What info can an employer give out when called for a reference?

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What info can an employer give out when called for a reference?

Asked on August 11, 2011 Florida

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Certain remarks can be made that are truthful but not necessarily disparaging. A former employer's negative response to a prospective employer's inquiry is not automatically actionable (assuming this to be the case). The law provides what is known as "qualified privilege" for answers to pre-employment inquiries. This exists so that companies will be free to answer pre-employment questions fully without fearing a lawsuit. Accordingly, a statement of opinion or fact is not illegal. So for example, "John Doe is the worst employee I've ever had the misfortune to manage" is not illegal.

That all having been said, in such a circumstance, a former employee can sue for willful or reckless remarks made by an employer/former employer. In other words, statements that are false and grossly untrue are actionable. This is called defamation, which is a false statement that is knowingly made and communicated to a third-party which results in a financial/personal loss to the subject of the remarks.  for example, "John Doe is the worst employee I've ever managed. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that he has a drinking problem".  


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