My colleague Chris Engler returns today with a recap of a new case in Connecticut that is of particular interest to employers who provide (or don’t provide) employment references.
We have all heard the admonition that “less is more.”
In an opinion that will be released next week, the Connecticut Appellate Court reminds us just how true that admonition is. In fact, the court’s decision gave one employer more than 400,000 reasons to heed the adage in the future.
The case, Nelson v. Tradewind Aviation, LLC, arose from a defamation lawsuit. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had worked as a pilot for Tradewind Aviation for a summer back in 2007. At the end of the season, the company needed to downsize for the winter. The plaintiff and others were laid off. His termination paperwork indicated that he had been laid off due to lack of work.
A few months later, the plaintiff was offered a job by another aviation company. In accordance with federal regulations, this company had the plaintiff request his employment records and other forms from Tradewind Aviation. Unlike the termination paperwork provided to him when he was laid off, on the new forms Tradewind Aviation’s representatives wrote that the plaintiff was involuntarily terminated and had had performance issues.
Tradewind Aviation then sent a letter to the prospective employer elaborating on these performance issues. The next day, it faxed over a copy of a drug test report (which concluded that plaintiff had not taken any drugs) along with a note that allegedly tied the supposed performance issues to drug use.
When the prospective employee rescinded its job offer to the plaintiff, he filed suit against Tradewind Aviation. He claimed that his former employer had engaged in defamation with malice. A few years later, a jury wholeheartedly agreed, to the tune of over $407,000 in damages.
Not surprisingly, the employer quickly appealed the verdict.