Adam Papp v Stokes Economic Consulting Inc. and Ernest StokesPapp v Stokes et al, 2017 ONSC 2357 (CanLII)
In Adam Papp v Stokes Economic Consultation Inc. and Ernest Stokes, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice addressed when a former employer may be held liable, including personally liable, for an unfavorable reference. The Court concluded that the employer made an honest reference in good faith and, accordingly, was not liable for defamation.
In this case, a former employee used a former employer as a reference for his new job application. The former employer gave a negative review, and the former employee did not get the job. He commenced an action against his former employer for defamation. However, the former employer succeeded at trial on both the defences of justification and of qualified privilege. The Court concluded that the reference was justified because it was based on objective and verifiable facts. The Court further concluded that a defence of qualified privilege exists when a former employer provides a reference. Employers are permitted to provide a negative reference as long as the employer is not motivated by malice. As a result, the Court dismissed the claim.