IT is the practice, though the obligation is A moral and not legal, to give a character or reference to domestic servants. Such a communication is spoken of in law as privileged, which moans that, if made in good faith, and without malice, and in confidence to a third person, no action for Blander or libel can be brought by the servant though it contain matter which is defamatory. An emplojer can, therefore, without fear of the consequences, state with fairness the true facts he knows about a servant without undue emphasis on what is unfavourable and without reckless exaggeration. A deliberate lie; – for instance, the statement that A.B. Has been found stealing money or has been discharged for drunkenness when, in fact, he has left the masters service voluntarily or been discharged for some other reason – is clear evidence of malice which destroys the masters privilege and allows the servant to maintain an action. It is not malice, however, for the master to inform a prospective employer of damaging facts which have come to his (the masters) notice subsequent to the servants discharge. A married woman who knowingly gives an untrue and defamatory character to a servant whereby he is elandered or libelled renders her husband liable to an action.
Knowingly to give a false or fictitious character or to personate a master is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of £20 or three months imprisonment with hard labour. To forge a character with intent to deceive is an offence triable on indictment.
When a master makes false statements about his servants character and the servant robs his new employer afterwards, the latter has a right to sue the master for deceit.
The death of the master or the death of the servant terminates the contract and apart from any custom the payment of wages is determined on the day of death. In regard to domestic servants it is customary to pay them up to the end of the month.