Is It Illegal For Employers To Give Bad References When Responding To Employment Reference Checks?

When it comes to employment reference checks, state laws won’t protect you in most cases.
By: Victor Williams
April 7, 2009 - PRLog -- Every state is different.  The common theme to most laws is that the employer must give the reference in “good faith”.  Meaning, employers should not say negative things about you unless it was true and documented.  Most laws protect the employer from civil litigation, not you the employee if they violate it.

Employment references should be like the information reported from a credit reporting agency.  If you paid your bills on time, they should report that information as such.  If you paid your bills on time and they report anything other than that, the information would not be accurate.  The real question is, even if employment laws said employers couldn’t give a bad reference, how many people go through stop signs every day.  That law is very clear in every state!  However, most people don’t make a complete stop, roll through the sign or ignore it all together.  

The next issue is, did the person who gave the reference violate company policy when saying something about you?  More than likely, your employment references aren’t following company policy or state law when giving out information.

The simple fact is, if you want to protect yourself from a bad reference, you need to know what your references are saying about you.  If you find out that your former employer is saying things about you that you do not agree with, you have remedies.  

The fastest way to cure a former supervisor giving you a bad reference would be to contact the Human Resource department and ask them to verify the company policy on reference checks.  Most Human Resource departments will tell you they verify your dates of employment, title, confirm ending salary.  Ask them how they would handle a supervisor in the company that is deviating from the company policy.  Depending on what is being said, it might be best for you to take this information to a local attorney and get a legal opinion on your case.  Having proof is the smoking gun!  Finding a lawyer to take your case becomes a lot easier once you have proof that your old boss is giving you a bad reference.  The best way to protect yourself from a bad employment reference check is to know what your former employer is saying about you.

For information about laws in your state about employment references, please email

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