Can a company complain about your lawsuit in a reference check?

Your work history helps determine what jobs you can get, the compensation you can command and what duties an employer will hire you to perform. Most companies want people who have at least some level of experience for well-compensated positions. They will check with your former employers to verify that you showed up for work and met basic industry standards.

As someone who has endured a wrongful termination, discrimination at work or harassment in the workplace, providing references can be stressful when looking for a job. You will probably worry about whether or not your former employer can talk poorly about you and damage your employment prospects because of the legal action you took against the company.

Can your employer complain about your appropriate legal action against the company?

California law allows former employers to discuss your job performance

Companies that give their former staff members negative performance reviews during a reference check can sometimes face defamation claims from their former workers. California does have a law that specifically protects an employer’s right to make an honest and reasonable assessment of a worker’s job performance. They can also disclose if a company investigation found that a worker committed harassment.

If a potential new employer calls the company where you had issues previously to check your reference and verify your employment, your former employer can discuss your job performance, how long you worked at the company and what duties you had there. Companies also have protection from answering negatively about whether or not they would rehire you. However, their answer for that question may have a basis in job performance and not reflect the fact that you stood up for your legal rights.

Giving you a bad reference just because you sued could constitute retaliation

If you find out that the company that you had to take legal action against has given you negative references by lying about your job performance or by telling companies that they would not rehire you (out of spite because took legal action), you may be able to hold them accountable for their retaliation against you.