Business Law, Litigation

Employers Beware! Can we refuse to issue a letter of recommendation to a former employee?

Mar 19th, 2014

The Quebec Court of Appeal recently ordered an employer to pay $5,000 is damages for not providing a letter of recommendation to a former employee.

Does this mean that an employer must always remit a letter of recommendation upon an employee’s request?


An employer cannot refuse, without just and valid reason or under false pretences, to provide an employee who was fired or who resigned, a letter of recommendation, if such letter has been requested.

But of course, an employer should not lie!  A bad employee does not have an unconditional right to be praised.  If there is nothing honestly positive to say about an employee, the employer does not have to embellish the reality.

In this case, the employer suspected two of its employees were challenging the pay equity process the employer had in place and decided to get rid of the “troublemakers”. As such, the employer proceeded not renew their employment contracts and gave false pretences as the reason for that.

The Court decided that the employer acted in bad faith in refusing to renew the contracts and was ordered to pay damages to each of the employees for the termination.

Additionally, one of the employees had requested a letter of recommendation which the employer refused to give. As the non-renewal of the employment contract was unlawful due to the employer’s bad faith, the Court found the refusal to provide a letter of recommendation was another manifestation of bad faith and as such ordered the employer to pay an additional $5,000 to the former employee for this refusal to provide a letter of recommendation. The Court reasoned that that a C.V. is an integral part of a person’s reputation.

Employers must therefore remember to always act in good faith in all dealings with former employees and an unjustified refusal of an employer to a former employee to provide a letter of reference may be evidence of bad faith which can result in a condemnation in damages.

Moreover, even when an employer has reasonable grounds not to issue a letter of recommendation, the employer has an obligation to provide the employee with a certificate indicating the nature and duration of their employment.

Kristina Lesik practices in civil and commercial litigation at Spiegel Sohmer by regularly pleading in all levels of the Courts of Quebec. For further information, contact Kristina Lesik at 514-875-7897.