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What are the laws for giving employment references?

Navigation:  Home > Frequently Asked Questions > What is the laws for giving employment references?


Here's the situation. You recently fired an employee because he was incompetent. In fact, he was not only incompetent, he was lazy, smelled bad, showed up late for work, and just plain creeped you out. A few weeks after you fired him, a potential employee calls you up and ask for a reference. What do you tell the potential employer? That your former co-worker was lazy, smelled bad, and creeped you out?


Wrong! Indeed, you have to be careful these days what you say to potential employers because you can run the risk of a defamation lawsuit. To prove defamation, a former employee had to show that you intentionally damaged his reputation by making harmful statements about him that you knew to be false.


So, how do you avoid a defamation suit while telling the truth. There are several options, leading with telling your former employer simply that you will not provide a reference. Failing that, stick with the facts, but be brief. Don't give an opinion such as "Tom was a lazy, no good, lousy employee." Instead, tell the potential employer that Tom showed up late for work, failed to get reports in on time, and that you had to terminate him, and then get off the phone before you say something you'll regret!


As much as you may dislike your former employee, don't go for the jugular. If you do, he or she may go for yours.

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