A service letter is a letter issued by a former employer stating an employee’s dates of employment; position held; and reasons for separation of employment. There are two uses employees typically make of service letters. First, they are used to document or confirm a segment of the employee’s work history or to use to qualify for unemployment benefits. More frequently, however, service letter are requested by employees who have left employment involuntarily and are considering some form of legal action against the employer and want to take the letter to an attorney. Texas has a service letter statute on the books that purports to require the employer to provide an employee the truthful reason for discharge. It provides that:
A corporation, company, or individual may give, on application from a discharged employee or a person desiring to employ the employee, a written truthful statement of the reason for the discharge. The statement may not be used as the cause for a civil or criminal action for libel against the person who furnishes the statement.
The Texas Attorney General has a long-standing opinion that Texas’ service letter statute is unconstitutional. Consequently, Texas employers are under no obligation to issue, under the service letter statute, a written explanation of the reasons for an employee’s discharge.
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