You may have a claim for defamation if you can show the prior employer's statements were false and made with malice. Malice is defined as ill will, desire to injure, or actual or reckless disregard of the truth. Here it appears the statements were false and made with at least a reckless disregard of the truth. You should consult a labor and employment attorney in your area.
You may have a claim for defamation. You do NOT need to show malice. You only need to show that your former employer is making factual statements that it cannot prove are true. If you are able to show malice, it may enhance your damages. Also, if you can show malice, you might have a claim for defamation per se instead of the standard defamation claim. However, generally malice is not a required element to prove defamation. You should consult with an attorney.
This answer is subject to the terms and conditions provided by AVVO. Also, it does not create an attorney-client relationship in any manner whatsoever. In connection with any potential claims, an attorney should be promptly contacted to obtain more specific advice and to ensure that any applicable statutes of limitation do not expire which would prevent you from seeking relief on one or more of your potential causes of action.