Compelled Self-Publication

You can be held liable for defamation of character without having distributed a single piece of information on a former employee. Liability has been found under the claim “defamation by compelled self-publication.” This occurs when a job seeker is compelled to tell a prospective employer about negative information, allegedly untrue, in the former employer’s personnel file. The theory runs that if the job seeker does not tell the prospective employer about the negative information, the prospective employer will discover it upon calling the former employer and presume that the job seeker was trying to hide something. According to the theory, the job seeker has no choice but to defame himself to avoid this negative presumption.

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