|AZA Employment Lawyer Joseph Ahmad quoted in San Antonio Express-News article |
Collecting references shifts away from companies
|October 1, 2012 11:59 pm|
The San Antonio Express News:
Ask most companies about their policies on job references, and chances are they have strict rules. They may confirm their former employees' dates of employment and their job title and maybe whether they're eligible for rehire. But not much more.
Saying bad things about ex-employees, even if those things are true, is one way of getting into expensive legal trouble. Consequently, many companies adopt the theory that if they can't say anything nice, they're not going to say anything at all, for anyone.
Of course, that means those same companies can't get the same information themselves when they want to hire, so the whole experience is fraught with frustration.
If that's true, one Houston lawyer speculates that companies haven't thought through the ramifications from an employment-law angle.
If they did, they'd have some "heartburn over something like this," said Joe Ahmad, an employment lawyer in Houston who mostly represents individuals but also advises companies on employment litigation and workplace issues.
It doesn't matter whether the applicant signs a liability waiver, said Ahmad of Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing. The real key is that the information provided by current and former managers and colleagues is easily obtainable as evidence of job performance and may be something a company doesn't want to see exposed in court.
Say, for example, an employee has been terminated and files an age discrimination claim. The company's position is that the former employee did a poor job, but the electronic reference forms come back glowing. There's nothing to stop the forms from being copied or for the reviewers to testify how they rated their colleague, Ahmad said.
Companies should instruct all employees that they might receive what looks like a personal request for references but that filling out the form is considered a violation of the company's reference policies and will be treated very seriously, he said.
© 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.
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