Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.
I work for the government. My department has a very bad manager (many complaints have been filed) which has caused several people to apply for other jobs. A few have made it to the interview process but when this manager is contacted she gives bad reviews for some of the employees here to the other agencies. We’ve found out about the things that have been said, none of which are true, but it has caused people not to be hired. Many people (especially government workers) believe that supervisors are not allowed to make any derogatory comments about employees to potential employers but actually they can. But, I’m assuming that what they say must be true. Can this supervisor and/or agency be sued for slander if what she says is untrue and can not be proven? Our work environment is miserable and most of us want out of the situation here but if she continues to badmouth us to potential employers we’re going to be stuck here.
First, the truth is always a defense to claims of slander or libel, and often in the context of a reference (good or bad) for a potential employer, what the truth is is subjective. One person’s “great employee” is another person’s “mediocre employee.”
Your situation is further complicated by the fact that you work for a government agency which, as you may know, means that in addition to the regular laws for labor and employment in your jurisdiction, there may be additional rules or law that are unique to government agencies.
Your best bet in this case would be to have a consultation with a local attorney who would be familiar with both the laws in your state, and also any special restrictions or rules that may apply to a government employer.