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Employee References and Defamation

Can an employer be sued for defamation over a negative reference?


• An Indiana state appeals court threw out a lawsuit brought by a worker against her former employer for allegedly defamatory references given to prospective employers. A worker quit her employment with a secular employer following a dispute over working conditions. She then sought new employment. When she began experiencing difficulty finding another job, she became suspicious of the references her former employer was giving. In an attempt to determine the nature of the references, the woman had her mother and boyfriend contact the former employer, represent themselves as prospective employers, and request references. Supervisory personnel made the following remarks about the former employee: "Did not get along well with other employees"; "could work without supervision on occasion"; "was somewhat dependable"; "does not work good with other people"; "is a trouble maker"; "was not an ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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  • January 1, 1992