Giving A Reference on a Former Employee

Mar 8 | , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recommendations for what to tell to potential employers

When an employee leaves your organization, you have to determine what you will say if a potential employer contacts you for a reference. Do you simply provide dates of employment, job title and salary; or do you go into more detail? Being prepared for what to tell potential employers will make the process easier and will help to avoid potential litigation situations. Here are some recommendations for giving references on a former employee:

Establish a Reference Check Policy

Develop a company policy on reference checks. Determine what information you will provide and what information you will refrain from discussing.

Decide if you will accept written reference requests, phone calls or both.

Appoint one person who is in a management capacity with your business (preferably someone with experience or training in Human Resources) to answer all reference requests.

Before enacting your policy, be sure to have it reviewed by your attorney.

This resource provides a sample company employment verification policy that you can use as a guide.

Employee Signed Authorization

Before an employee leaves, you should require a signed release granting you permission to give reference information to potential employers. This agreement will help to protect you from lawsuits.

If you did not require a signed authorization form before your employee left your employment, require any potential employer who asks for a reference to provide a copy of a signed authorization form from the former employee before providing any information.

Tell the Truth

When giving references on a former employee, tell the truth. Keep your answers brief, do not embellish any of the facts, and do not answer any questions that you do not feel comfortable addressing.

Leave any personal opinions about the employee out of the discussion. Avoid any comments that could be perceived as spiteful or discriminatory.

Check the Laws

Although there are no federal laws that restrict what can and cannot be disclosed in a reference check, most states do have laws. Be sure to check with your state labor department for labor laws pertaining to what employers can and cannot disclose about a former employee.

When in Doubt, Seek Legal Advice

If you’re unsure, seek legal advice before giving references on a former employee, especially if the employee left on less than favorable circumstances. This could include an employee who exhibited violent behavior in the workplace, or an employee who was using company computers to view inappropriate or pornographic content, or an employee who committed a crime.

Dive Deeper

Here are some credible resources to dive deeper into reference checking:

How to Respond to a Reference Check Request 

How to Conduct a Background Check on New Employees

Note: This information is for reference purposes only and does not take the place of legal advice. Always seek the counsel of an attorney before implementing any labor and employee-related policies.

This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.