Providing References for Employees

Due to the potential liability it is very important for boards of education (board) to ensure that references and letters of reference are accurate. Because employees may have files at the school and at central office it is important that whoever provides the reference or reference letter has access to all necessary information.

Principals or fellow employees may be the persons most likely to be asked by an employee to provide references. It may be practical to allow them to continue to provide references. It is advisable to at least require the person providing the reference to check with the principal and/or central office before providing the reference. It may, therefore, be advisable for boards to consider policy direction or administrative procedures on this issue.

Release of Information

One can argue that the listing of a name as a reference is consent for the named person to release personal information. However, it would be good practice to confirm, when the request is made, that consent is being given to share personal information of the candidate with prospective employers.

In addition to consent, section 10(e) of the LAFOIP Regulations provides that a board has the right to release personal information of the employee without the consent of the employee for the purposes of an employment reference.

Even if a board is not listed as a reference by a former employee if the board has information that the former employee could be a possible danger to the health or safety of students it is advisable to give this information to the potential employer making inquiries. The board releasing the information would be able to rely on section 28(2)(n) of LAFOIP that allows information to be released if the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs the invasion of privacy.

Potential Liabilities for the Board

An employer must give a reference that is factual and fully documented and that is prepared with reasonable care.

There are two circumstances in which employers face potential liability:

  • In the first scenario, an employer who gives a glowing reference when the employee is clearly unfit may be liable for damages suffered by the person who hires the employee based on the reference.
  • In the second scenario, an employer who gives a good employee a negative and untrue reference might be liable to the employee if the employee loses a job because of the reference.