I am afraid my previous employer is saying bad things about me when prospective employers are calling them for a reference check. My question is, when I applied to a job about three months ago I had to sign via the internet a waiver that says the previous employer can not be liable if they say bad things about me. What I need to know is if that only applies to that situation or for any job I apply to? If they are bad mouthing me I might want to take legal action. Thank you.
2 Answers from Attorneys
Re: Bad references
The question is...is what they're saying true or false?
The waiver likely is not valid, as your former employer was not a party to whatever you signed.
Request your personnel file from your previous employer and see if there's anything inaccurate in it. Also, you might want to contact an attorney about this situation to see if you have any other options.
Re: Bad references
The waiver isn't a complete waiver and probably is not enforceable.
The current trend is for employers to never provide references for previous employees. Employers will often only verify certain factual information such as dates, wage, job title and potentially rehire eligibility. This protects the employer better than a waiver. Because potential employers would like to get more information, they seek to have such waivers so that an employer feels comfortable about giving an explicit reference.
In Pennsylvania the law mandates that employers make employment records available to an employee for inspection at the place where the records are kept. You can contact the employer that rejected you and your former employer and demand to see your file (be courteous).
If there is anything negative in either file you need to figure out where it came from. If the information is truthful then you know you should not use that place as a reference. But if the information is untruthful in the slightest degree, then that is actionable. Such statements would be considered defamatory and would have no protection in the waiver.
It is unlikely the waiver offers and protection anyway as there was no privity between you and the party providing the information. But I would have to see the waiver to make that determination.
Contact me if you would like to proceed with this matter.
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