Q. Another company has requested a reference for an employee that we fired. The company has a signed form giving the employee’s written consent to ask us for a reference. Will we have legal problems if we provide negative information about the employee?
A. Probably not. There are several types of protection that may be available for companies that provide accurate reference information.
First, the consent for a reference check provided by the employee may release your company from any claim by the employee for providing a truthful reference. However, you should carefully review the consent form because the release may apply only to the potential new employer and not the employee’s former company.
Second, North Carolina law (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-539.12) provides statutory immunity from civil liability for employers disclosing information about a current or former employee’s job history or job performance to a prospective employer at the request of the prospective employer or the employee. The statute, however, does not protect the employer when the employer knows or should reasonably know the information provided is false.
Third, if a company provides truthful and accurate information, without malice, there should be no legal basis for a claim by the fired employee concerning the reference.
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