Havre Job Service Employers'
Committee Employer Resource Guide
Practical Guidelines for Giving References
In situations in which information should be provided and in cases in which an employer chooses to provide information, the following practical guidelines are offered:
ü Make clear that the reference information you are giving is confidential and must be treated that way.
ü If at all possible, obtain the written permission of the former employee before providing the reference. The best approach is to advise the former employee of exactly what you intend to say, and to obtain the employee’s consent to disclose that statement.
ü Provide only reference information that relates directly to the former employee’s job and his/her performance of its responsibilities. Don’t pass on conjecture or speculation that did not form the basis of a termination notice.
ü Do not make vague, subjective statements. Stick to specific provable facts.
ü Be sure you have the facts – not suspicions – before giving out negative or sensitive information.
ü Be concerned with what happened while the person was employed by you – not what the person did before you hired.
ü Rigidly enforce a policy that references shall be given only by select members of the human resources staff. However, ensure that a person with first-hand knowledge of the employee’s performance prepares the initial draft of the response, and have that response carefully reviewed by the person designated to oversee and provide all company responses.
ü Always provide the reasons or background events that substantiate any negative conclusionary statements you make. If an employee’s objection to the termination is memorialized, convey the objection to future employers as well.
ü Never respond to requests for personal information “off the record”
ü Do not respond to telephonic reference requests – ask the caller to request the reference in writing, using company letterhead, and stating in the letter that the subject of the reference request has applied for the job. Why be so formal? Because the phony reference check by a private investigator or a personal friend of the employee is an unpleasant reality. Always demand a written request and give a written response.
ü Do not answer hypothetical questions about a former employee. (Never answer the question “Would you rehire?
ü Maintain records in personnel files documenting who contacted you, what questions were asked and how you answered them.
your department has a policy concerning references, it should be followed. One
way to achieve a balance between providing helpful information and incurring
potential liability, is to limit reference information given to the following:
Verification that the employee worked
full-time or part-time for the department during a stated time period.
A description of the position held.
Verification that the employee achieved
a given salary range.
This limited amount of information
makes it difficult for employers to confirm job-related information or to
prevent negligent hiring. It is in the best interest of all employers to adopt a
structured procedure on providing information given through reference checks.
Legal exposure may be limited by a common law doctrine known as “qualified
privilege.” “Qualified privilege” protects employers who reveal
information about a former or present employee to another employer. The doctrine
provides that it is in the best interest of employers and of the public to
permit an exchange of information about employees. Because this is a qualified
privilege, the following conditions need to be met.
The information must be given in good
faith. Give only factual information.
The information must be limited to the
inquiry. Do not provide information not specifically requested.
Do not talk about the employee’s
personal life unless it interferes with the job. Limit comments specifically to
The information must be given during
the proper time and in the proper manner.
The information must be communicated to
the proper parties.
The information requested must be
related to the requirements of the job.
In addition, the following suggestions
will also help protect you:
Do not allow a personal dislike of or
anger toward an employee lead you to make damaging statements.
Do not make defamatory statements.
(They defame someone.)
Do not abuse qualified privilege.
Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with
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