Is An Employer Required to Provide Employement References?
Employers are not under any obligation to provide employment references for former employees. Providing employment references may leave former employers open to legal liability from the former employee and the prospective employer.
For example, if the employer makes disparaging comments about a former employee and as a result, the employee is not hired for the new position, the former employee may seek to sue the former employer for defamation or slander. Likewise, if the former employer fails to disclose the former employee’s behavioral or disciplinary issues to the prospective employer and the prospective employer relies on this information to hire the employee, the former employer may face lawsuits from the new employer for any crimes or torts committed by the employee.
Invasion of Privacy
Employers also must take care not to reveal information about the employee that could give rise to an invasion of privacy claim. For example, employers may not disclose private family or medical information about an employee. A private citizen may state a claim for invasion of privacy where another has disclosed information that is not of general interest to the public, and where such disclosure would be offensive to the reasonable person.
Thus many employers now have policies to only provide basic employment verification information about an employee, such as the duration of employment, position title, salary and other basic information.
Employers desiring to give more information about an employee’s performance and qualifications may limit their potential liability if they do so, based on verifiable facts. For example, if the employee received a promotion or was part of a disciplinary proceeding, the employer may provide this information so long as they have evidence, such as personnel records. Also, some states have enacted laws to protect employers who provide references based on credible information from civil lawsuits.