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Employers can legally tell the truth when giving references

Many Michigan job seekers have been misinformed about the amount of information a former employer is legally able to disclose when they are contacted for references. Contrary to what some people believe, there is no federal or state law that limits former employers to give only dates of employment and job titles.

As truth is a defense against defamation charges in every state, former employers have immunity from slander or libel suits as long as they are not giving out willfully incorrect information. When asked, a former employer may tell a prospective employer information about job performance that is included in the personnel file. The laws of several states require employers to notify their former employees of their intent to disclose reference information.

Those who are concerned about what their former employer may say about them when they are asked for a reference have a few options. The easiest way to find out is to ask the employer. Some employers will gladly tell their employees what they plan to tell anyone who asks for information. Another method is to check the employee handbook or union contract. If the company has a neutral reference policy, they are likely to comply with it.

A lawyer who has experience in employment law may be able to help a job seeker who believes that a former employer has violated their employee rights. An attorney may draft a cease and desist letter for a client to give to the former employer. If the employer is giving false information or violating other laws regarding employment references, there may very well be legal recourse.

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

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