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Avoiding negative employee reference litigation

Employers must consistently monitor their employees in order to ensure that they are productive, safe and upholding the standards set by the company. All employees are human and therefore will misstep from time to time. Most of the time, these missteps will serve as learning opportunities. However, sometimes severe missteps will result in termination or other disciplinary action.

When an employee leaves his or her position, either voluntarily or as a result of termination, he or she may seek an employment position elsewhere. When individuals apply for new employment positions, they are often required to disclose the name and contact information of their previous employers. If a business calls your business in order to seek a reference for a former employee, please be careful before you say anything negative.

It is obviously important to avoid lying to an inquiring business. If the employee that the business is inquiring about is a thief who also harasses other employees, you should obviously not tell that business that the individual in question is a model employee. However, if you disclose certain private information, speak falsely or otherwise place yourself in a compromising position, your former employee may sue you.

It is therefore important to speak with your attorney about avoiding litigation related to negative employee references before you are ever compelled to give one. Your attorney can explain the law and its nuances so that you can avoid being sued for defamation, negligent representation and other claims. Taking the time to learn the boundaries of the law now may save you money and effort later.

Source: Findlaw Free Enterprise, “How To: Avoid Getting Sued for a Negative Employee Reference,” Christopher Coble, April 20, 2015

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