A former employer who gives a former employee a negative job reference
in retaliation for the employee's complaint of discrimination may
be liable under the human rights law.
In Jute v. Hamilton Sunstrand Corp., 420 F .3d 166, 178-79 (2d Cir. 2005),
the plaintiff was on the verge of obtaining a new job. Before she was
offered the job, however, her former employer told the new job that he
could not give a reference because Jute "had a lawsuit pending,"
even though the plaintiff did not actually have a lawsuit pending. The
Second Circuit, the federal appeals court in New York, held that this
false statement could "negatively affect Jute's chances of securing
employment" and denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the case.
Other courts since that time have also confirmed that individuals may assert
a claim against former employers who, in an effort to retaliate against
the employee's claim, give a negative reference. For example, in Brescia
V. Sia, 2008 WL 1944010, at *4 n.3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 30, 2008), the court
rejected the defendant's effort to dismiss the plaintiff's case
under similar circumstances, finding that even where the negative reference
is "factually accurate," an individual may have a claim.