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Does a poor reference show retaliation by your former boss?

You filed a religious discrimination claim against your supervisor, then you left that company and began a new job search.

Two companies seemed close to hiring you, but both opportunities fell through because of the poor reference your former supervisor provided. Is this retaliation for the claim you filed?

Protected conduct

Some forms of protected conduct include requesting reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs, whistle-blowing or participating in legal proceedings. You were engaging in protected conduct when you filed the religious discrimination claim, bringing an illegal practice to light. Your supervisor may have shown retaliatory behavior by denying you a promotion, demoting you or firing you.

Instead, you left the company of your own accord, not wanting to stay in a work environment that had become uncomfortable. The supervisor made annoying and openly rude remarks to you, and although such comments do not constitute outright harassment, you began to dread going to work.

The retaliation

You have several years of experience and entered the job search with enthusiasm. When your search came down to two companies, both interviews went well, but the recruiters wanted to follow up on references. Both wanted to speak with your former supervisor, and that is where the trouble began.

Your supervisor directly contradicted the list of responsibilities you had put in your resume, played down your skills and gave you a poor recommendation. You attempted to explain to both recruiters that you felt retaliation was at work—but it was your word against the word of your former supervisor.

Next steps

You are among the many workers who experience wrongdoing on the part of employers every year in our state. Employers unlawfully retaliate for a wide variety of reasons. It could be because an employee reported an OSHA violation, became a witness in a discrimination case or tried to stop someone in the company from submitting a fraudulent claim. Remember that you have rights. By exploring your legal options, you may get the upper hand on the retaliation issue that is complicating your search for a new job.

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