CAN YOU BE? Ë
The answer is usually yes, as long as you’re being
truthful—but be aware of your rights and responsibilities
under state law.
Most states have enacted legislation that gives employers qualifed immunity when providing information
for references. That means you’re protected from civil
liability if you’re responding in good faith—in other
words, without knowingly providing false or misleading
information or acting with malicious intent—explained
Molly Lee Kaban, an attorney with Hanson Bridgett in
But you could still face a defamation (libel or slander)
lawsuit from the worker or a negligent referral lawsuit
from that person’s prospective employer if you don’t limit
the type of information provided and make sure it was
given to the correct person, said Sage Knauft, an attorney
with Walsworth in Orange, Calif.
In states without immunity statutes, such as New York
and Massachusetts, it’s trickier to provide reference information beyond the basic dates of employment. But you
may want to seriously consider giving more details if the
reason for separation includes conduct that jeopardized
others’ safety, noted Joan Rennekamp, a human resource
consultant with Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Here are some tips from legal experts on how to avoid
liability when providing job references: h
Let’s be real: The employment relationship doesn’t always end on a positive note. So what can HR professionals lawfully say when they’re asked to
vouch for a former—perhaps even infamous—employee
as part of a reference check? Can they share that
someone was fired or a poor performer?