guaranteed right (e.g., filing a workers’ compensation claim); (ii) the termination is a result
of the employee doing what the law requires (e.g., serving on a jury); or (iii) the employee is
let go for refusing to do that which the law forbids (e.g., committing perjury).
Intentional Interference With Contractual or Advantageous Relations
Employees also have rights against supervisors, co-workers or other third-parties
based on allegations that the individual wrongfully procured the employee’s discharge or
otherwise interfered with the employee’s employment. In order to bring such a claim, the
employee must show that the individual was motivated by malice, which means a “spiteful,
malignant purpose, unrelated to the legitimate corporate interest.” Consequently, employers
should instruct their managers that personal feelings towards employees should never intrude
into employment decisions.
A claim for defamation can arise when an employer communicates a false statement
of fact to a third person (not to the employee himself) that damages the employee’s
reputation. In the employment context, defamation claims may arise when employers make
statements regarding employee misconduct, job performance and character traits. Although
employers have a qualified privilege to communicate such information when it serves a
legitimate business interest, it is generally advisable that information concerning employee
conduct (or misconduct) be kept on a “need to know” basis. The other area where
defamation claims may occur concerns references. Former employees have filed claims
based on poor references on the theory that the reference was materially false and damaging.
In order to avoid this type of litigation, many employers will not give references, positive or
negative, beyond confirming dates of employment and positions held.