Employer References in the Age of Privacy
The law around references given to prospective employers by ex-employers is changing. There is no positive obligation on an employer to provide a reference for an ex-employee. On the other hand, the failure of an employer to give a reference has been found to be a factor courts will consider when determining the period of reasonable notice in a wrongful dismissal case. There are also risks in giving references. Whatever reference is given, and however it is given, it must be truthful. There have been cases where an employer has been sued for giving a false reference. There have also been cases where writers of 'bad' references were found to have defamed the person for whom the reference was written. If an employer is going to give references, it should have a policy, or standardized reference process. A policy helps to ensure consistency. A policy may also help an employer avoid liability in a case where a reference is given by someone not authorized to do so, and which is not in keeping with the employer's policy. Employers should also require, as a practice, consent from job applicants to seek out references.