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Letter to Leaders

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Job References

A highly valued, long-time employee of yours decides to move out of state and asks you to write a reference letter. A no-brainer, right?

Then another employee, whom you’ve been trying to fire for the past few months, also asks you for a reference letter. Now what do you do?

Yes, you can be held liable for references – and whether you provide them or not. It’s possible you could open yourself up for discrimination or defamation charges if you write a letter for one employee but not another.

Often in seminars, I advise clients not to provide references at all. You’re under no obligation to do so, and the negative clearly outweighs the positive.

But a written policy must be established, and you must be consistent in following that policy. Many businesses simply provide dates of employment, which is a good practice.

Some employment attorneys recommend a signed waiver, where you only provide information under certain circumstances.

Consistency and communication are the key. Establish that policy, make sure all your employees understand it – and make sure you consistency follow that policy.


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