Q. I’m new to the HR world. When we receive reference checks on ex-employees, what information can we (or should we) give out without a signed release? — L.M., Pasadena, Calif.
A. More employers are choosing not to provide any information in connection with background checks other than to confirm the employee’s dates of employment, position and salary history. The reason is anxiety about defamation claims. While some employers obtain releases and/or authorization forms prior to disclosing any information, these don’t provide an absolute guarantee against liability.
To help employers feel more comfortable giving out references, some state laws protect those who provide information related to reference checks. Employers should check their state law before adopting a company policy. In any event, your policy should state clearly that all requests for reference information should be directed to the HR department. You do not want individual supervisors making these decisions on an ad hoc basis.
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