Giving References: Don't get Sued!

You have fired an employee and think you're done with him/her. Not so fast. The employee will be looking for a new job and may ask a prospective employer to contact you. What do you say?

First, you need to check your state laws for information you are allowed to give. Information below is for your state. Click on the resource for state laws below for other states.


Information that may be disclosed:

  • "work-related information"
Who may request or receive information:

  • prospective employer
  • former or current employee
Employer immune from liability unless:

  • Information violates employee's civil rights.
  • Information is not relevant to the inquiry being made.
  • Information is disclosed without checking its truthfulness.
  • Information is given to a person who has no legitimate interest in receiving it.
It is critical that any comments you make be facts, not opinions. For example,

Do Not Say: Instead, Say:
He performed poorly. He achieved the company quota 30 percent of the time. The company average is 92 percent.
She is not a team player. On 12 occasions, she was asked to perform an extra task to fill an unexpected need. She refused each time.
He is violent and disrespectful. He punched a supervisor in the nose.
She is not dedicated. She worked one hour of overtime in two years.
He came to work drunk. He arrived at work smelling of alcohol 10 times, and he fell asleep at his desk each time.
She was a drug addict. She tested positive for cocaine on two occasions

Here are resources with more information: