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Defamation – Inaccurate Employment References

Home » News & Knowledge » Defamation – Inaccurate Employment References
Case Study BY: Adam Robins

An employment reference is something you often take for granted when leaving a job, and rightly so: although your previous employer doesn’t have to provide a reference, if they do provide a reference it must be fair and accurate.

The consequences of receiving an inaccurate or unfair reference can be devastating. Imagine the following situation:

You hand your notice in at your current job, it is accepted by your employer and you work your notice and leave. You are offered a job with a new employer subject to references. Then you are contacted by the new employer, or the recruitment agent you used, to say that on receiving your reference they are no longer prepared to offer you the job. The recruitment agent also tells you that based on your reference they are no longer prepared to act for you. When you see the reference, it says that you were dismissed from your job for gross misconduct, you overall performance was very poor, and they would never re-employ you.

You are then left in a situation with no job, and a last reference which you know is likely to impact your ability to gain employment, but which is grossly inaccurate.

This was the unfortunate reality for a client I recently acted for. My client had resigned and was working his notice period with his employer, having had no disciplinaries or any concerns raised over his performance.

He was then declined from a new role because his reference wrongly stated that he had been dismissed and had performed poorly in his job. In his case the matter was made worse because he worked in a profession where it was an established practice for new employers to request your last reference. His current employer refused to change the reference and my client left their employment with no new job to go to.

I advised my client that he had a good claim against his former employer for breach of contract, negligent misstatement and possibly libel. We brought a claim against his former employer and around 6 months after having been instructed, we reached a settlement which my client was completely satisfied with without having to bring any court proceedings. His former employer also agreed to change the reference so that it said that my client had resigned.


If you are in a similar position, please contact Adam Robins or Laura Walton in our Litigation & Dispute Resolution Department on 0113 200 9787. Get in touch today for a FREE initial consultation, or contact us online here to discuss how we can help you.

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