“My former employer threatened to sue my new employer, and got me fired. What can I do?”

Question: I had a job working for a doctor helping him market his practice. My compensation included being paid a percentage of new business that came in from the marketing events I organized. Even though I was successful in my efforts for the doctor, he never paid me the percentage fees I was due.

For this reason, a coworker and I quit, and went to work for another doctor in town. When my former employer found out where I was working, he wrote a letter to my new employer and told him that I had stolen patient files, which was a 100% lie. My former employer also had his attorney write a letter to my new employer threatening to sue, which ended up getting me fired.

Anything I can do?

San Antonio, Texas

Answer: Legally speaking, your former employer has done two things to you that you could sue him for. First, he defamed you. Defamation is the oral or written dissemination of a false statement of fact about a person that harms their reputation. Your former employer’s statement that you stole patient files was surely defamation, for which you could sue him.

Second, your former employer also “tortiously interfered” with your new business (employment) relations. That means that, without good reason, he “butted in” on your new employment, with the sole and wrong motivation: to hurt you. On these two bases, you could sue your former employer, and probably win.

Practically speaking, the question is this: Would you be able to get an attorney in your city to take your case on a “contingency basis,” which means that he or she only gets a percentage of what you collect, if anything, from your former employer. That would seem to be the key to your getting what you are due: your former employer paying for the damage he caused to your finances and reputation. It may not be an easy thing for you to find such an attorney, because these kinds of lawsuits – unlike car accidents and other personal injuries – are not easily won.

Like so many of our legal rights, upholding those rights requires having to pay for them, or being lucky enough to have an attorney agree to take on your case without getting paid up front. You should first try to contact employment attorneys in your city, who might be found by calling your local Bar Association Referral Service.

I do suggest you also consider writing your own letter to your former employer, and perhaps to his attorney as well, telling them that you are speaking to attorneys, and considering suing both of them for (a) defamation, and (b) “tortious interference.” That, at least, may stop your former employer from messing up your next job.

I hope that is helpful; I really do.

Best, Al Sklover

P.S.: Former Employer Interfering? Use our Model Cease-and-Desist Letter to Former Employer to Halt Interference. Firm, Direct, Effective. Just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.