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Concerns with Giving References to Former Employees

Oct 27, 2022

You get the following phone call. How do you respond?

Caller: “John Smith used to work for your company. Can you tell me if he did a good job?” -> ASK THE EMPLOYMENT LAWYER

How do you respond to calls requesting reference checks for former employees ? Do you give an honest review, or do you decline to comment?

If an employee did a good job, its understandable that you would want to praise them and help them find new employment. But what if you don’t have anything positive to say? What if the employee was terrible, made a disaster out of the department, and was disliked by his co-workers? Do you save the new employee a headache and give him your honest review?

In general, Employers should refrain from giving a reference (positive or negative) for a former employee. If the employer provides a negative reference, it could cause the new company not to hire your former employee, and could expose Florida businesses to a tortious interference with a business relationship claim. Defamation claims are also common.

It is a much better practice to have policy that provides the company will provide a neutral reference- the dates of employment and last job title only. This way the new employer receives a confirmation that the employee actually worked for your company, while also avoiding a potential tortious interference or defamation lawsuit.

Have you been in this situations before? How does your company handle reference checks?

Not legal advice- for educational purposes only.

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