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RevengencerAlf t1_jc0mkbg wrote

Legally a company in MA can tell a prospective employer looking for a reference as much or as little as they want about your employment history. They can say you were good, they can say you were bad. They can confirm if you quit, if you were fired for cause, if you were laid off. They can confirm if you gave what they deem to be appropriate notice or not and they can comment on your work quality. The only things they can't disclose are things that would otherwise be protected (for example health status that may conflict with HIPPA or other privacy laws since they're a benefits provider).

Now that said, most companies won't shit on you to a future employer asking for a reference unless you left a trail of smoldering ashes in your wake. They don't want to deal with that. What they will do however is simply confirm your dates of employment and make a point not to say anything at all beyond that, which depending on how they do it can easily be used to send the message that you left on bad terms. It's not really their problem anymore but some reading between the lines can happen.

Now THAT said, it's also worth noting that most companies I've ever worked for don't really care unless you have a notable gap in your resume. They're often just background checking to make sure your resume is accurate and are leaving that kind of feedback up to personal references.


swatlord t1_jc2870e wrote

IANAL, but this is my understanding. Too many people think there's some law that prevents employers from saying anything negative about an employee (justified or not). The only recourse someone has is a civil suit where they have to prove some sort of slander (hard to do, as I understand).


lucascorso21 t1_jc0z72p wrote

Yes, but I’d say 95+% would never answer that question. They’d confirm dates of employment and maybe job title, that’s it.

In-house counsel is often very conservative and isn’t going to risk a lawsuit.


[deleted] t1_jc0iorv wrote

No company would ever disclose that. What I did was to simply confirm the employees dates of employment. Most prospective employers know what that means.


Nitelyte t1_jc0nfzs wrote

What does it mean? Almost every major company does it that way.


Apprehensive_Text_68 t1_jc1kqib wrote

I worked for a place that would say ‘terminated for cause’ for everyone who quit because they were bitter about people leaving. I only found out because my new boss told me they hired me ‘in spite’ of my poor background.


boomajohn20 t1_jc2amjo wrote

IANAL - my experience over 50 yrs has been that major companies will only confirm dates of employment for former employees.


The_Stranger56 t1_jc0iq03 wrote

The reference can say whatever they want to


andrewb610 t1_jc0t8n4 wrote

They can but there can be legal consequences if they make disparaging remarks.


The_Stranger56 t1_jc1vi1l wrote

Yes but not if the remarks are true. They can say “oh we fired them for this” granted most places won’t unless you were really just a scum bag. All that being said putting a former employer down as employment history and as a reference are two different thing. You shouldn’t be putting someone down as a reference if you got fired


AlligatorSquash t1_jc213k7 wrote

>Yes but not if the remarks are true.

It can still suck even if you’re 100% in the right. It costs time and money to argue over what’s true and what’s defamatory.


swatlord t1_jc27v6n wrote

> It costs time and money to argue over what’s true and what’s defamatory

Those same costs apply to both sides. The person who is accusing the business of slander will need to be able to eat those costs. I would say in most cases businesses are in a better position to argue those cases than an individual.


The_Stranger56 t1_jc293yj wrote

Yes but you can’t fire someone without cause so most employers keep records of complaints and violations. So as long as they only say why you were fired there is no room to argue


AlligatorSquash t1_jc29j9y wrote

What makes you think you can’t fire someone without cause?

In Massachusetts, absent a union or a contract, employees are at-will and can be fired at any time for any reason or for no reason at all reason.

There is also plenty of room to argue if you do give a reason; not saying successfully argue, just saying room to argue and litigation is a PITA.


The_Stranger56 t1_jc2bgwz wrote

They can fire you for no reason that is true. But they shouldn’t have anything bad to say about you then should though.


AlligatorSquash t1_jc2c3sr wrote

Your first sentence directly contradicts what you said previously, and your second sentence isn’t a sentence.


The_Stranger56 t1_jc2etg1 wrote

I forgot MA was an at-will state. You pointed it out and I looked it up to check. I was agreeing with you. My second sentence was saying, if they fire you for no reason then they shouldn’t have anything on record to say about you that is bad.


