I work from home full time several months a year off and on for a small agency. They have little respect for their workers, but I need the money. I want to apply for a new job doing the same work, but I need to use this company as a reference. I have never worked in this field with any other company and I need to put this 2 yr experience on my resume as the potential job requires this experience. There is no HR department, only the bosses who have always given me and the other employees a hard time. I don't want them to know I'm looking for a new job, and I'm afraid they will give me a bad reference. How can I get a reference for my time at my company without tipping off my bosses?
You would be much better served using colleagues as references, rather than bosses. This might not work in your situation. In that case, you might be better off using references from a previous job where the skills aren't relevant but the reference could speak to your professional attitude and your skills in THAT position.
On the resume, there is no need to list individual references with work experience. I would suggest breaking these sections apart, or using a line such as "References available on request" in the footer.
This answer applies to situations where your bosses might not like you for any reason. Neck tattoos, whatever. A prospective employer will understand that you aren't particularly willing to use an existing employer as a reference.
I personally would get some written reference, if possible get it to include skills used and achievements accomplished.
This way you can provide a written reference from a 'higher up' and avoid what might be said during a phone call .