Q. We fired a part-time employee for stealing a gift card out of the trash. We have a policy against taking anything of value out of the garbage. The next day, his supervisor announced to everyone that the employee had been fired for theft. I don’t think it was appropriate to tell others the reason. Was it? And what should we say if someone calls for a reference? —A.L., Arkansas
A. Telling your staff or a prospective employer that you terminated someone for “theft”—especially when the offense involved nothing more than trash-can diving—is a good way to buy your company a defamation lawsuit. Termination decisions generally should not be discussed with rank-and-file employees. The safest way to respond to reference requests is to simply confirm the dates of employment and positions held.
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