Tombstone_Shadow t1_jc208as wrote

That why it’s called a reference. They can absolutely state that you were terminated and whether they would hire you again. Most don’t want to open up the door to litigation, so they don’t share too much to save the time and money (they would almost certainly win short of something truly egregious by them which is almost impossible to prove). I’d be more concerned about how you will speak to the situation that lead to the letting go. We all have bumps in the road, most people are reasonable. Good luck.


BeerPizzaGaming t1_jc10kyo wrote

They can, but most will only verify previous employment title, responsibilities and dates of employment. They limit responses in this way to avoid any potential liability which could result from providing any additional information beyond that.


Left-Star2240 t1_jc1vobl wrote

My employer will only confirm title and dates of employment. Of course they demand references that will reveal more 🙄


Hoosac_Love t1_jc0nzv7 wrote

An employer can say whatever they like I know of no law restricting what an employer may say on a reference.

Some employers will choose not say you were terminated as not to hurt you but they can be as honest as they like.

That is why the scenerio is so common where a boss will confront an employee who has made a serious error and says:"resign or be fired" ,so the employee does not have to admitt being fired if asked in the future if he resigned.Almost all employers give the option to resign at higher level jobs,at low level blue collar jobs that option is often not given.

There is no guarantee what an employers will tell your future boss,you might want to use a different reference than that one.

I believe on thing that is true is that future employers can not contact a past employer without your permission unless you give them as a reference,so don't choose references that fired you because otherwise they can't contact past employers


RevengencerAlf t1_jc0p471 wrote

>I believe on thing that is true is that future employers can not contact
a past employer without your permission unless you give them as a

This is known as "backdoor referencing" and in most situations it's perfectly legal. It's generally considered bad form though and most professional employers won't do it unless they have a reason to. Technically speaking (I am well aware this is an absurdity and will never happen but it makes a good point) if they want a hiring employer can straight up just contact your nextdoor neighbor and ask if you're a respectful neighbor.

The only stuff they can't really ask from a legal standpoint is the same stuff they can't ask you about in an interview. Race, religion, age, medical conditions, etc.


Hoosac_Love t1_jc0qmn6 wrote

Every job application I've seen asks if they may contact past employers and you must give written permission for any CORI checks but of coarse if you don't agree to a CORI they obviously will never hire.

THe same is true ,they may not hire you if you don't allow them to contact past employers but I don't think they may do it without your permission.


RevengencerAlf t1_jc0r07w wrote

>Every job application I've seen asks if they may contact past employers

Yes. They ask this as a professional courtesy. And if you look closely many times they are only asking about your CURRENT employer because people understandably don't want to be put in a bind at their current job because they tested the waters on a new one. An employer looking to hire doesn't want you to have reason to be afraid to apply to them. Neither restriction is required by law. It's just good form and mutually beneficial to both parties.

>and you must give written permission for any CORI checks

CORI and criminal background history in general is COMPLETELY separate from employer history.

You're inferring a connection that does not exist between these two things.


Hoosac_Love t1_jc0t9so wrote

I know background check are different from references ,I was simply pointing out they can't CORI you without permission to make a point.


DangerPotatoBogWitch t1_jc29xp8 wrote

“Resign or be fired” is not a kindness, it’s cheating the employee out of unemployment they’re legally entitled to and making things easier on the supervisor.


Hoosac_Love t1_jc2enf8 wrote

That is true but it does give one the chance to not have being fired on there resume However to get unemployment after being fired anyway one must prove at a hearing your firing was wrongful,just being fired is not an entitlement to unemployment


peteysweetusername t1_jc29k61 wrote

Legally yes but many companies don’t want litigation in cases where a former employee can sue for slander. Most companies have policies that will say position held at termination and how long you were employed. Some will say eligible or not eligible for rehire but there are many reasons you may not be eligible. I’m assuming you’re asking this question because of a firing.

Large companies outsource these referrals to a third party company called the work number. This is considered a credit bureau for legal purposes and you can request a copy of your file


Itchy-Marionberry-62 t1_jc3s6dt wrote

In all likelihood they would refuse to give a reference if they have to say anything negative. Usually any company asking for a reference would know how to phrase any questions they ask so they don’t put the other company in any legal jeopardy.


LadyGreyIcedTea t1_jc4depu wrote

They can say anything as long as it's factual.


[deleted] t1_jc1qr7o wrote

I have no idea what an actual hr person will say but they've never asked me that when I'm pretending to be the boss of one of my friends looking for work


ARoundForEveryone t1_jc0qjxw wrote

There's always a misconception around this. I don't know where it got started, but it always comes up whenever anyone is discussing applying to new jobs.

