Can Boss Give Bad Reference – Yes, But…

Written By Shahzaib Arshad

Can boss give bad reference? It’s a tricky question and one that doesn’t have a clear answer.

What will I learn?

While the law protects employees from discrimination, there is no explicit protection regarding references.

Can Boss Give Bad Reference?

It means bosses can technically give bad references. That is as long as they don’t do so to discriminate against the employee.

There are many ways a boss can give a bad reference. The most common is by speaking negatively about the employee’s work performance. This can get done in several ways.

1. Termination:

If an employee gets terminated, the boss can give a bad reference by saying the employee was fired.

They can write, “The employee was terminated for poor performance.”

How does that impact the employee? A bad reference like this can make it hard for an employee to find a new job.

Employers may not want to hire someone who has been fired in the past.

2. Negative Comments:

Another way a boss can give a bad reference is by leaving negative comments about the employee.

Bad references - Can Boss Give Bad Reference

For example, the boss might say, “The employee was always late for work,” or “The employee was constantly arguing with co-workers.”

These comments can make it hard for an employee to build a positive reputation.

3. Personal Attacks:

Another way a boss can give a bad reference is by attacking the employee’s character.

For example, the boss might say, “The employee is lazy, or “The employee is not a team player.”

This makes it difficult for an employee to get hired by another company. What would future employers think of someone who is lazy or doesn’t work well with others?

Indeed, these are not qualities that employers are looking for.

4. Refusing to Give A Reference:

Refusing to give a reference is also a form of a bad reference. In this case, the boss refuses to answer any questions about the employee.

This makes a wrong impression on the employer trying to verify the employee’s information.

It also makes it appear as if the boss has something to hide.

5. Giving False Information:

This is when the boss gives false information about the employee.

For example, a boss might say an employee worked for the company for six months. But in reality the employee only worked there for two years.

This is a form of bad reference because it’s not true. How does that impact the employee?

The employer might think the employee is not as qualified as they are.

So employers can give bad references if they choose to. However, this doesn’t mean employers should go around giving negative references willy-nilly.

So while an employer can give a bad reference, it’s not advisable to do so without good reason.

Can employees take legal action if they receive a bad reference?

What Does Law Say?

You can file a complaint if you believe you’ve been the victim of discrimination. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the department for that.

The EEOC is responsible for investigating claims of discrimination in the workplace.

If they find that discrimination has occurred, they will act against the employer. This could include filing a lawsuit on behalf of the employee.

It’s important to note that the EEOC only investigates cases of discrimination. They will not act if an employer gives a bad reference without discriminatory intent.

How To Prove Discrimination?

To win a discrimination case, you must prove that the employer intended to discriminate against you.

This cannot be easy to do. Employers can claim that they had a legitimate reason for giving the wrong reference.

Discrimination case - Can Boss Give Bad Reference

For example, they could say the employee was a poor performer. It would be up to the employee to prove this wasn’t the case.

Law Clauses In Data Protection Act

Some laws protect employees from bad references in some parts of the world.

For example, in the UK, there is a law called the Data Protection Act. This act gives employees the right to see references provided to them.

It ensures that employees can challenge any inaccuracies in the reference.

Bad references can also be defamation. Defamation is when someone makes a false statement about you. And it could damage your reputation.

If an employer makes a false statement about you in a reference, you could sue them for defamation.

However, this is a civil lawsuit. You would need to prove that the employer made the statement maliciously. And they did so to harm your reputation.

Filing A Lawsuit

Filing a lawsuit is a long and expensive process. And there’s no guarantee that you will win.

It’s essential to weigh the costs and benefits before taking legal action. It would help if you also got advice from a lawyer.

The steps you need to take to file a lawsuit will vary depending on the country you live in.

And there may be other options available to you, such as mediation. What to do will depend on your circumstances.

Bad references can damage your career. But there are steps you can take to challenge them.

Before taking any action, you should get advice from a lawyer. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action to take.

Role Of HR In Reference

The HR gets involved when an employee files a complaint against their employer.

The HR department will then investigate the matter. If they find that the employer has given a bad reference, they will take action against them.

This could include issuing a warning or suspending the employer. What are the consequences of giving a bad reference?

An employer could get sued for defamation. And if the employer discriminated against the employee, they could get fined by the law.

HR can take a great deal of care when checking references. However, they cannot control what an employer says in a reference.

But they can implement policies and procedures to ensure that references are fair. Here are some policies:

1. Get References In Writing:

It’s essential to get references in writing. This will give you a record of what they said about the employee. And it can get used as evidence if they need to take legal action.

For instance, if an employer says something wrong about an employee in a reference. The HR can show that the employer’s reference is not correct.

HR should keep records of all references given. This will help to ensure that employees can challenge any bad references.

And it can get used to prove that the employer is making false statements.

2. Check References Before Giving Them:

HR should check references before giving them to prospective employers. This will help to ensure that the references are accurate.

Check references

How can they do this? They could do 360-degrees feedback. This is where they speak to the references and ask them questions about the employee.

They could also look at the employee’s performance reviews. And they could speak to the employee’s colleagues.

3. Train Employees On How To Give References:

It’s essential to train employees on how to give references. They should know what they can and can’t say.

And they should know how to handle sensitive information. How can HR do this? They could provide training sessions.

They could also create a reference policy. This policy should be available to all employees.

4. Encourage Employees To Give Positive References Only:

HR should encourage employees to give positive references only. They should remind them that they could get sued for defamation if they provide a bad reference.

And they should tell them that it’s against company policy to give a bad reference.

They should also encourage employees to speak to HR about any concerns.

5. Take Action Against Employees Who Give Bad References:

HR should take action against an employee who gives a bad reference. This could include issuing a warning or suspending them.

They should also remind the employee of the company’s reference policy. And they should tell the employee that they could get sued for defamation.

Bad references can damage an employee’s career. But there are steps that HR can take to try to ensure that references are fair.

How Should Employee Give Reference

Apart from HR, employers should also take care when giving references. Here is the checklist to follow when giving a reference:

1. Let Is Be Accurate:

The first and most important rule is to let the reference be accurate. This means that you should only give true information and that you can prove it.

Do not give false information about the employee that you cannot back up.

2. Keep It Positive:

If you can’t say something positive about the employee, it’s best to say nothing. This is because even negative comments can be damaging.

Short and positive

And if you give false information, you could get sued for defamation. And when in doubt, always err on the side of caution.

3. Keep It Short:

When giving a reference, it’s best to keep it short. This is because you don’t want to give too much information.

And you also don’t want to say anything that could get interpreted negatively. And if you’re unsure what to say, it’s best to ask HR for guidance.

4. Don’t Get Emotional:

When giving a reference, it’s essential to remain calm and professional. Do not get emotional or defensive.

And do not make promises that you cannot keep. For instance, do not say that the employee will get rehired if that’s not true.

And do not say that the employee is the best worker you’ve ever had if that’s not true.

5. Get Permission:

Before giving a reference, getting permission from the employee first is essential. This is because they have a right to know what you say.

And they also have a right to object if they think you’re going to say something negative about them.

So, before giving a reference, always get permission from the employee first.

Final Word:

Employers can give bad references. But only if they’re accurate and have permission from the employee.

If you give a bad reference, you could get sued for defamation. And it’s best to keep references short and positive.

If you’re unsure what to say, it’s best to ask HR for guidance.

Last Updated on 9 months by Shahzaib Arshad

Shahzaib Arshad
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