I found a recent case to be a peculiar example of how Title VII is not a “general civility code” in the workplace. In Butto v. CJKant Resource Group, LLC, a male executive was terminated after complaining about being required to arrange female escorts for his married supervisor and perform other activities to facilitate his supervisor’s infidelity. It seems like a reasonable complaint, right? But does that mean it was protected under Title VII?
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Many savvy employers know that a neutral reference policy – in which you confirm a former employee’s position, dates of employment and (maybe) salary – is typically the safest choice for avoiding a defamation claim. After all, if you don’t say much (and what you say is not negative), you can’t be sued. Of course, if you choose to say more and what you say (even if unflattering) is true, then you can also avoid liability because truth is an absolute defense to a defamation claim. But what one employer learned, to its dismay, is that you can still be sued, even if what you say is truthful.
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