May an employer be sued for refusing to provide a post-termination reference?

Author: Michael C. Jacobson, XpertHR Legal Editor

Probably not, depending on the way the refusal is worded and to whom the refusal is communicated. Post-termination references may expose businesses to defamation lawsuits if they contain false information about individuals that could harm or damage their reputation - typically in a manner that affects the individual's job prospects. Thus, if an employer simply refuses to provide a recommendation, without making any false statements about the employee in the process, it is probably shielded from a defamation lawsuit. If, however, the business refuses to provide a recommendation and instead sends an email to the new employer and includes a false statement about a former employee, then the company may be exposed to a defamation lawsuit.