Employee job changes create stress for both the employee and his employer. Knowing what a former employer can and cannot say is important for legal reasons and for the position the employee is applying for.
It is less distressing when there are guidelines to follow. If former employers give poor references, a cease and desist letter can be issued by an attorney, stopping the harmful statements. Most corporations avoid liability problems by only issuing limited information like job titles, years employed in the company and salaries, while many states do not insist upon any disclosure of employment information at all.
What can employers say about you?
Past employers can say if you were fired and why you were fired. There is no legal precedence that prevents employers from saying what they like especially if it is fact. However, some statements can slander and prevent you from getting gainful employment. Statements, if the source is found, might be viewed by the courts as slanderous. If you were constantly tardy, though, there is no federal law preventing them from stating this. If it is documented, there is no way to prevent this information from being relayed to other employers. A company can make any statement on you that is accurate, based on fact.
It is not up to the employer to make a statement on a worker’s character. If work ethic is complimentary, it is possible to say you were a good worker. But if this slides into the negative, be mindful that that can spell trouble for the employer making the damaging statement – you have the right to challenge the information given and even bring them to court. Subjective statements are not worth the trouble caused on their part.
If you left a job under what seem to be questionable circumstances, to say you did something wrong that defames you without proving an actual point can bring a great deal of trouble down upon a company. That is why many companies keep statements to the basics, avoiding any damaging gossip about the company or the former employee, taking a “live and let live” attitude.
Hiring someone as though he is a prospective employer to interview your past employer will aid in finding out what is being said to employers you may be trying to gain employment with. Acting and making inappropriate statements can cause serious legal problems for them. A work evaluation may list as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, but stating that you were shiftless and lazy may start a line of allegations for which you will be wise to demand concrete proof.
Hire a reference service early. Have them check the information any former boss may give. This will allow the cease and desist to intervene, and it is definitely much, much better to avoid losing multiple employment opportunities that may come your way.