Giving Employee References...
When another business calls and asks you for a reference concerning a former employee, you need to be especially careful concerning the information you give out. Former employees can sue you if your references prevent them from obtaining a job. Employers can be liable or defamation, which may be called "slander" if the communication is verbal and for "libel" if the communication is written.
Awards to the former employee winning a defamation suit may include money for lost earnings, mental anguish, and pain and suffering.
Since employment references are important when making a hiring decision, the law will usually protect an employer who is acting in good faith and discloses information that is true to a potential employer. An employer not acting in good faith makes false statements or gives information obtained from somewhere else and has not made an effort to make sure the information is true. Employers who act in good faith are free to state facts or opinions which would otherwise be defamatory.
Never include accusations, suspicions or exaggerations in your reference. If an employee was dismissed because of theft or drugs, make sure you have the records to back this up.
Most former employees will often only state if the former employee would be considered for rehire by them or will give a written statement of service that would include:
- The date of hire or on which the employee started work
- The employee's positions or history of positions
- A job description of all positions held.
Some useful tips:
- Develop a consistent policy for job references. This should include what information would be provided and who is authorized to provide references.
- Communicate this policy to all your staff.
- Always ask the person seeking the reference or statement if they have the former employee's written permission.
- Do not volunteer any extra information.
- Ask if the communication is being recorded.
- Keep a reference log and document all information given.
- Be consistent and provide the same type of information for all former employees.