What Can I Say When Asked for References on a Violent Ex-Employee?

A Kantola Learning Minute

An employer asks what she can say if someone calls to check a reference on an ex-employee who displayed a violent nature. What's the company's liability? What can and can't she say? Find out in this week's Kantola Learning Minute with Lester S. Rosen, J.D., founder of Employment Screening Resources®.

Hi, it's Les Rosen here with another Learning Minute with my friends from Kantola. Here's a question that's come in from a listener, and this may have happened to a lot of you. "What happens if I have an ex-employee who I know has a problem, in this case a violent nature. What's my liability if someone calls and asks for a reference?".

Well, let's start with the basics. If someone calls and asks you for a reference, you don't have to give a reference. You can decide to merely give the start date, end date, and the job title. On the other hand, if you say anything positive about that person but leave out the negative, then you could face legal consequences because that could be a form of misrepresentation. If you say good things and leave out the bad, some may rely upon that, and, something bad happens, you could find yourself in a lawsuit.

Now, that's the legal ramifications. Ethically you might feel compelled to mention something, but if you do mention something, instead of trying to give just an opinion try to give facts or circumstances that underly an objective statement about the person, rather than just a generalized opinion.

I hope that helps. Thank you.

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