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May Employers Give Negative Job References?

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2023 | Employment Law

When an employee is searching for a new job, a positive reference from a former employer can make all the difference. But what happens when a previous employer decides to give a negative reference

Is this legal?

May employers give negative job references?

Employers may give negative job references. However, they should be careful and precise about what they say. They have a legal obligation to provide accurate information about former employees, and may not make false or defamatory statements about former employees.

Here’s what employers can do to best avoid potential lawsuits/claims.

Be factual.

Employers should only provide factual information in their job references to avoid the risk of defamation. For example, an employer may say an employee was frequently late or had attendance issues. However, they should not make subjective statements or provide opinions about the employee’s character or abilities.

Only give job-related details.

When giving job references, employers should only provide job-related details. This means they should avoid discussing personal details about a former employee, such as religion, disability, health issues, race or age. It’s also vital to avoid discussing the ethnic origin, marital status or sexual orientation of former employees.

Ensure equality.

Treating all former employees equally is not only an ethical practice but can also help employers avoid legal claims. An employer risks being accused of discrimination by providing a negative reference for one employee while giving a positive reference for another employee in the same situation.

Employers should have a consistent policy for providing job references for all former employees. This policy should be based on objective criteria such as attendance records, job performance, and skills, rather than personal opinions or biases.

Employers can legally give negative job references, but they need to be careful about what they say. If you’re an employer and unsure about the legal implications of a job reference, it may be a good idea to seek legal assistance.