How does one deal with a bad work reference from your last employer?
I had to quit my job because of health reasons, caused from my job. Now anywhere that I have applied for a job, (my ex employer is pissed off because I quit) I get bad to very bad work references from him. If I cannot remove that employer from my resume, I'll never get another job.
Rusty... This is a tough one, because it's all hearsay. But I think the best defense is an offense, so I think I'd be proactive in your cover letter and explain that you left your last job due to health problems and that your former employer was angry that you had to leave.
Then, I'd go on to highlight what would make you an asset to the new company and ask that they give you the benefit of the doubt and a chance to interview and convince them what you could bring to them.