Employers increasingly may feel that they are caught between a rock and a hard place when asked to give an employment reference about a former employee.
On the one hand, employers are reluctant to provide information to a former employees prospective employer out of fear that the employee might file a defamation lawsuit over a negative reference. On the other hand, employers risk liability for failing to disclose negative information about misconduct in cases in which the employee later commits an act of violence at the workplace of his new employer.
Here are some tips for giving references:
- Designate one manager knowledgeable about giving references to respond to all requests.
- Do not respond to telephone requests. Ask the caller to request the reference in writing, using company letterhead, indicating the subject of the request has applied for a job at that company.
- Unless you know for certain that the former employee engaged in violent conduct while employed by you, or that person has signed a waiver authorizing you to provide information to a prospective employer, provide only the former employees position and dates of employment. You also may want to provide a statement that no negative inferences should be drawn from the absence of other information.
- If you disclose additional information under the circumstances discussed above, respond in writing and keep a record of all requests.
- Provide only factual information about performance or behavior. Do not make editorial comments about personality or discuss unsubstantiated rumors or suspicions.
William E. Adams
Get it in writing
Pennsylvania law mandates that certain agreements be made in writing. They include:
- A contract for the sale of real estate;
- A real estate lease for a term of more than three years;
- A guaranty of, or agreement to pay, anothers debt;
- A contract for the sale of goods for a price in excess of $500; and
- A contract for the sale of personal property (other than goods or securities) for a price in excess of $5,000.
If any of the foregoing contracts are not in writing, the person or business entering into the contract runs the risk that it will not be able to enforce the agreement in court.
Eileen R. Sisca
Law briefs is written by attorneys from Pittsburgh-based law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin and Mellott P.C.