I have read that my former employer is not supposed to discuss my employment except in the concept of work references and employment history, of which these conversations were not.
Not sure where you are getting this...there is no federal or state law that provides this. Frankly, such a law would likely violate the US and State Constitutions. The government can not pass a law prohibiting a person or company from sharing information about another person or company. Such a law would improperly violate the protections against "freedom of speech"
Now...having said that MANY companies will have such policies. That is, despite the fact that a company can freely discuss the reasons for termination of employment, and could share their opinion of the performance of a particular employee, very few companies will do this. Again, by choice, not because of some law or regulation.
The reason for this is tied to the legal doctrine of defamation.
Defamation is defined as a false statement of fact that harms the reputation of the victim.
If a company makes false claims
of fact about an employee, they can be held liable for this defamation.
For this reason, many companies will choose do not make ANY claims about reasons for employee termination. Again, this is a policy decision that many companies make. And if they choose to violate that policy? IT would not be a basis for a lawsuit.
Now, in your case, IF this company (or an employee of this company) provided false information about you to another person or company and that false information harmed your reputation (for example, made it more difficult to obtain employment)?? Then you would have good case for defamation. You could sue the individual and/or the company to recover for the income lost because of their defamation.
So you may very well have recourse...but not because of the fact they made a statement...it would be IF they made a false statement of fact or facts about you that harmed your reputation.
Please let me know if you have more questions. Happy to help if I can. Otherwise please rate the answer so I may receive credit for my work