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Employment Reference Check Laws

Reference checks are a common resource for companies who are screening applicants for a job. When performing an employment reference check, a hiring manager will contact the applicant’s previous employers that are listed on the application. A reference check can improve an applicant’s chance of receiving a job offer or potentially harm their chance of employment. When an applicant is passed up for a job because of a poor reference check, it can lead to disgruntlement and raise questions about reference check policy and reference check laws. To learn more about reference checks and reference check laws, many people ask Employment Experts. The Experts answer a wide variety of questions regarding reference checks. Below are five of the top questions answered by the Experts.

Is a person entitled to the information from a poor reference check?

Usually, you would not be entitled to any information regarding a reference check. There are no laws that require an employer or the person who gives the reference to tell you anything. You can however ask either parties to discuss the reference check but they don’t have to tell you anything. There are now agencies and private investigators that will perform phony reference checks for you. This may be the only way to find out what your past employers are saying about you. Reference check laws differ by state. There are some states that do not allow negative reference checks and are mandated to only state the date of employment, date of termination, as well as rate of pay. You may need to as an Expert to find out what your individual state law requires.

If an employer withholds certain information about a past employee during two reference checks but reveals the information on the third check, is the employer liable to the employee if the employee loses their current job?

Usually, an employer would not be liable for offering limited reference checks as a general rule and then offer more information than they would normally divulge. However, if you had a contract with the employer stating the employer was limited in what information that could be given during a reference check; you may have cause for action if the employer exceeds it. You would also have recourse if you could prove that the employer offered information based on your age, sex, religion, or disability. If the employer was retaliating against you for trying to collect unemployment benefits or worker’s compensation this could also show cause. However, an employer can discuss any truthful information during the course of a reference check. If the employer didn’t divulge the information during the first two reference checks, but later disclosed it wouldn’t typically mean that the employer is liable to the employee.

If a past employer gives a poor reference, is there any way to avoid using that employer?

If you think that the employer isn’t giving you a decent reference, you may want to consider not using the employer. You can request that your new hire use prior references and that they only inquire about your employment at the company, start/end date, and position in the company. If your new hire doesn’t speak with the former employer, he/she wouldn’t be able to give a poor reference.

If a former supervisor contacts an employee’s new employer and gives that employee a bad reference, how can the employee stop the former supervisor?

Usually, an employer wouldn’t go to this extreme. Aside from being unprofessional, the supervisor may be in violation of your right to privacy. You should write a formal letter of complaint to the head of the company that the supervisor works for. You should include any information regarding the conduct of the supervisor with your new employer. Make sure to include everything that was said during the phone calls and the date each call was made. Generally, a company will reprimand any employer or supervisor who conducts themselves in such a manner. You may consider speaking with a local personal injury attorney who handles non-physical injury torts and discuss the situation. Even if you don’t want to take legal action, the attorney could write a letter of” Cease and desist” informing the employer that if the conduct continues, you will take legal action.

If a person fails to list independent contract work on their work history, is it possible for the company to find out during a background check and reference check?

Usually, when a company performs a background check, they look at your criminal history and sometimes your credit score. Companies generally do not look into someone’s tax records during a background check. However, the company may find out about the independent contract work while performing the reference check. If you think this would be possible, you may want to tell the company about any work that you failed to include on your application.

Reference checks are a common practice during an employment screening. Usually, a reference check will consist of a few questions involving the applicants work history. However, there are times that a former employer may cross the line of proper reference etiquette and cause damage to a potential employee by giving a less than bright referral. If you are in a situation that requires legal insight, you can ask an Employment Lawyer. The Experts answer a wide range of employment law questions and can offer solutions to your individual situation in a fast and knowledgeable manner.

Ask an Employment Lawyer

Tina
Tina, Lawyer
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 8057
Experience:  JD, BBA, recognized by ABA for excellence.
4460311
Type Your Employment Law Question Here...
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7 Employment Lawyers are Online Now

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Employment Lawyers are online & ready to help you now

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Recent Reference Check Questions

  • I worked in NYC at a large medical office for 3 1/2 years as

    I worked in NYC at a large medical office for 3 1/2 years as an RN with superb annual reviews/work performance. One of the physicians, who is a known flirt, started getting a little too intense with the flirting with a newly hired RN and discussing things like penises, breast size etc. while at work. This new nurse(who was a willing participant) was causing a backup in charts, additional work for other nurses and complaints to me , a senior nurse.The Dr. also violated company policy by giving new nurse a free $500 cosmetic treatment after only 12 weeks of employment. I reported this behavior to the nurse manager/COO of the practice. The Dr. was told that I reported the incident. I was immediately pulled off my surgical floor placed on a floor where I was no longer performing my normal duties, had my trainee taken away from me and was taken off the work schedule for 3 days w/in 1 month causing me a loss in wages. The Dr. told all of the nurses that I reported him, turning me into the office "snitch". I was then verbally harassed on a daily basis by other employees for reporting Dr. B. When I complained to the manager/COO of practice about the unfair treatment I was receiving, they began additional surveillance, continued to place me on an isolated floor, other RN's would no longer communicate w/ me. The 2 months of stress have caused me insomnia/weight loss/family stress/angina. I resigned my position after almost 4 years of a job that I loved. I was basically forced out. What are my rights here and do I have a case even though I quit because I couldn't take the hostile environment anymore??? Thanks
  • I recently received an offer through a temp agency to be a

    I recently received an offer through a temp agency to be a software developer at Bank of America. I have one conviction on my record for obstructing justice (in VA a class 1 misdemeanor) back in 2005 while I was in college - let's just say it was the stupidest thing I've ever done. Now 9 years removed, I am wondering if this falls under the FDIC Section 19 guidelines and if so, if it qualifies for the "de minimis" exception.
    Assuming that it does fall under the section 19 guidelines, do I need to actually do anything for the "de minimis" exception (e.g. get a waiver, etc)? The fine I received ($75.00) and the max allowable by state law ($2,500 or less), and the jail time I served (0 days, I was released on a personal recognizance bond) seem to match the requirements.
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  • My supervisor wants me to write a statement and she told me

    My supervisor wants me to write a statement and she told me what to put in it and even though i told her i don't know the specifics and i invoked my weingarten rights she wants that statement saying that i put personal items on a government hard drive, which is not against any regulation and my previous supervisor allowed it. she will absolutely use that against me, why should i have to write it, if she knows i did it, why can't she just make a memo for record?
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