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What can a former employer tell other people about you?

You and your former employer may not have seen eye-to-eye on everything, but you thought that you parted on cordial terms. Now, recent events have you worried that you may be the victim of “blacklisting.”

In many tight-knit industries, reputation is everything. A former employer with a grudge can ruin your ability to find employment by just giving you a scathing review when they’re called for a reference – or by purposefully spreading misinformation or lies about you to others they know in the industry.

Blacklisting is illegal – and could be an act of discrimination

It’s important to note that blacklisting is not the same as a former employer giving you a negative or lackluster reference. Broadly speaking, a former employer enjoys the privilege of being able to make honest statements about your job performance. 

Blacklisting involves intentionally defaming you – perhaps for discriminatory reasons. For example, your former employer may hold a grudge because you filed a complaint with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) or participated in union activities. 

California Labor Code Section 1050 says that actively misrepresenting information to prevent you from finding work is illegal.

With that in mind, a former employer cannot:

  • Falsely claim that you were fired or dismissed because of actual or suspected theft.
  • Lie and say that they discovered questions or problems with your credentials.
  • Make subjective claims that imply you have a poor character, such as saying that you were “arrogant,” “unreasonable” or “hostile.”
  • Make false allegations about your interactions with others, such as suggesting that you may have had inappropriate relations with a coworker or client.
  • Claim that your work was subpar when your performance reviews say otherwise.

If you believe that your former employer is actively trying to damage your career through blacklisting or other means, it may be time to learn more about your legal options.


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