R.I. High Court Throws Out Lawsuit Based on Bad Job Reference

January 24, 2007

Rhode Island’s highest court this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by a licensed nurse who sued her former boss over a bad job reference.

Paula Kevorkian said Judith Glass, her former supervisor at the Pawtuxet Village Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, wrote a defamatory and malicious reference when she described Kevorkian as having “unacceptable work practice habits.”

But the state Supreme Court threw out the case, saying Glass was qualified as Kevorkian’s boss to criticize her work performance. The court also said Kevorkian failed to prove the statement was motivated by malice or ill will, a necessary standard in order for the case to proceed.

Kevorkian was suspended from work for three days in April 1994 for allegedly failing to give patients their necessary medications, according to the court’s 12-page ruling.

Kevorkian later resigned, and contacted a placement agency for nurses about two years later. The agency contacted Glass for a reference, and Glass sent back a reference form stating that she would not rehire Kevorkian because of “unacceptable work practice habits.”

Kevorkian began to suspect she had received a bad reference after prospective employers who interviewed her failed to offer her a job, the court said.

She sued Glass after she learned what she had written.

Stanley Pupecki, an attorney for Glass, said the court made the right decision and that there was no evidence that his client intended any ill will against Kevorkian.

A lawyer for Kevorkian did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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