Exchanging Honest Employment References: Avoiding the Traps of Defamation and Negligent Hiring

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Abstract

In present-day reference checking, many of the same organizations that seek as much information as possible about people they wish to hire resist giving out more than a bare minimum of information to other organizations. The strongest force driving this minimal reference information release is fear of legal action taken because of something said about an individual in a reference response. Many employers seem so frightened of being sued that they share nothing of substance, usually not realizing that in supposedly protecting themselves against defamation charges they are sometimes increasing the risk of negligent hiring charges. However, truthful reference information can be provided with minimal risk if it is provided in good faith, given only to those who have a legitimate need to know, is strictly job related, and is not communicated maliciously. References must always be provided objectively with information verifiable in personnel files.

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