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What does It Mean When Someone is Blacklisted?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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When someone is blacklisted (or blackballed), it means that he or she is put on a list of individuals and organizations which have been singled out as deserving of some sort of denial or punishment, with the assumption that they deserve such treatment because of their behavior. For example, in some industries, blacklisting of bad employees is common, and once an employee is blacklisted, it is impossible to find employment in that industry. The legality of the action varies, depending on the situation; in some cases it is perfectly acceptable, whereas in other instances, it is viewed as discrimination.

The origins of the blacklist lie in the merchant community. Historically, when people became bankrupt, they were added to a list kept by neighborhood merchants, who would deny credit and services to bankrupts. Sometimes such lists were publicly posted, adding to the shame and humiliation of bankruptcy. This list came to be known colloquially as a blacklist, and over time the concept spread more generally to include any sort of list of proscribed individuals.

Blacklists are used to deny entrance to social clubs, restaurants, performance venues, stores, and other facilities, often with the justification that people are blackballed for illegal activity or causing trouble. Since private businesses retain the right to refuse service in many regions of the world, this type of list is not illegal, although a list which included a large number of people from a particular social, ethnic, or religious group could raise eyebrows.

Employee blacklisting is of more ambiguous legality. In some cases, someone is blackballed due to discriminatory practices, as most notably happened with the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s. In these cases, the employee could have grounds for a lawsuit. Often, such lists are informal rather than explicit, created through exchanges of information between people in the industry so that it is more difficult to prove that such a list really does exist.

Blackballing for financial reasons is also legal, on the same grounds that businesses can refuse services. Someone who writes bad checks, for example, could be blackballed from a store, and in some communities, store owners exchange information with each other, creating a list which covers all of the questionable people in the community. Services at banks and other financial institutions can also be denied to people on a blacklist, as long as the organization can prove that the financial circumstances of the person in question are grounds for denial of services.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1001984 — On Aug 08, 2019

To all the people above, get a good attorney and sue for defamation of character: libel and slander. No person can say or write negative things about you because it is against the law to do so. The more people who file lawsuits for defamatory black listing or slander, then these jerks will think twice in the future.

By anon974292 — On Oct 16, 2014

I worked for an HMO for 20 years. Great evaluations and even awards. Then a new young man gets hired because his family member is the VP. He decides to cut all people in management and replace them with his friends (not uncommon). I was the only one not given severance. I sued this person, the lawsuit is on the internet, now after 6,000 applications and almost five years with no job offers. I've been blacklisted for sure, because companies look up your facebook, twitter, and Google to find the dirt before hiring. If there is a lawsuit, they won't touch you.

I hired an attorney and had to appeal, and they take the case on contingency with no money up front. But I now have two full pages of a lawsuit on Google (can't get off my name unless a court order issued and then Google will remove your name).

I have an MBA in health care administration, and a BS in Business Administration and nothing. I have two young children (2 and 9). I used to make $106,000 and now I make nothing, get $130 in food stamps, and WIC. I won't even have the money to pay the property taxes this year, so I might not have my home by next year.

The two guys, which include HR manager that helped were demoted, but still work there. Even fast food won't touch me, and state and federal jobs have denied me. I haven't found one place that will hire me. That's the dedication for working for a company for 20 years. I entered online law school last January, but even receptionist jobs in law firms don't call. This, my friends, is being blacklisted.

By anon939281 — On Mar 12, 2014

I've been out of work for 10 years. I can't seem to even get a call back. This is really starting to stink.

By anon357655 — On Dec 05, 2013

How can I put someones name on the blacklist? I have finished his house and he has not paid me (R25000.00) because of a simple disagreement between me and his wife about a washing machine tap!

By anon355967 — On Nov 21, 2013

Is it possible to be blacklisted from a loan company, causing you to lose your job because you're being sued?

By anon349513 — On Sep 26, 2013

Wow! I am either paranoid, and or I have been blacklisted, and I promise I will get to the bottom of it. I am more than qualified to find a good job. I have a BS degree, majoring in law. I find it odd that I have submitted more than 18 resumes in the past two weeks, some in the legal industry, and have only gotten one call back from a law office. I have so much experience, it’s disgusting to think that a former employer is keeping me from employment. I never did anything illegal and never would. I am not going to become a statistic and be unemployed and have to deal with all that comes from that -- not with a BS degree and a brain, not to mention a personality.

