My Former Employer Is Giving Me a Bad Reference

How military veterans present their skills on resumes and in job interviews can make all the difference.
How military veterans present their skills on resumes and in job interviews can make all the difference. (Adobe stock image)

Monster member Brighton asks:

I knew it. Recently, I had my recruiter call up my former employer to see if they would say more than just my name, title and dates of employment. After some gentle coaxing, my former employer gave a rather candid account of my work there. What are my options? Can I sue my former employer? Can I sue both the employer and the HR representative? How can I do this? What are the future repercussions of suing your former employer?

The Employee Advocate answers:

References fall into the area of defamation, which includes saying things that are untrue about you, giving information that tends to malign your character or painting you in a false light. Truth is not considered defamation. Neither is an honest opinion based in truth. Defamation comes from being reckless about what is said or from ill will against the person being defamed.

It is hard to know what exactly your former boss was saying, so I could not know whether it falls into something defamatory. If it is factually untrue, then you have a case.

If it is an opinion, then the question is a closer one. You can consult a lawyer with the statements to see whether you have a case.

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Is it necessary to give this former boss' name as a reference?
  • Is it possible to give two or three good references for every negative reference?

If you can get many good references, especially from people you have worked with or from former supervisors, you can offset the bad reference from this former boss.

Find the Right Veteran Job

Whether you want to polish your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, can help. Subscribe to to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues