Defamation through a professional organization network

I left a position for several reasons and was offered a separation agreement, severance and three months health insurance. The situation was to be kept confidential by both parties - at least that's what I was told.

It is common knowledge that managers in my field use the professional organization to which they belong to informally inquire about potential employees. I believe I have been blackballed by a former manager through calls made to members of this organization.

A prospective employer when from hot to cold in the middle of an interview process that involved a supervisor, a team leader, and the recruiting manager.

I was kept waiting for 15 to 20 minutes between the first interview and the next step in a scheduled process. When it was time for the next phase of the interview process, people who were to be part of the process walked into the room and I could feel a definite change in the atmosphere. When that phase was over, I met with the team leader who suddenly could not meet with me. The person would not look me in the eye. We did speak for a short time and the interview seemed almost hostile. When it was over, the recruiting manager rushed in and escorted me toward the door without allowing me to retrieve my coat, acting as if he wanted to push me out the door.

I believe a phone call was made to my former manager which resulted in the interviewing being cut short. This has happened on more than one occassion and while I suspected this was happening, it was not until this last interview that it appears obvious this has been happening everytime I applied for a position in this field.

A colleague and friend told me that I would probably never work in this field again, stating that my former manager had a "long reach."

I was out of work two years, found a position in another field. The position is part time, no benefits and I make less than half my former salary in the other field.

This has occurred on at least three occassions over the past two years, the most recent this past October. In this last interview, it was obvious that a call had been placed, everyone was upset and I was hustled out as fast as possible. I have not been able to find a position in my field due to the networking telephone calls made through a professional organization. I believe other applicants were blackballed in the same way.

This is not a matter of something occurring on the job - it is afterward through a professional organization in which the members hide their activities and calls about prospective employees.

Do I have any kind of case? With the knowledge, expeience and skills I possess, this should not be happening. I should have been able to obtain a position in any of these firms, and was dropped with no explanation, no letter, nothing from any of them.

1 answer  |  asked Jan 30, 2011 4:52 PM [EST]  |  applies to Illinois

Answers (1)

John Otto
Defamation requires a lie. There are many ways your application for employment can be savaged without your former employer necessarily lying. For example, when called for a reference, the former employer can say, "(S)he left pursuant to a separation agreement the terms of which are confidential." Even that probably would be enough to let the prospective employer know that there was some problem, and in a soft economy keep you from getting hired. You can find out what they're saying about you by having a friend call and ask for a reference, or go through one of the services who will do it for you. Remember in Illinois the conversation cannot be recorded unless both parties consent.

posted by John Otto  |  Jan 31, 2011 10:21 AM [EST]

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