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Provided that comments are honestly held and are not motivated by malice, the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Kanak v. Riggin (“Kanak”) has affirmed for employers that negative references about current or former employees will generally be protected from liability for defamation. Ms. Kanak sued her former supervisor after he provided a negative reference to a prospective employer, causing her to be turned down for the position. Although the former employer admitted to making some of the comments and qualified some of the others, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice considered whether his words were subject to qualified privilege, noting that the employment reference was a classic occasion of such. The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed Ms. Kanak’s appeal on the issue of defamation and the Supreme Court of Canada denied further leave to appeal. 

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