I received a call from one of my managers who had received a call from a former colleague who is now a managers at another company seeking a reference on someone whom we recently terminated for cause.  My manager told the hiring manager that she doesn't generally give out references.  The hiring manager understood but said "I know there is one question I can ask - would you rehire this person?"  My manager responded "No".  Is this likely to come back to haunt us?


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  • Hi Joanne.

    References are tough because the HR mantra for a long time has been "we only give out dates of employment and most recent job title." I think things have changed some. In fact, a lot of states now have laws that provide immunity to employers who provide accurate, job-related information. In this case, the question was "Would you rehire this person?" and the answer was "No." Sounds like a truthful answer under the circumstances.

    Generally, you have trouble when a reference is not truthful, or the person giving the reference goes beyond the facts and talks about things that are not job-related or about the individual's personal characteristics such as race, gender, disability, etc. This can result in claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, discrimination, etc.

    The other problem that can arise is when an employer doesn't answer questions and a new employer hires someone who is violent and injures others on the job, or has a history of stealing money or personal information. This could come back later by way of a lawsuit.

    Seems to me that if the manager only answered "No" and this is truthful, you should be alright. Although, one problem could be that company policy is to not answer this question--could be viewed as discriminatory if this person was treated differently. 


  • I completely agree with BKate. The question "would you rehire" is completely subjective, and does not contain any specific information regarding the former employee. You should be pretty safe with this one . . .
  • You should be ok.  I wouldn't worry about it because it is a subjective question.
  • Although it's a giant stretch, the problem might come when a candidate such as this one finds out that your company deviated from it's practice and policy and treated him differently, thereby potentially costing him his candidacy. There are court cases, successfully litigated, where job seekers have been able to show that a previous employer provided information about HIM outside the employer's standard policy.....even in answering the 'rehire' question. In other words, if this was the one case where that question, although truthfully, was answered.

    For many years when a known colleague (or sometimes not known) calls me, I've asked this question, "You DO have other candidates don't you?"

    But, we'll never stop the old circle of friend calling friends in the process of doing backgrounds.  


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