Does this situation sound familiar? You receive a reference request for a former employee who was a mediocre performer. How should you respond. If you respond truthfully, can the employee take action against you?
Good questions! Here’s what Jessica Summer of Paley Rothman, a Bethesda, Maryland law firm that partners with the Society of American Florists, advises:
“Assuming that the request is not in the context of a government agency performing a security clearance, private employers have no obligation to provide a substantive reference for a former employee. In fact, to avoid any uncomfortable situations, many employers have a policy of only confirming an employee’s position, salary and dates of employment. This allows the business to sidestep issues entirely.
Many states have laws that protect employers from liability from making truthful statements about former employees. These laws would protect a business that provides a truthful assessment of a former employee’s less than exemplary performance. Before responding to a request for a reference, it is always a good idea for the business to check the laws of the state in which it is operating.”
SAF partners with Paley Rothman so that members can get fast, free answers to business legal questions. Have a question you want to ask? Call Summers at (301) 968-3402. Be sure to mention that you are an SAF member.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.