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A former employee who was a direct report of mine, and who I recently terminated, is asking for a LinkedIn recommendation.

The individual was fired because the quality of his work (software engineering) was not up to the standards we need, and we are unable to provide the time and support/mentorship structure he needs in order to grow. He may well succeed if allowed to grow at a slower pace, in a larger company, with lower responsibilities, and a good mentorship network. As a small startup, we cannot provide that type of role right now.

I indicated to him that I would serve as a reference to potential employers, and I am happy to make a verbal recommendation, highlighting the type of role for which I think he may be suited.

I am, however, reluctant to put anything in writing, especially on a social platform. Can anyone familiar with regulations around this sort of thing educate me as to whether I am right to be cautious? I am afraid that I could open myself to claims of withholding relevant information if I write a positive recommendation with no note that he was actually terminated.

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    Are you opposed to any written recommendations or just Linkedln? In my experience most recommendations are written. – sf02 Sep 17 at 20:27
  • It sounds like you are asking about legal liability in which case a location tag would be helpful. Your profile says you're in the US-- assuming that's the case, there is basically no way that you're going to be sued for failing to volunteer negative information about a person (IANAL). I'd be more concerned that you'd be giving a lukewarm recommendation in a forum that would really stand out and would only hinder your former employee's search. Most LinkedIn recommendations are of the form "Bob is the greatest widget polisher to ever polish a widget" so any hedging is a red flag. – Justin Cave Sep 17 at 20:33
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    Have you considered writing what you'd be comfortable saying and asking the former employee if he really wants that posted on his LinkedIn page? Potentially along with the suggestion that he's much better off with nothing on LinkedIn than something lukewarm and that a private verbal reference that includes a couple reservations is going to be far less problematic than a public written one. – Justin Cave Sep 17 at 20:36
  • How long did this individual work for your company? – tblue Sep 17 at 22:38
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If this person were a "bad" employee and was terminated as a result then you could simply deny their request.

BUT

It sounds like they were let go because they were too inexperienced for the role. That's not a fault. It's not a deficiency. None of us are born with any skills or experience. We were all in this persons shoes at one point or another. So... write about their good qualities. Surely there are some? You need not mention their termination at all because it's not relevant. Again, they were terminated because they lacked experience, not because they were a poor employee.

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    +1 You are not required to reveal anything on a LI recommendation. It is a personal opinion, nothing more. You are representing yourself, not the company. What did you see in the employee that would appeal to another company? Write about that. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Sep 18 at 15:58
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I am, however, reluctant to put anything in writing, especially on a social platform. Can anyone familiar with regulations around this sort of thing educate me as to whether I am right to be cautious?

There are no relevant regulations. There may be a corporate policy - check with HR.

That said, if you are uncomfortable putting things in writing, then don't.

I am afraid that I could open myself to claims of withholding relevant information if I write a positive recommendation with no note that he was actually terminated.

You would indeed be withholding relevant information. But that's your choice to make. There are no rules and requirements surrounding LinkedIn comments/recommendations.

Remember that it's your reputation, though.

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I don't recall ever seeing a Linkedin recommendation that put negatives or qualifications on the endorsement like, 'only good if you train him' or 'might work out if you have good onboarding tools'. Probably because that kind of thing will actually reflect poorly on your company's hiring process if not training. Anyhow, if it's not a thing, you probably shouldn't be doing it.

So there's no reason for you not to write a recommendation given that you admit the employee failed because your company didn't support them well enough(!)

"Many states regulate what an employer may say about a former employee... some states give employers who provide this information immunity, which means that the former employee cannot sue the employer for giving out the information as long as the employer acted in good faith." See https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/employee-rights-book/chapter9-6.html

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