Do You Have a Policy Regarding Employment Verifications?

June 12, 2019 | 108 views

Do You Have a Policy Regarding Employment Verifications?
Do You Have a Policy Regarding Employment Verifications?

As employers, we get calls regularly looking for information on a past employee. The prospective new employers are dutifully trying to ensure that the information they were given is accurate. They also are looking for more insight into how the person performed for us, if their details are honestly and accurately given, and if we would rehire them.

This diligent practice of employment verification is one that can have unintended consequences, however. So much so that many prior employers are fearful of lawsuits or claims of damages. These fact-checking quests can significantly affect whether or not a prospective hiring manager chooses to hire the job applicant. For this reason, your organization must self-police its verification policies and determine your acceptable level of risk.

Policies Provide Protections

An HR manager is often limited by state laws regarding the type of questions that can be asked. This includes basics like tenure dates, position, and if the employee can be rehired. But even these simple questions can lead to providing too much information.

One of your employees might say that someone is not rehireable, for example, and then volunteer the reason why. While this might be truthful information, it can prevent a person from obtaining employment and be construed as lost wages, i.e. damages, if a complaint is filed. For this reason, a strong, clear policy on employment verification is necessary to protect your organization.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Usually, it is best to refer employment verifications to HR personnel or the general manager. Whoever has access to employee details must be consistent. When you provide information and answer questions, limit what you say, stay neutral in tone, and keep it simple. It is reasonable to confirm facts, for example, but not volunteer information on suspected theft or discuss thoughts on past performance. Keep it brief, factual, and without opinion.

The hiring manager who is calling realistically hopes to confirm truthful statements provided by his candidate, so confirming a fact that is documentable carries less risk. But let that person ask the yes-or-no-questions. Give them simple answers if you choose to do so, and then do nothing more.

Silence is Golden

Giving information on employees normally isn’t an issue if the employee left on good terms, but in order to be consistent, your company policy is best designed for the worst-case employee who left on bad terms. Think hard about the risk you take if anything you say is misconstrued. Disgruntled, past employees can easily claim defamation or damages if your comments prevent a prospective, new employer from offering them a position. Negative comments can limit their ability to earn a livelihood, it can be costly to cover the damage.

For this reason, some organizations stay completely silent and rely on a policy of silence regarding employee verifications. Rather than confirm or deny, some simply refuse to provide any information. A clear policy of not verifying may seem extreme, but it’s certainly a strong method for avoiding risk.

Do you have a policy in place? It might be a good time to develop a wise and careful method to handle requests for employment verification.

Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies in 2004 through 2007, and 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.    

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