Checking references has a way of putting employers in a pickle. When they want information about a potential new hire, they’re often frustrated when references divulge no more than dates of employment, position held, and pay rate. That “name, rank, and serial number” response can be frustrating. But when the employer is on the receiving end of a reference request, the temptation is strong to withhold all but the most basic information as a way of warding off a defamation claim.
Leigh Anne Benedic, an attorney with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP in Columbus, Ohio, says the risk comes when an employer is seen as sharing false or misleading information that causes the job applicant to suffer damages by not being hired. Since the defamation danger often leads employers to shy away from saying much, what’s an employer seeking a reference to do?