A recent ruling by the California Supreme Court has increased concern among employers over whether to provide recommendations for former employees seeking employment elsewhere.
The court ruled that a former employer could be held liable for giving a positive reference and not disclosing misconduct that could physically endanger others. The ruling makes it clear that employers should be concerned not only about defamation suits by former employees but also about potential liability to others injured by a former employee at a new place of employment.
The Business Journal Forum asks:
Do you readily provide employment recommendations for former employees?
DISC Distributing Corp.
“Yes and no. What we do give is name, rank and serial number. We will give the person’s employment dates, their position and confirm wage information. That is really as much information as we will give. This has been our consistent company policy since our inception. We feel it’s necessary to protect ourselves from liability.”
Executive Vice President and COO
“As an employer, it is one of the problems we run into you’re already afraid of being sued. We just state, ‘Yes, the person is subject to re-employment,’ or ‘No, the person is not subject to re-employment.’ Employers are afraid to give any more information. It’s a sad statement of society that it’s so litigious that we can’t provide any more information than that.”
Brian J. Appel
Appel & Associates
“Yes, I do. When I call someone for a reference on a potential employee, I would hope that the person would answer my questions truthfully, so that I can make my own decision as to whether the potential employee is a good fit. Remember, it’s in both parties’ interest for it to be a good fit, and no one is served if decisions are made based on an inaccurate understanding or impression.”
Vice President and General Manager
The Regent Beverly Wilshire
“We only give out the date of hire and the position that they held. We don’t give out letters of recommendation. We’ve had that policy for many years. Someone’s performance is a very subjective thing, and if they were terminated, there’s a liability issue there. To avoid any possibility of a lawsuit, we only give the basic information.”
The Warner Group
“I think we have been willing to provide professional references. We’d still give references today, in spite of the recent ruling we feel it helps our former employees.”