Is a previous employer allowed to say anything negative about you when a prospective employer calls for a ref

I think a prior employer gave me a poor reference which caused me not to get a job I was all but hired for. What specifically are they allowed to say?

As far as the law is concerned, just about anything they want to, as long as it is the truth. This is why you should never burn your bridges when you leave a job. Do not tell the boss he is a jerk, even if he is. It will come back to haunt you. As long as no lies were told about you,and no medical information was released, the former employer did nothing wrong.
As others have noted, a lot of companies have policies regarding this, only permitting their managers or supervisors to give out such things as dates of employment and whether or not a person is eligible for rehire. Some companies do not even permit the re-hire question.
The government and many major corporations have taken to getting a signed release from a prospective employee, to give to the former employer, to protect that former employer from the lawsuits, etc that many disgruntled workers file when they learn their old boss has told the truth and dumped on them. Most companies will tell all if the new employer has such a release.
No.. you can sue them for that. Even with a criminal record or if you stole from an employer they cannot say anything... unless they are specifically asked about something.
If it is true they have every right but almost none will for fear of retribution from the former employee if they decide to sue
Anything about your performance at the previous job.
As an employer, all I'm allowed to say is if the person is eligible for rehire.
I think the laws could be different depending on where you live. I believe they are allowed to tell the truth...if they were happy with your job performance or would be up to them if they choose to expand on this. They cannot give out personal information though without your written consent.
They are allowed to give negative reviews that can be backed up by paperwork. This usually means tardiness and things that can be quantified. They will not generally say things about personality which could leave them open to lawsuits.
Well, I think they are pretty much allowed to say anything as long as it is the truth. That is the purpose of making reference calls, to get some perspective on a potential employee. If they previous employer wasn't allowed to speak negatively about an employee they didn't think did a good job, then it would kind of defeat the purpose of the call in the first place...
They technically can say anything that is true about you. If you were a bad employee and it is true then they can say it.

The thing is that the old employer has to prove that what they said was true. Most people will not give a specific bad reference because it is too easy for an old employee to sue them for defaming them.

Remember, you cannot successfully sue the company because you think they said something about you. You have to prove that they did. Also, they can easily just say "I would not ever consider hiring this person again" when asked for a reference. That is perfectly legal and sends a very clear message to the new employer that there is something wrong.
My previous boss told me that they are only allowed to tell a prospective employer if they would hire you back. When I left that job, I had to sign a paper giving them permission to do so. That is what is professional and ethical. If your previous employer is not reputable then other companies would know about that as well.
They are allowed to say anything they want...but that could open them up to defamtion claims.

They can legally say whatever is true or whatever they reasonably believe to be true. So if you were a bad employee or they reasonably believed you to be so then they have the right to declare such...There is no rule that requires an employer to say good things about any employee when there is nothing good to say.

The only want to prove defamation though would be to first prove that you got a negative reference..usually the second employer would have to testify. Next, you would have to show that the first employer made such comments and they were false since you were a good employee.but if you don;t have a spotless record that will be difficult to show. And since the second job has no duty to disclose that there was a negative reference they usually won't so they are not dragged into court as a witness.

You can always go back and ask the first employer if they gave a negative reference and ask yourself if they had reason to do so...
If you can prove anything negative was said, you can sue! ~
If it is untrue and you can prove it, you can file a discrimination complaint with EEOC. The problem is that Right To Work States can and do get away with it and nobody challenges them! These sorts of States, make it possible for Illegal Aliens to become gainfully employed and leave Americans in the dust. They even screw up Criminal Background checks.

Just last week HR Bill 493 passed Stopping Employers and Insurers from snooping into Medical records or use drug tests to find out whether or not a Healthy person has a certain propensity for illness or diseases, that maybe in their families. Insurance Companies can no onger charge higher premiums based on their drug tests that were never intended for them to do that!
No they can only say that you worked there and in what capacity.
First of all, let's separate Myth from reality.

A previous employer may state anything they wish as long as it is either true on the facts or opinion not based on intent to harm or unfounded bias.

There is no such law which requires an employer to ONLY state you are eligible or not for rehire, to ONLY state the dates of your employment or anything else.

These are company policy, not state or federal laws.

In your particular case, if the employer said they didn't like your work, that you were late with many assignments or that your attitude was not in keeping with the work enviornment that is perfectly legal under current state and federal law.

If, however, your former employer said "I wouldn't hire that druggie for all the money in the world" the inference is that of a criminal / moral nature and is actionable under libel statutes.

Also, they are not allowed to divulge information that is priviledged under law.

Based on current law then, your answer is they are allowed to say anything which does not rise to the level of libel under your particular state statutes or is protected under HIPPA or other federal law.


By the way, this is not a "Right to Work" issue. Neither does it have anything to do with the new House bill since it has not yet passed into law.

Federal and state laws have been set on the issue for years, including case law in all 50 states, all appellate jurisdictions and on the federal level.

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