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On the Job: Can my old boss give me a bad job reference?

by PoP Sponsor September 11, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

This column is written and sponsored by Alan Lescht & Associates, PC, an employment litigation firm in Washington, DC, that handles cases involving contract disputes, wage and hour issues, discrimination and retaliation, wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation and security clearances.

You’re filling out a job application and get to the section about job references. Who do you list? A good job reference can make all the difference in you getting a new job.

What you may not realize is that your former or current employer doesn’t have to give you a good reference. Generally speaking, your boss is free to tell your prospective employer the truth about what kind of employee you were. If it is true, your former employer can say that you were fired for misconduct, that you quit without giving notice, or that your last performance review wasn’t so great.

How can I prevent my employer from giving me a bad job reference?

In most cases, a valid contract is the only way to limit what your employer can say about you. For example, a settlement or severance agreement may guarantee you a neutral reference that includes only certain information, such as your dates of employment and job title.

However, even a signed agreement will not guarantee a neutral reference for security clearance and government suitability determinations. Despite a valid contract, the law requires employers to provide honest information in connection with security clearance and suitability investigations.

What if my boss gives me an unfair job reference?

Your current or former employer has the right to provide truthful information to prospective employers. However, they don’t have the right to falsely criticize you or lie about your performance or conduct. If a former or current employer lies about you, he or she may be liable for defamation (i.e., making a false and harmful statement about you to someone else).

Do you have questions about job references?

If you have questions about job references, employment contracts, or security clearances, contact Alan Lescht and Associates today. Call us at (202) 463-6036; send us an email; or visit our website and blog. Our 13 attorneys have vast experience in all areas of employment law. Super Lawyers, Washingtonian, Newsweek, AVVO, and others have recognized us as a leading employment firm in DC.

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes and is provided only to permit you to learn about Alan Lescht and Associates, P.C., and its services. This information is subject to change, may not apply in all cases, and does not constitute legal advice. Contact an attorney to obtain legal advice about your case.

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