Yes, an employer can simply say "Yes, so-and-so worked here from X to Y dates." They can also say "Yes, Larry worked here from X until they were terminated on Y date." They cannot say "Yes, Larry worked here until they abandoned their job unexpectedly while they were in in-patient rehab for a pretty gnarly drug addiction. Crazy cycle of uppers and downers, so whenever he did show up to work, we didn't know which Larry we were gonna get: Bouncy Larry or Sleepy Larry. Nice guy, but yeah, he got caught up in some crazy shit. I wish he could've had that much fun doing his TPS reports, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses, I guess."

So yeah, a former employer can say you worked there. They can give dates. They can say you no longer work there, and give dates. They can say whether you were terminated (I think why depends on whether there are legal issues pending, HIPPA issues at hand, or other similar restrictions) or whether you quit (and again, depending on the reason, why). They can say you were a good employee, called in sick every Monday morning, or couldn't get along with your coworkers.

Most don't engage because if that gets out it just looks petty for the company (especially so if the reason for separation was fairly benign and not criminal in nature). Just to keep their hands clean, HR departments just confirm employment and choose not to get into details. Good or bad, they let other companies take a gamble on you.

Even leaving out being petty, there are 4 possibilities:

  1. You were a good employee and you're going to a competitor
  2. You were a good employee and you're moving to a different industry
  3. You were a bad employee and you're going to a competitor
  4. You were a bad employee and you're moving to a different industry

For options 2 and 4, the old employer doesn't give a shit. You can be a great employee or suck ass for someone else and it won't affect them in the slightest. You're not going to a competitor and can't help or harm the industry or their competition.

For option 3, they're better off as a company if their shitty has-beens move on to competitors and harm the competition. Right?

That leaves option 1 - a 25% chance that you're going to another company that could negatively affect your former employer's bottom line. And in that case, you'd think they'd want to pretend you were the best employee ever and it's such a shame that you couldn't afford to keep them since they were a critical part of the company's success.

So just as a numbers game, it doesn't make sense to trash your reputation. Laws exist to protect Joe Employee, but even if they didn't, it's usually not a great decision for an HR department to want to trash their former employees.


nikneto t1_jc0iotb wrote

No. They are only allowed to verify employment and say if they would hire that someone again or not. So they can't say they fired someone, but if the job calling asked them directly, would you hire them back they could say absolutely not. From there, the new job can make their own assumptions.


RevengencerAlf t1_jc0mur1 wrote

This is just simply false. There is no law in Massachusetts or Federally prohibiting an employer from telling someone else that they terminated you. Most will chose not to do it because they don't want the drama but there's literally nothing stopping them from revealing the conditions of your employment ending unless those conditions are for something that might be protected under other privacy laws (for example if you ended employment due to disability or illness they may or may not have HIPPA obligations).

This feels like one of those things where people just repeat an outright falsehood authoritatively because they heard it somewhere else and they wanted it to be true so they just internalized it.


Nitelyte t1_jc0nw1y wrote

As long as everything said is true and can be backed up, employers are fine.


RevengencerAlf t1_jc0o73c wrote

From a legal liability standpoint, they don't really even have to back it up. If a former employee sues them for defamation it would be on that employee to prove what they said was false. But most will just sidestep the minefield entirely by not even bothering to share more than basic info because even a frivolous lawsuit they can slap down quickly is still an annoyance and an expense.


HeyaShinyObject t1_jc1ts25 wrote

It's typically company policy. People hear that it's not allowed and conflate the reason with the law.


nikneto t1_jc6ru26 wrote

I've definitely learned something here today. I've been in management at 3 different agencies where we were told by HR that we weren't allowed to provide any details other than dates of employment and rehire status.


RevengencerAlf t1_jc7jhks wrote

To be fair the company itself may very well have that rule so HR telling you that you aren't allowed to share it if someone calls you may be technically true. But it's definitely not the law.

If they did tell you it was illegal it also wouldn't be the first time a company told people something was illegal that wasn't just to make them extra scared of breaking the rule.


LadyGreyIcedTea t1_jc4e42k wrote

>So they can't say they fired someone

If the person was fired they absolutely can.