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Can a former employer give you a negative reference?

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2021 | Defamation

Not every employee leaves a job on good terms — even if they try. It can be very difficult, however, to find a new position when you’re worried about getting a reference from a hostile former employer.

Can your former employer give you a negative review if your prospective employer calls them? Here’s what you need to know

California law addresses this issue

California Civil Code Section 47(c) spells out how former and prospective employers can generally speak with one another about a mutual employee without having to fear any legal repercussions for doing so. The above-referenced California law specifies that any such communication must about the employee’s qualifications or job performance must be credible and not malicious in any way. 

Another law, California Labor Code Section 432.3, more commonly known as the Equal Pay Act, prohibits employers from discussing a worker’s salary or benefits history. 

The two laws described above may allow an employer to freely discuss their experience in working with you. That doesn’t mean that they can “cold call” prospective employers you’re planning to interview with to let them know not to hire you (a practice known as “blacklisting”). 

You may also have a case against a former employer for defamation if you were given improper performance evaluations or unwarranted disciplinary actions — especially if the former employer reveals that information to others (including potential future employers) in your field.

When you believe your good name has been unfairly tarnished by a former employer

If you believe that your professional or personal reputation has been damaged by an unwarranted negative reference or malicious gossip by a former employer, the wisest thing you can do is learn more about your rights.


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