Bad References

Help! My Old Employer Keeps Giving Me Bad References


Dear J.T. & Dale: My former supervisor of many years keeps giving negative references to any employers who call to inquire about me. I confirmed this by having friends pose as hiring managers who were conducting background checks.

I’m not willing to falsify the name of the supervisor on job applications, even though I am always disqualified during the reference check. Why should this one supervisor have the power to block all my employment attempts? - Carlo

J.T.: Is what this former supervisor is saying about you accurate? If the reference is accurate, he is within his rights.

If it’s not accurate, there are plenty of laws against slanderous references, enough so that most companies have formal policies that allow supervisors only to confirm dates of employment.

If the supervisor is giving an inaccurate reference that is costing you jobs, you should seek the help of an employment attorney, who can send a “cease and desist” letter to the company and supervisor.

DALE: I know the legal solution has its appeal, and even seems like a final solution, but imagine a potential employer calling the supervisor and hearing, “I can’t give you a reference because I got a letter threatening to sue me if I talk to you.” That might be worse than the negative reference.

J.T.: In either case, the best defense is to go on the offensive. Tell a potential employer before they contact this reference that you know it will be negative.

Explain as best you can what happened and, if you did something wrong, what you learned and how you have grown as an employee since that experience.

DALE: Meanwhile, line up many other references. Try to include ones from the same employer as your negative supervisor, ones willing to defend you and possibly willing to undermine the credibility of that one supervisor.

That way, when an employer calls and hears something negative, they will discount it, and perhaps give you credit for being forthright and honest.

Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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J.T. & Dale

“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.


  1. I worked for Sterling Medical as a VA Clinic Manager for almost 3 years. I was terminated by the company for what they considered, “poor decision making”. The circumstances leading up to my dismissal were as follows: As the manager and key holder of the clinic, it was not out of the ordinary for me to work on weekends or to stop in to complete tasks that couldn’t be completed during normal business hours. I went to the clinic on a Saturday (outside of normal hours, no staff, no patients) to complete a 10 minute task of installing a new time clock, so that the staff could begin using it on Monday. While at the clinic a friend who was waiting for me in the car, asked via text message if she could come in and use the restroom. I escorted her through the clinic to the restroom. The following Monday, I informed my supervisor that the task had been completed and also informed her that I allowed my friend to use the restroom, there was no issue. The following week, I received a call from my supervisor who had apparently been looking through my Facebook page and photos. During the conversation, she asked if I had a photo taken of me while I was in the clinic. I informed her that I did not. The photo she was referring to was one that was taken by a friend of mine while we were at a doctor’s office for my visit. I explained this to her and again, there was no issue. One week later I was called into the provider’s office and fired via phone conference. My unemployment eligibility was disputed by my supervisor and I was required to attend a hearing, which I won.

    I have reason to believe this supervisor if providing damaging references to perspective employers. I have recently considered hiring a reference check company to get an idea of what type of reference she is providing. Based on the fact that I was determined to be eligible for UC, due to her lack of providing proof and reasonable evidence for my dismissal, do I have a potential suit against her or the company?

    Should I contact those whom I’ve had interviews with and request a copy of my interview file including reference checks?

  2. Is there away for me too find out if my ex,employer wrote something bad on my name? I’ve filled out lord knows how many applications and been on several interviews..the interviews go well.then no call,back.i know for sure i landed two of the jobs.i can’t figure out what happened!

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