References from Previous Employers
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What Can a Former Employer Say in a Job Reference?
It is not uncommon when applying for a new job that your new employer may contact your former employer for a reference. On one hand, this may be good if you left your old job under good conditions.However, if you left under bad circumstances, you may be afraid of what your former employer may say about you and how it will impact on your potential for getting this new job.
Fortunately, you have some protections against what your former employer may say about you in a reference to a prospective new employer.
1) No Personal, Non-Job Related Information. For one thing, your new, prospective employer may not ask for personal information about you that is not job-related. Likewise, your former employer may not give any personal, non job related information. Personal information can include information about:
- Ethnic origin
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Parenting responsibilities
2) Information Must Be Accurate. A former employer also cannot lie or make defamatory statements about you in order to deter your current employer from giving you the job. That means that all the information given by the former employer should not only be job-related, it must also accurately represent your work performance.
What If the Reference Is Negative?
Your former employer is allowed to put any truthful information about your work performance at your previous job, whether it is positive or negative. Your former employer can also refuse to answer any questions asked by your new employer on the job reference form. This may be damaging when compared with a reference by another job candidate in which the former employer gave positive answers to those questions neglected by your former employer.
However a former employer chooses to answer your job reference, it must be in accordance with a fairly uniform policy used with all other former employee job references. An employer should only refuse to answer certain questions related to an employee recommendation if the employer never answers those same questions on any job recommendation form.
Seeking Legal Help
You may want to contact an employment law attorney. Your attorney can advise you of your rights and let you know if you may be entitled to collect compensation in a lawsuit against your former employer.
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Last Modified: 04-02-2014 11:14 AM PDT
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