What are Former Employers Legally Allowed to Say About You?

Job seekers usually have a lot of questions when it comes to what a former employer can say about them when providing a reference. Can they tell a hiring manager that you were fired? Are they allowed to say why? Can they tell a prospective employer how much notice you provided when you quit or the number of absences you had?

These kinds of questions can leave candidates worried, even if their work history is fairly standard. If you are wondering what former employers are legally allowed to say about you, here’s what you need to know.

Federal and State Law

At this time, there is no federal law that dictates what a past employer can or cannot say about you. This means, from a national perspective, there is no standard.

However, the majority of states do have regulations about what can or cannot be disclosed. These laws can vary greatly, so one state’s standard may not be an accurate reflection what is in place in any other area.

This means that, to find out what may apply to you, you’ll need to check the laws in your state (as well as states where you were previously employed).

An Overview of What Employers Can Usually Say

In most cases, a previous employer does have the right to disclose if you were terminated. Additionally, they can often legally provide a reason as to why that decision was made. Some states also allow employers to provide general feedback regarding your performance.

But, even though they may legally be allowed to provide certain kinds of information, many employers are incredibly cautious when it comes to sharing information. Most want to do everything they can to avoid lawsuits focused on defamation, most commonly slander and libel. So, unless they are completely certain that the information they are going to provide is accurate, they usually won’t disclose it.

Can You Find Out What Will be Disclosed?

It is possible to find out what details will or won’t be disclosed. Usually, this is done by contacting whichever person or department would be providing the information and asking what is revealed during an employment verification.

If you are concerned that the company was not being upfront when you ask what they will say during a reference check, you can research common questions used during these calls and have someone you trust contact your employer acting as though they are checking your references.

Ultimately, it is wise to assume that your previous employer will share a significant amount of detail. That way, you can prepare in advance to address any situations that arise with the hiring manager when you go in for interviews.

It’s crucial that you are honest about your work history when you apply for new jobs, including disclosing if you were terminated if the question is asked. But, remember, a lot of people were at one point fired and went on to have great careers, so don’t assume that a single blemish on your record will haunt you forever, as long as you are honest about the situation.

If you are looking for new opportunities, the professionals at Talon can connect you with some of today’s leading employers. Contact us today to find out more about our available jobs and how our services can benefit you.


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