I was on a job for 10 years, and I was injured and went on FMLA. I was not released by my doctor to return to work, yet the company told me if I didn't return to work they would mark me as "Job Abandonment", which they did.

Since that was my last job I had no choice to list them, but I have since found out that they are defaming me as a ex-employee as I am currently looking for work.

What can I do, as I need a job ASAP. I even spoke with them, and they give me high praise. But when a potential employer called for a reference, it's a different scenario. How can I address this issue in my Job Search

  • 15
    What evidence to you have for defamation? You will need to take that to a lawyer to decide if there is a case.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 13:26
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    @Dukeling none of the answers fit this question. 1)FMLA is involved. 2)His time of 10 years at the previous employer stymies any efforts to avoid any references from them. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 14:02
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    Yep, this is not a dup.....
    – Neo
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 14:54
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    This is a legal question in so many ways that you cannot and should not rely on answers from the internet. The devil is always in the detail in these situations and only a lawyer versed in this field can address your problem properly. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 15:36
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    Start with the attorney. If it is legal in your state (ask the attorney!) have a friend call them for a reference on you, and record it. You may need that before they are "wise to you" having an attorney. Most states are single-party consent. Some are all-party consent. ASK THEY ATTORNEY before you do this. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 17:58

6 Answers 6


What can I do?

Have a friend of yours call your previous company, and ask for a reference, and record the companies response. If it is as you say, they are talking false ( they are lying ) then take the recording to a lawyer and sue them.

Its worth noting that most attorneys offer a free consultation in cases like these so you can see if you have a decent case against your previous company. (Check your state laws on recording conversations, it is legal in my state, but laws in this area do vary state by state. An attorney in those states where its illegal can be creative in accomplishing the same goal*)

Also, is there anyone in the company you still have a relationship with that might possibly give you a good reference? If so, ask them if you can use them as a reference, and would be willing to be contacted directly.


This is a tough situation - and you can't really control what they are going to do, if they want to be difficult about it when someone calls them then they are going to do so one way or another. Any legal action for defamation or whatever is a) not going to make them give you a good reference (they can always just refuse to give one) and b) is going to take a while and your need for a job is probably more immediate than that.

What might be a better strategy would be to get in touch with people that you worked with there with whom you are still on good terms and ask them if they would mind being a reference for you. If someone (let's call them Joe) agrees to do this then when you are next engaging with a potential employer you can explain the situation that you've had problems with this employer during previous reference checks but that if they would like to contact Joe directly he would be able to provide a reference for you.

If you can't get a person such as "Joe" (and I'd be surprised if there wasn't someone who would speak well of you - even if it was a peer rather than a superior) then all you can do is be up front with the potential employer

Just to let you know my last employer and I didn't part on good terms after they disputed my FMLA and I've been made aware that they are giving me bad references when potential employers call.

It's not great but the fact that you are being up front about it will help and may incline them towards taking your side of the story into account. If nothing else getting your version of events across first will help as they will be bearing that in mind when they talk to the previous employer rather than automatically taking it at face value.


If you were injured at work, in the US(Assuming that since you mentioned FMLA), then you should have gone through the Workmans Compensation Process. This would, an possibly still can (depending on how long its been) give you some protections and give you some compensation. So Contact an attorney (they will do this on contingency) so get a good one.

If you were injured during your personal life, your employer only needs to provide you with 12 weeks of leave per year. After that 12 weeks it can require you to return to work, regardless of your medical condition. You should contact your employer and see what you can do about clearing up any problems they have with you. This may help with the reference or at least give you something you can explain to potential employers.


Please note many states require an employer to file an injury report where an injury takes place on the job. Securing a copy of this report would be good for you, a prospective attorney, and a prospective employer - - - so as to validate your side of the story. Also, an attorney may be willing to make the call to discover what is going on. Keep your head up!


It sounds like the employers you are interviewing with are contacting your former employer's HR department. They will only confirm that you worked there, for the dates you claim, your job title/description, and recite legalese information such as "Job Abandonment".

I would see if you can get a personal reference, preferably from a former supervisor, to speak about your conduct and abilities on the job. If you don't want to share someone's personal office number or email, see if they can write up a letter or summary for you, for you to send out. Once you have an offer, contingent on background checks, you can share the contact information at that time.


You do not need to use your last employer as a reference.

If you have good prior references, that should do fine.

If you really need a reference from your last company, see if you can get one of your friendlier colleagues instead of someone on management.

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    Depends on how long he was with the company. If its a long time, it can be a hassle, as in this case were talking 10 years.
    – Neo
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 13:33

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