If I’ve been asked to provide an employment reference for a friend who has never worked for the company I own, can I so do legally?

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If I’ve been asked to provide an employment reference for a friend who has never worked for the company I own, can I so do legally?

I understand the moral/ethical issue at stake with saying my friend has worked for me when has not so Ill get that on the table up front. Can I legally say John Doe has worked for me when he has not and provide a fictitious period of employment, salary and eligibility for rehire, etc? My guess is that only if the employer is the gov or they run a background check that runs there SSN that providing the reference would go undetected however Id like to get a legal opinion. Because my company is legit I see little or no legal option from the prospective employer.

Asked on August 10, 2011 California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Practically, you may be right--it may be very unlikely that you would be caught in your falsehood, for the reasons you indicate.

Morally, you are aware of the problems.

Legally, you need to be aware  that if it turns out that you are discovered by your friend's new employer, you could face substantial liability:

1) If they would not have hired him but for your reference, you could be sued his wages to date, plus any training costs, benefits, etc.

2) If he affirmatively causes harm--e.g. steals data or supplies, harms a client's business, resulting in liability to his employer, can't deliver on a contract, resulinting in lost wages, damages company property, commits some form of illegal discrimiantion or harassment (e.g. sexual harassment), etc.--and it surfaces that you lied to get him hired, you could potentially be sued for those costs or damages, too.


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