There is NO federal law on this; it is a state-by-state issue. Never can an employer be sued for telling the truth, "Pat was fired 15 days ago", since that's true. In many states, a former employer cannot be subject to a suit for defamation for revealing even more details to a prospective employer. A growing trend is to extend "privilege" to the former employer for anything it says about your performance, attendance, or skill. Privileged communication means no defamation suit is possible. Washington employers gained that privilege last year. Check your state rules.
Don't tell them. That's not something they have a right or obligation to know. All they are obligated to know is that you used to work at a particular job. In fact, if you tell them your work history and consent to them calling a previous employer all they can legally ask is if you used to work there. It will just look bad if you bring up dirt on any previous employer.
I think it depends on what State you live in and if that State is an "at will" employer. You can contact the State Employment Agency, they should know. An employer can rescind an offer at any time for any reason or no reason. If you incurred costs by accepting the offer (like moving or quitting a previous job) the employer may owe damages, unless you lied about not being terminated.
I don't know about in California but I heard that an employer is not allowed to tell anything about an ex employee unless used as a reference. If you just use the employer as a previous job all they are supposed to be allowed to verify is that you did work there and the dates. However if you put them down as a reference and a prospective employer calls them they can elaborate on your character as well.
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