Q&A Former boss made negative comments about my mental health in a job reference. Is this discrimination?

Q:        I am bipolar. I was made redundant in 2021 as the firm where I was an IT project manager suffered during the pandemic. I had a good rapport with my former employer, so was shocked to discover privately from his PA that he had given negative comments about my mental health in a reference requested by the firm I was recently interviewed by.

Despite the interview going well and there being an intimation that I was in the running, I did not get the job. After requesting feedback, I was told there were other candidates with wider and more relevant experience than me, which could be true. However, this leaves me in a difficult position for getting another job. If I was still working for the old firm, I am sure it would be a case of discrimination! What can I do?

A:        There is an obligation to give a truthful reference. At this point in time, however, you are speculating. Did the prospective employer actually take up the reference? If you are convinced they did, then you can make a Data Access request to the new firm for a copy of the reference and any notes of telephone discussions concerning you with your former employer.

If personal sensitive medical information was disclosed without your consent, then there may be data breach issues. If the reference is inaccurate and or has disclosed information that they would not have disclosed about someone without your mental health issues, then there may be grounds for considering a claim against either employer.

If the reference was misleading or inaccurate and led to you suffering a loss, you may alternatively be able to take your employer to the county court to make a claim for damages. To help you decide whether there is a case to answer and, if so, which is your best course of action, you should seek legal advice about your position.

This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194 


James Denton

James Denton


Solicitor in our Civil Litigation team in the Oswestry and Wrexham offices.