A hiring manager from another California company wants to know about a worker your enterprise let go several weeks ago. Can you candidly respond that the employee was lazy, ethically suspect and not likely to be a good hire?
What if you like that individual, but know that he or she was accused several times by co-workers of questionable or flatly unlawful behavior (e.g., financial improprieties or overly aggressive behavior)? Can you simply remain silent to a prospective employer seeking reference-linked information?
Such considerations emerge routinely in the realm of ex-employee reference checks, and they can spell a slippery slope for company principals asked to weigh in with relevant information.
A fundamental point for any California employer to note is that complete license — that is, unchecked liability — does not apply to an employer’s responses concerning a former worker. Every state imposes limits. Those need to be worked within to avoid litigation claims alleging defamation or negligent employer referrals.
An online primer on California reference law notes that employers across the state “enjoy a qualified privilege” when they provide information on an ex-worker to a prospective employer. They are generally protected if statements they make are not knowingly false or uttered with disregard for truth.
Legal liability can attach when evidence indicates that such is not the case. Risk also arises when an employer withholds information that might reasonably be considered important from a requesting company.
Things can understandably get complex and tricky in a given case. Questions regarding any aspect of reference law in California can be directed to an experienced Los Angeles-area employment law firm.