I've noticed a trend that most HR departments discourage or even have policies against giving references for former employees that go beyond these basic questions:
- Confirm Employment
- Verify dates and job title
- Are they eligible for rehire?
The explanation I am always given is that if the reference I give is positive the new company could sue because I oversold the employee, and if I give a negative reference the former employee could sue because I somehow defamed them.
Talking to other managers, this position seems to be pretty standard. However, I feel strongly that the risks are minimal and not giving a reference for a former employee actually has more potential for harm because that person is an ambassador who, outside of your control, will spread the word about your workplace to other people who are likely in the pool of candidates you will want to recruit one day. For me, it is vitally important that employees leave the company with as positive impression of the place as possible.
So the question is this, am I wrong about this? Has there been a lot of litigation in the past that I'm not aware of either from former employees or new employers related to references being given? Also, are there other reasons that giving references is verboten by many HR departments?