Have You Been Blacklisted?

Do you suspect that the reason you’re not getting that new job is because of a wage complaint you made or a lawsuit you filed against a previous employer?

If so, here are some tips on how to handle the situation:

1. Verify, don’t guess. If all you have to go on is a hunch of “surely that must be the reason” but don’t have any actual proof or evidence, dig deeper. Here are a few ideas of things you can try:

a. Use a reference verification company. For a small fee you can have someone call your former employer as if they were a potential employer doing reference checks. Then they will tell you what your previous employer is saying about you. One company we have heard about people using is Allison Taylor https://www.allisontaylor.com/ but there are others out there as well.

b. Ask the company directly. See if anyone from the company where you didn’t get the job would be willing to talk to you about it. If you go this route, be sure to reassure them you are not trying to question their decision on not hiring you, you are just trying to make sure the info they are receiving is accurate. If they verify that something bad and wrong was said about you, ask them if they would be willing to sign a statement for you.

c. Keep a log. Keep a detailed log about where you have applied, and at what stage the company has rejected you. For example, is it always at the stage where references are being checked? Companies have all kinds of reasons for not hiring somebody – maybe there was someone more qualified. If you’re being rejected shortly after submitting an application, it’s possible they haven’t even gotten to the reference check phase of hiring yet.

2. Ask your previous employer to cut it out. If you do obtain proof that they have been badmouthing you to potential employers, call them on it. You don’t need to threaten them or explain details about what you found or anything else – just simply write them a letter or email stating that you have reason to believe that they are giving you bad references, that doing so is interfering with your ability to earn a livelihood, and ask that going forward they state only your position(s) held and your dates of employment. (Better yet, remind them of what these were so they have it handy.) While some employers might really be vindictive, most of them just don’t want to deal with the hassle of possibly messing up or getting into trouble and will let it alone.

If I have been blacklisted or badmouthed, is that illegal?

  • Prioritize . First and foremost, worry about that later. Even if it is, lawsuits are time-consuming. Concentrate on what you need to do in the short term to remove obstacles to getting a new job that might be out there, in a productive way.
  • Evaluate . It likely is NOT illegal if a company you have sued makes truthful statements about your or the fact that you did sue them. However, if they go beyond that and lie about you or maliciously encourage an employer not to hire you, they may be breaking the law. If your situation meets the legal elements for “defamation” (which can vary slightly from state to state), the behavior could indeed be illegal.
  • Check your settlement agreement , if you have one. Many specifically prohibit the company from doing anything other than verifying dates of employment and positions held. Even if it might not otherwise be illegal independently, if they are saying things beyond this it might be a breach of your contract.

If I have been blacklisted or badmouthed, do I need to get a lawyer?

If you have found good evidence that a previous employer has made false statements about you in such a way that those bad references have actually interfered with your ability to get a job, and/or you can also prove this was done in retaliation for your decision to pursue a wage claim (or similar) and not just because the person giving you a bad reference is mean or grumpy in general, you might decide to pursue a legal claim about it. If you are going to do that, it probably is a good idea to get a lawyer to help you. This is not the kind of case AndersonDodson handles (except in the very rare and uncommon situation of the employer trying to do something like this in direct response to our existing client asserting a wage claim), but there might be lawyers who would be interested in pursuing this claim for you.

If you just have a hunch that somebody might be saying something bad about you, or even if you have proof that they are saying something “bad” about you but it’s true, it is less likely that a lawyer would be interested in your claim. That being the case, there might be better and more productive things you can do about it, such as some of the ideas suggested above. Seeking a lawyer is one option, but it’s not the only option – and may not even be the best option.

Should I hold off on pursuing a wage claim because of possible repercussions like these?

No. You should not. Most of the time, employers do not engage in retaliatory or vindictive behavior against employees – even those who have sued them. Most do not want to risk a retaliation or defamation action. Beyond that, it takes energy for employers to go out of their way to engage in actions like these, and to be honest, most people are too lazy to bother. Plus, even those few who try to get back at employees often find that their efforts have backfired, in that they themselves are the ones who end up looking bad, not the employee.

But aside from all that, fear of what an employer might do or say if you have the courage to do something about their wrongful pay practices should not hold you back. Don’t let the bullies win! If you don’t stand up to them, who will?