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Employers have few rules when referencing former employees

Employees who are released from a job for any reason often hope to be treated fairly by former job supervisors when it comes to references. The fact is, there are few federal or Missouri-specific laws in place that prevent employers from telling the truth about what they know about a former employee, no matter how damaging it may be to the employee's future chances of finding a new job.

The only thing that former employers cannot do when giving a prospective employer a job reference is lie about an employee. If what the former employer says is true in any way, it is protected from libel suits. In addition, there are few states with laws requiring former employers to give a reference when asked. Several states, including Missouri, do require that employers give exit letters containing specific information to employees who are leaving.

Sometimes, the natural reaction, especially when there has been a serious difference of opinion or other conflict, is for employers to attempt to share negative information about their former employees. However, whistleblower laws prohibit employers from retaliating by defaming an employee who reported any illegal activity that was done by the employers.

Employee rights may include specific rules that can be found in the employee handbook. Many companies use neutral reference policies, and if any policy is violated, it should be reported to the HR department. If an individual is unsure of how his or her former employer will handle references, there are companies that pose as potential employers and collect information. If lies are told about an employee or whistleblower retaliation appears to be in play, it may be possible to file a claim against the employer for slander.

Source: Aol Jobs, "Can My Employer Trash Me In References?", Donna Ballman, November 26, 2013

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