In short, yes. There are no federal laws restricting what an employer can or cannot say about a former employee. That being said, some employers are extremely cautious about what they do and don’t say to minimize their liability in the event of a lawsuit. If your former employer jeopardizes a potential employment offer by saying things that aren’t true, for instance, you may be entitled to file a defamation of character suit.
Similarly, any employer who says bad things about an employee during or after existing litigation, such as a sexual harassment suit, could be found liable for retaliation. Further, some states have laws about what an employer can legally disclose – and to whom. For the reasons above, many companies only release their former employees’ job titles, dates of employment, and salaries.
Still, unless you have agreed on a positive letter of reference as part of a severance packageor have an agreement about what your employer may or may not say about you as part of a settlement, your employer can:
- Tell potential employers if and why you were fired or terminated
- Share details about your job performance, responsibilities, and professional conduct
- Say anything that is factual and accurate about your time with them
If you’re worried about what your former employer might say about you, let your potential employer know. This gives you a chance to get ahead of whatever it is you think your employer may disclose.
You can also speak to your former employer to find out what they might say. In some situations, you may even be able to ask them to limit what they say. Again, if an employer is thinking about potential lawsuits, they are more likely to stick to the basics.
What If My Former Employer Ruins a New Opportunity?
If you suspect your former employer has said something bad about you, and you have previously filed a complaint or been involved in legal action against them, call your attorney right away.
Otherwise, know that finding out (and proving) why you were not selected for a job is extremely difficult. Unless you can get a written copy of your former employer’s reference or a witness comes forward, you will not have any legal ground to stand on.
This is not to say your employer can willingly tell lies about you or ruin your career due to a personal grudge. If you know your employer is spreading lies or misinformation about you, you may have legal options, as well.
If your employer breaks the terms of your severance or retaliates against you, Donati Law, PLLC may be able to help. We have been guiding clients like you through situations like yours for more than 35 years. Our goal is to improve our client’s lives and make positive change in the community around us.
Don’t let an employer take advantage of you or limit your future. Instead discuss your case with our accomplished attorneys at (901) 209-5500 or online– every client is a cause we believe in.