Former employer giving info to 3rd party

I am a loan officer in AZ and recently left one company to go to another. My previous employer has called an appraiser that we have both worked with, and told him many personal lies:
What my gross income was, what my commission splits were, that I took too much of his time, and most disturbing-- that I had told my old employer upon quitting that this appraiser had recommended me to the new company. This is not true- I never mentioned the appraiser's name when resigning and furthermore the appraiser had no prior knowledge that the new company existed, much less recommend me (but even if he had, who cares?). The appraiser told me he felt that the old employer was trying to "bait" him into getting information about me and my new company. Can my employer be intiating calls to third parties and telling them information such as this, and soliciting information from them?
If I have a case, I would be more than willing to pay for a consulation.
Thank you in advance.

1 answer  |  asked Oct 26, 2004 1:09 PM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
Old employer's remarks may cross the line

Your query doesn't have enough information for me to tell you anything very definitive. In general, an employer can talk to whomever he, she or it wants to about you, just as you can about them. Certain information, such as medical records, are protected from disclosure by statutes, and some information may give rise to a claim of invasion of privacy if the widespread publication of true information places you in a false light or if the employer discloses private very personal information not generally known to the people to whom it is disclosed (such as a drinking problem, an affair or a skeleton in your family closet). Also, a claim for defamation might arise if false factual information is published that damages your reputation.
The information you listed doesn't seem to fit into any of these categories. Your gross income and commission splits might be considered private, but it isn't the kind of information that would cause embarassment like disclosing personal secrets would. The statement that you took too much of his time is not a false statement at all, but an opinion, not subject to being proven true or false. The statement about the appraiser having recommended you, although false, is not defamatory, unless the appraiser believed that you said it, in which case he might think you were lying to your old boss for some nefarious reason. As it turns out, any doubt he may have had was probably dispelled by your denial, so you have no provable damages.
Certain false statements are automatically defamatory and do not require proof of actual damages. They include the commission of a crime, unchastity or loathsome disease (like telling someone you have AIDS). False statements regarding your ability in your chosen profession also fit this category, but the statement must be provably false, not mere opinion.
The practical problems of trying to stop old employers from talking about you are many: proving exactly what was said, to whom it was said, and how it was false or otherwise injurious. Unless you are really hurt (losing a potential job opportunity, for example), there isn't much point in worrying about it. After all, would you want your old employer to be able to sue you for the negative things you have said about him to your appraiser friend? Or for accusing him on a public website of telling "many personal lies" about you?

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Oct 26, 2004 7:35 PM [EST]

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