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The importance of being truthful about ex-employees


A recent Court of Appeal case demonstrates the legal remedies available to an employee when their old employer says untrue things about them.

Fiona George worked as a recruitment consultant for LCA Jobs Limited, which was owned by Linda Cannell. Ms George resigned to join another agency and found that some of her clients were willing to continue doing business with her at the new agency.

However, Mrs Cannell spoke to one of those clients and sent an email to Ms George’s new employer saying that Ms George had breached her restrictive covenants and behaved improperly in other ways. Mrs Cannell knew that this was not true – the Court found that she had no honest belief that it was true. As a result, a client withdrew an assignment from Ms George and she resigned from the new agency because she felt her position there had become too difficult.

Ms George brought a claim in the High Court against Mrs Cannell and LCA Jobs for malicious falsehood and defamation. She lost in the High Court, but successfully appealed her malicious falsehood claims to the Court of Appeal.

The Court said that financial loss to Ms George was an inherently probable consequence of Mrs Cannell’s communications and therefore Ms George was entitled to damages for that loss.

Consequences for employers

This case is relevant to many situations where an employee leaves and is a reminder for employers that:

  • any communications about an ex-employee e.g. informal references by phone or email, must be truthful;
  • any allegations of improper conduct must have a basis in fact.

If you would like to know more about how this ruling could affect your particular circumstances, please contact Blair Adams.

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