Qualified Privilege Protects Florida Employers from Employee Reference Defamation Suits

posted by Donna Ballman  |  Aug 11, 2009 5:50 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

An employer is presumed immune from a defamation claim for disclosing untrue information about an employee’s job performance if the untrue information is:

1. Published to a prospective employer;
2. At the request of the new employer;

Florida Employers Acting in Good Faith have a Qualified Privilege

Florida law presumes that an employer responds to reference requests in "good faith."  Florida Statutes Section 768.095.  As long as the Florida employer acts in good faith when responding to a reference request, it is entitled to a “qualified privilege.” A qualified privilege makes an employer immune to a defamation claim.

The privilege that protects Florida employers from defamation suits for employee references is “qualified.” This means that the employer can lose the privilege. The employer can lose the qualified privilege from defamation suits if it did not give the information to the prospective employer in “good faith.” 

An employer does not disclose information in good faith, and therefore is not immune from defamation, if the information disclosed by the former employer was:

  • knowingly false or deliberately misleading,
  • rendered with malicious purpose, or
  • violated any civil right of the former employee protected by Florida’s anti-discrimination law.

The employee must prove the lack of good faith with clear and convincing evidence.

This article was posted by Donna M. Ballman, P.A., 4801 S. University Dr., Ste. 3010, Ft. Lauderdale, FL  33328;  Licensed to practice in Florida.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or to establish an attorney-client relationship.

External Links

Links to external sites with additional information about this topic.

posted by Donna Ballman  |  Aug 11, 2009 5:50 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Related MEL Content

Articlesmore »

Questions & Answersmore »

Blog Articlesmore »

Have an Employment Law question?