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Can I be Held Liable for Giving an Employment Reference?

It happens to most of us a few times a year: A friend calls you up, texts or emails, asking if you can be a reference for them. "Sure," you say. Regardless of what you think of them, if they think highly of you enough to ask for a reference, it would be awkward to say no. But what happens if something goes wrong at their next job? What if they do something that's illegal, harms or injures someone? Can you be held liable simply for providing a reference?

There are several cases where individuals have been sued for providing references for others who have then gone on to do harm. Victim's families often sue because they argue that without that positive reference, the individual may not have gotten the job that put their loved one in harm's way.

So what can you do if a friend asks for a reference?

  • Ask if it's a personal or professional reference.
  • If you currently work together, check your company's handbook. Often, one person in the company is designated for references. If this person is not you, do not give a reference.
  • If you are friends but have no knowledge of her professional experience, offer to be a personal or character reference.
  • Don't ever lie when giving a reference, even if your desire is to help out your friend. If you lie and that individual ends up harming or injuring someone, you could be held liable if your actions directly affected your friend's chances of getting the job and being in the position that gave them the opportunity.

If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings.

Our attorneys have more than 35 years dedicated to giving clients the attention, advice, support and empowerment they need to effectively meet their goals. We are committed to the principle that all persons shall have equal justice under the law. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304.523.8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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