights could be lost forever. You should contact an attorney licensed in your state immediately to be sure your rights are protected.

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