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> A company where I once worked as a manager wouldn't let us do any more than
> confirm that the person worked there and required that we forward all such
> reference calls to HR. The reason was that the company (and we personally)
> could be sued if something we said caused the person not to get the job.
> Hard to prove, perhaps, but real in this context.
The San Francisco Chronicle ran a lengthy front-page story in August
1993 about the perils and pitfalls of job references. An employee of
the SF office of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein was arrested on gun
charges when they found a loaded pistol in his desk. He explained that
he was working for the CIA to investigate UFO's. He had a good work
record and had come with excellent references. The city was naturally
nervous because of the recent shooting-spree tragedy in the office
building at 101 California St in San Francisco.
Lawyers giving seminars on employment practice have a predictably
schizophrenic message: "When you're asking, dig for all you can find.
When you're asked, refuse to do anything but confirm dates of employment."
The article went on to say that the pendulum was swinging back from
an extreme sensitivity to the privacy of the applicant. Some lawsuits
for the victims (or their families) of criminal employees had found
the previous employer to be liable for concealing earlier problems.
Workplace homicide is the leading cause of on-the-job death for
American women, and is second only to accidents for American men.
Obviously this is the worst-case scenario in the "references" problem.
As the article said, "If it can happen to a U.S. Senator's office,
it can happen anywhere." Of course, this particular senator has had
terrible, personal experience, having witnessed the assassination
of Mayor Moscone and City Councilman Harvey Milk in 1979.
The article gave no real solutions, nor can I, besides
"Be careful out there."
Ray Bruman Cogito, ergo remuneror.
rbruman -at- raynet -dot- com I think, therefore I am paid.