I almost view it as defamation of character, which could turn into a lawsuit if one is constantly suffering in the community in which they live, and especially not getting a job. In order to find out who is defaming, and/or slandering one, one has to hire a PI, get your proof (or my proof, if that is what is going on) and then take it to an attorney who will fight for you. Truth, my friends. Truth.

I also find it wrong for employers to do a credit check on a prospective employee. I do. I think they do it because if one does not have good credit, then the prospective employer will view the prospective employee as being "bad". Please. It's ridiculous. Face it, some people don't have good credit. That does not mean the person who has lousy credit is a low life, or is going to steal. That is wrong, and one is being wronged if they can't find employment due to bad credit. Here is a thought: if the person who has bad credit can't get a job, then how are they supposed to improve their credit? It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

Some people think that me thinking I am blacklisted could be paranoia, but if you were in my shoes you wouldn't think that. There is a difference between being paranoid and being smart and aware. Big difference. I know I have been bullied out of employment before. I know that. Who are these people who have the power to create a blacklist? Who are they? They probably make $100,000 a year, and sit there and tell lies about a creditable person, because they are threatened by them, and their possible success. The truth will come out, and we will see who’s laughing.

By anon340277 — On Jul 01, 2013

We hired an actor by the name of Rob Quin. He has stolen thousands of dollars from us. Please, if you hire this guy, do a background check on him.

By anon334132 — On May 10, 2013

It doesn't always make sense to be blacklisted because of a lawsuit an employee brings against an organization due to discrimination and/or harassment, particularly, if these allegations are/were true.

Don't people/employers ever ask potential employees what happened, as opposed to always asking and taking at face value what the organization has to say about the employee?

By anon325311 — On Mar 15, 2013

How do you clear your name from blacklisting?

By anon283238 — On Aug 03, 2012

There is not enough information relating to this topic today. Thanks to all for their comments.

By anon283237 — On Aug 03, 2012

You know, I didn't know what the words blackballing or blacklisting were until I experienced it for myself. People are very eager to see one be destroyed to the point of utter death. I must admit -- at first I thought I was developing a sense of paranoia because I felt I was getting stared at a lot by people, but never approached or told, "Hey, you did this. Leave!" or, "Hey, can I ask what is going on with this situation?" Honestly, I didn't know there was a situation. I kept going to the store and restaurants minding my business as usual because I didn't feel there was a problem. Also, like any human being such as everyone else, I still have to eat, sleep and live, not to mention I have little children who shouldn't have to feel or see something so wicked (eventually, they pick up on it because kids are smart).

I have been known to call people out who are in "high positions" and who are, in return, in bed with everyone else in the community who have the ability to hurt people in unimaginable ways, but also I believe in a higher source and God is real and good. Still, I haven't found out why I am being blacklisted and don't think I want to know, either. Would it, in the end, really matter if I tried to explain it to anyone who was crazy enough to follow what rumors were spread from the start? We live in a generation of crowd following zombies who do what people tell them to do (knowing it is humanly and morally wrong). Regardless, it has been mind opening for me. I have asked a lot of questions and researched a lot and realized the government is truly playing tricks on people and technology is one of those things that truly is going to destroy people.

Be watchful for manipulated surveillance technology. Soon people will put petty things aside and realize that there is a much bigger problem here.

By anon264480 — On Apr 28, 2012

@Anon 262795: I can tell you from experience that you are absolutely wrong. I am a former federal employee. The agency I was with has a substantial amount of false information in their records about me, including false criminal charges which I have never been prosecuted, or for which I was ever disciplined. This information has been reported as fact to other agencies.

Furthermore, there is information in a file directing the agency never to consider me for employment again. I am sitting at home without employment because I cannot find work and cannot afford an attorney.

By anon262795 — On Apr 21, 2012

There is no shame in being blacklisted, blackballed, shunned, banished from the human race. It is only the guilty who feel bad knowing they've been locked out for whatever they thought, did, wrote, spoke, felt, acted upon.

