When an employee leaves your business, whether voluntarily or forcibly, you must decide what you will say to other employers that call asking for an employee reference. If your employee left on good terms you can work on a mutually agreeable statement or simply tell the potential employer the truth. However, if an employee was fired it can be more difficult to decide what to say.
What Should I Say to a Potential Employer When Giving a Reference?
A key element to remember is to keep it brief and stick to the facts. Some companies, by policy, will only provide the employee’s employment dates, salary and job title. If you wish to offer more, keep it brief, and make sure you tell the truth. Defamation lawsuits are real. The law does offer some protection against defamation if the information is true and documented. Therefore, keep your comments brief and factual. You do not want to focus on your opinion or your own speculations here. Providing inaccurate information, whether negative or positive, can get you into trouble. Do not bad mouth an employee or offer false flattery. Rather, focus on concrete facts that have been documented, such as examples of good or bad behavior.
What If I Cannot Offer a Good Reference?
If your employee has been fired or left under poor circumstances, it is important to warn them that your reference will not be good. They likely already know this, but it is important you let them know you will be truthful about their poor performance should another employer ask.
Many employers fear defamation suits. This is a potential risk if you know you will be offering a poor reference.
There are several ways you can avoid this:
You can protect yourself and your business by requiring all employees to sign a written release. This release gives you permission to provide information to prospective employers. In addition, it will also ensure the employee not to sue over the information you offer. You can also designate a single person to give all references. This trusted person will keep a record of every request for a reference and every response. By providing references only in writing you can control what is said and have proof of it.
Optimum Employer Solutions: Offering Reference Help
Perhaps the easiest way to handle references and protect your business from a defamation lawsuit is to seek the help of Optimum Employer Solutions. The HR experts at Optimum can provide guidance on handling employee references, including what you should or should not say. Optimum can also offer information on best interviewing and hiring practices for a more in-depth look at the process.
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