Many employers understand the need for having a neutral reference policy (i.e., a policy whereby only dates of employments, positions held and sometimes last salary is disclosed). The policies help prevent and defend against potential defamation claims by former employees. Last week, I attended a panel discussion on Post Employment Conduct by Employers and Employees: Not the Time to Let Your Guard Down at the ABA 5th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference.
During conference, Jeffrey Shane of Allison & Taylor made an interesting presentation on the services his company provides. Allison & Taylor specializes in conducting personalized reference checks. One aspect of the company’s business is conducting reference checks on behalf of applicants who believe they are getting negative references from their prior employers and supervisors. The company boasts over 300 attorneys with whom they’ve worked and a 100 percent success rate in stopping untruthful negative references that they discover.
So, if you are an employer that has a negative reference policy, or a supervisor working at a company with such a policy, beware. If you are not following the policy, every reference check you get may not necessarily be on behalf of a genuine prospective employer and may instead be being used to establish evidence for a defamation claim. Remember, defamation claims are one of the relatively few employment law claims where supervisors can sued and held individually liable. Thumper said it best, "If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all."
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