If one has not done illegal things, save for defending against bullies, has not deliberately or knowingly offended anyone, or knowingly hurt someone else's feelings, then there is no reason to feel guilty or deserving of such treatment. If one doesn't practice deceit, cheat in any way, commit a crime of any form or live dishonestly, she/he has nothing to fear.

As a disabled man since 1991, finding work has been consistently denied me. I wrote books on how to prevent school failure and juvenile crime, only to be served with many forms of threats (e.g., jury duty). I desired to serve others and give my innate gifts and talents for the betterment of humanity. Instead, I got shunned, denied and blackballed, although there's no solid proof that this has happened, save for the years of me seeking employment and help getting employed, with not one interview yet.

It is impossible to bring peace to the hearts of those in fear and who choose to destroy another man (or woman) who has found life much tougher than they did. Courage is the key. The Christ said “if the world hates you, don't fear it. It hated Me first."

It is okay to die hated, alone, unloved, banished. The reason is what the Hindus call "Karma" (causes and effects, action, reaction). I call it gravity: what goes up, comes down for now. Hopefully feeling at peace with being rejected becomes okay in the feelings, though. Courage to endure builds. Strength comes from what no man can kill, murder, destroy: the soul (life force that dwells in every single living being). Do not care if the world hates, rebukes, denies, rejects; it has always done this to many good people way back in recorded history.

The impersonal "they" cannot ever kill, murder, destroy one's soul. That belongs to the source of all Goodness. Goodness is found within each one of us.

By icecream17 — On Feb 14, 2011

Bhutan- You know I wanted to say that companies can also be blacklisted. You can check for blacklisted companies on the internet.

They will have a blacklisted email because they resorted to illegal spamming and as a result became blacklisted.

These companies will also have a blacklisted IP, a blacklisted domain, and blacklisted servers so that they cannot send out any content.

Companies really have to have your permission in order to send you an email. You will notice that there is always a disclaimer at the bottom of the email that states that you granted permission to have the email sent to you because you joined a mailing list.

By Bhutan — On Feb 13, 2011

Subway11 - You know that is a hard reality when dealing with a foreclosure. People don’t realize how hard the foreclosure is on their credit and how getting blacklisted because of their credit means that they will have to rebuild their credit little by little and manage their cash much better.

Some people also seek prepaid credit cards. These credit cards are secured with another account that always contains the same balance as the limit on the credit card.

This way the bank can seize the bank account for payment if a payment is not made. This also allows the person to rebuild their credit as well. These cards usually have a very low credit limit of a few hundred dollars or so.

By subway11 — On Feb 11, 2011

SurfNTurf - It makes sense for a business to refuse to hire a person that filed a lawsuit against a former employer.

I also think that people are blacklisted for financial reasons as well. With the rise of foreclosures many people are finding themselves in this camp.

Having a foreclosure on your credit report ruins your credit. In fact, most people will not be able to buy another home for at least four years. The problem also becomes complicated when renting an apartment because most rentals require a credit check.

People that think that they might go into foreclosure should try to save as much money as possible because they may not have the credit to rent another place to live and will have to pay cash for multiple months of rent at a time.

I heard of a caller on the Dave Ramsey show that did just that. He was losing his house in foreclosure and saved up enough money to pay for a year of rent at an apartment.

The money he saved was no where near what he needed to save his house but it was perfect for the rental. This was the only way that he could avoid being blacklisted because of his credit.

By surfNturf — On Feb 10, 2011

Cfmom- You are right. Social blacklisting happens all the time in children’s peer relationships. I wanted to add that many times a person will be blacklisted from working in an industry if they have filed a lawsuit against a company while working there.

Many companies are fearful of litigation and the fact that a person already sued a former employer will signal to other companies that the person would be a risky person to hire.

The person may have had legitimate reasons for the lawsuit, but it doesn’t matter. Businesses in that industry will shy away from the person requiring the person to find work in a different industry.

By cfmom — On Feb 09, 2011

Kids and teenagers do this every day; they just may not know what it is called. They often excluded someone based on all kinds of issues, including how they look and dress. Sometimes it is for legitimate reasons however, like maybe they do not get along with others, or they are "stuck up." Either way, the concept is the same. They are blacklisted from the social atmosphere.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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