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The pitfalls of providing references

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in Human Resources

Q. Why is it that so many companies refuse to give references for former employees?

A. Employers can be sued for defamation by former employees who claim they were not hired because of information provided in a job reference.

While truth is a defense to defamation claims, most employers would rather avoid even the possibility of becoming embroiled in legal battles. Most feel there is little, if anything, to be gained to justify the legal risks of giving reference information beyond confirming dates of employment and position.

Even providing a positive reference carries some potential risk. While no such claim has yet been successful in Minnesota, at least one court in another state has held that a former employer can be liable to a new employer for providing a negligent job reference.

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