Fact or Fiction: Courts recognize retaliation against ex-employees

That’s right folks. It’s time for another edition of “Fact or Fiction” a/k/a “Quick Answers to Quick Questions” a/k/a QATQQ f/k/a “I don’t feel like writing a long blog post”. So, let’s get right to today’s question:

Let’s say I have a former employee who files a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. If a potential new employer comes calling from a job reference and I…

  1. give my former employee a bad reference;
  2. to get back at the employee for filing the charge; and,
  3. because of my bad reference, the former employee is not hired…

Have I engaged in actionable post-employment retaliation?


You bet I have! So, the answer to today’s QATQQ is “FACT”.

Consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., here in the Third Circuit (PA, NJ, DE, USVI) post-employment retaliation is bad, bad, bad. In this Third Circuit decision, the court held that “an ex-employee may file a retaliation action against a previous employer for retaliatory conduct occurring after the end of the employment relationship when the retaliatory act is in reprisal for a protected act and arises out of or is related to the employment relationship.”  Many state courts are on boards with this too (For example, check out this case from the NJ Supreme Court). A former employer engages in retaliation where its action results in discharge from a later job, a refusal to hire the plaintiff, or other professional or occupational harm. In essence, post-employment retaliation must involve some harm to an employee’s employment opportunities.

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