Can I sue a former employer for giving a bad recommendation?

My friend is a doctor and she was told by her current employer that the previous hospital she worked for gave her a very bad recommendation and the only reason she was hired was because of personal reference by another doctor she had previously worked under. The problem is that she is going to start looking for a job by August and she was told that the contents of this letter are toxic and it would be difficult for any future employer to ignore that. The other issue is that this letter was from a job from 8 years ago, and being medicine, every future employer will pull references. She believes that it is unusual that a hospital would write anything negative as it hurts their reputation in the long run but they ended up doing so anyways. Does she have a case to sue them for defamation?

1 answer  |  asked Feb 7, 2012 3:02 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

John Upton
If the prior employer intentionally mis-states a fact for the purpose of injuring the former employee, there likely could be a successful action. In my view a negative opinion would not be actionable.

I'd advise hiring an attorney to request the offending letter from the sender and the recipient. If the neither employer agrees to give a copy, an action might have to be started to get it.

On the other hand, it is very likely that to avoid a lawsuit, the former employer will agree not to use the letter, and will be amenable to working out a letter or information package agreeable to them and the employee.

posted by John Upton  |  Feb 7, 2012 3:12 PM [EST]

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