Employment Verifications: What You Don’t Say Can Hurt You
January 10, 2008
When conducting employment verifications we’ve all gotten used to the fact that many past employers will not willingly give adverse information about their former employees. Many will confirm employment, give you the dates of employment and starting and ending title/responsibilities. However, after that information is shared what else you get varies widely. Oftentimes, significant adverse information can be withheld.
Why? Employers are worried about getting sued by the former employee. In today’s society, the prevailing logic is “why risk litigation, let the next person find out for themselves”. Well, here’s something that will make you cringe. In the last few years, past employers are being held accountable for what they do not say when it leads to actions by the former employee that could have been prevented had the prospective employer been informed.
Our very own Rob Thomson recently wrote what I consider to be one of the best articles I have ever read on this topic, Employment Verifications: Less May No Longer Be More! Check it out. It’s worth the read and particularly relevant when you see a story I found today about a California police officer who was fired from his job in 2004 for Sexual Harassment. It turns out that his past employer (another police force) covered up prior activity including Sexual Harassment that would have preventing the officer from getting the job.
I’m not sure if one police force can sue another, but I would imagine that the victim of the harassment might have a nice suit against both employers in this case.
The fact is, this issue of what you should and shouldn’t say in an employment verification is extremely dicey for employers. It is a double edge sword of which employers have no guidance on what is appropriate to reveal and what is not. Until definitive best practices are established, employers are going to be left to their own best judgement. Should be interesting.