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What legal questions can be asked about an employee to a former employer?
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What legal questions can be asked about an employee to a former employer?

When an employer is checking with past employers for a potential new employee, what can be asked and what can be legally answered?


It's permissible to both verify employment (title, dates, salary) as well as to ask for references (attendance, work ethic, eligibility for rehire, work performance.) However, many companies choose not to provide references because there's a legal catch-22 in doing so.

If a company provides a poor reference and the employee does not get hired as a result, the employee can sue the former company. If the company provides a good reference and the employee goes postal later on, the new company can sue the old company for failing to disclose info that would have clued them in. The common practice now is for companies to verify employment only.

Clear as mud, I know. :)

Oh Boy!
A potential employer can ask nearly anything (there are certainly some limits as to discrimination issues) and the old employer can answer (truthfully!) as much as they want.

In practice, most previous employers will only confirm dates of employment and might confirm job title(s). They might also be asked whether the employee is eligible to be rehired. This is where the previous employer can torpedo you if you were fired or left on bad terms. An answer of "no" is the kiss of death.

YES you CAN ask about performance. You only can't ask about protected characteristics and health information.

Some companies won't give you much back, others will answer all questions -- which is ABSOLUTELY LEGAL as long as the information they give is truthful.

Eric G
There are many companies that will not even give a reference other than verifying that you did in fact work there.

For those companies that will give a reference that may be asked what kind of employee you where and would the re-hire you. Usally if the answer is no, there is no reason why, no is all your perspective employer needs to hear.

I don't think there's anything limiting what can be asked.

Many companies are cautious about answering certain questions because they don't want the liability from causing someone to not get a new job.

Dr. Deth
basically just if the person worked there, for how long and how much they made - can't ask about performance

I am an employer. When another company is conducting a background check on a former employee, what is the best way to respond to eligibility for re-hire? Yes/No, N/A, or Upon Review?

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