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How defamation works in employment law cases

As is the case throughout the United States, "defamation" is illegal in California. This means that anyone, including a San Diego worker, can sue, should another person, including that worker's former employer, make false statements about the worker that hurt the worker.

Employers can be accused of defamation for references. After all, a bad reference can ruin a Californian's career as it could make other prospective employers uninterested.

Naturally, former employees, even if they were fired or left under less than ideal circumstances, are going to want their employers at least to be fair about what they sue when giving a reference. However, not everything negative is going to give an employee the ability to sue the employer.

All an employer really needs to remember is that whatever her or she says when giving a reference must be factual. Declining to provide information, or simply giving a personal opinion on an employee's performance, is not grounds for a defamation case.

Arguably, California law takes this general rule one step further by making it illegal for an employer to "misrepresent" the truth about a former employee. Such misrepresentations are in fact criminal in this state.

In any event, employees have the right to their good name and the right to go and look for a livelihood elsewhere when they leave their jobs for whatever reason. If a San Diego employee does get wind that his or her employer has made misrepresentations about their work, that employee may be eligible to get compensation.