Asked in Employment Law and Libel & Slander for Oklahoma

Q: What can a former employer say about my time employed i with them.

I was let go from a job that i had been at for over 5 years, do to the recent oil bust, when i left i felt i left on good terms, but as i started turning in resumes i would get an interview and asked to fill out an application but wouldnt ever here back. Then about 4 months later a company asked me back for a second interview and asked me why my previous employer would be bashing me and had nothing good to say about me, he said he wanted to ask me about it because he couldnt see someone being somewhere for 5+ years if they were not a good employee.

1 Lawyer Answer

Howard Berkson

Answered
  • Tulsa, OK
  • Licensed in Oklahoma

A: A former employer can be liable under different legal theories for bashing a former employee on a reference check. Defamation is one theory. Under defamation, you would say that you have been economically injured because they have made false statements about you (your character, your competency, whatever), knowing the statements were false or with reckless disregard for whether they were true. Another theory has a fancy lawyer name: "tortious interference with contract." Essentially, we would say that the former employee wrongfully interfered with your ability to form new contracts with new employers. There are subtle differences between these theories, and you can use them both at the same time. Usually, former employers do not say anything unless they are released from liability. Your potential case is much stronger if you did not sign a release. Often, employment applications have a release built into them. However, those releases often don't actually release former employers to give references. You should investigate this in more detail with an attorney near you who has knowledge of employment law.

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