In many crowded industries, people worry about losing out on employment opportunities for many reasons. Employers know this, and some use it against workers like you. That’s where the concept of the “blacklist” comes in. If you’re in a field with a lot of competition, your employer may try to force you to accept unsafe or unfair working conditions by threatening to make it impossible for people who complain to find new jobs. This is known as blacklisting.
Blacklisting is illegal in California, but some employers are vindicative. These businesses may resort to defamation, where a past employer simply lies about the employee’s character or performance to ruin their future prospects. Keep reading to learn about this kind of harassment, how it can impact your career, and what counts as legal defamation in California.
What Is Employer Defamation?
The basic definition of defamation is simple: it occurs when one party makes a false statement that harms their reputation. It can happen between any two parties, but it’s especially harmful when a business defames a former employee.
Employer lies can ruin your chances of getting a new job in your industry. If other companies believe the false statements, your professional reputation can be destroyed, and you may not be able to continue your career.
What Counts as Legal Defamation
Not everything that harms your reputation is considered defaming. Businesses are allowed to make honest statements about your performance and behavior. For example, if a worker chronically shows up late for work, an employer can say so to anyone who asks. While that may make it harder for the worker to get a new job, it’s still not defaming.
Instead, it specifically needs to be false. Examples of legal defamation include:
- Falsely implying or claiming criminal conduct: Stating that a worker stole from the business or failed to accomplish licensure can be defaming if the claims aren’t true. Even just escorting a worker off-premises with security can imply criminal conduct and may be considered defamation.
- Making incorrect reports about work accomplishments: Saying that a worker accomplished less than they did or that their performance was subpar may be defaming if it’s not true.
- Maliciously making claims of poor character: Defamation can be as simple as falsely stating that someone is unreliable, “dangerous,” or otherwise not suitable for a job because of their character.
The other requirement of defamation is that it needs to be spread to a third party. Your former employer can tell you that you’re unreliable or that your performance is subpar without hurting your reputation. However, if they tell other parties, especially prospective employers, then they may be defaming you.
Don’t Let Past Employers Ruin Your Future
You deserve a fair chance at employment. If a past employer is trying to blacklist you, you may be able to sue them for defaming you. If they are lying about you or otherwise taking illegal actions to impact your future employment, you have the right to fight back.
The first step is to get in touch with an experienced defamation lawyer to discuss your situation. Legal representation will help you stand up to bullying employers and give you a fair shot at the job you deserve.