The purpose of this procedure is to identify the kind of information that can be disclosed, and guidelines for providing that information. Under certain circumstances, and within certain parameters, supervisors are authorized to provide employment references when contacted by prospective employers
Supervisors are authorized to provide employment references when contacted by prospective employers, provided the information disclosed is:
- Requested by the prospective employer,
- Provided in good faith, and
- Not considered "protected" information.1
Generally, Oregon law provides immunity from civil liability for the disclosure of information and its consequences to supervisors who comply with these guidelines (Oregon Revised Statutes 30.178).
The protections of Oregon statute do not apply if information:
- Is volunteered without request by the prospective employer or the former employee;
- Goes beyond discussion of a former employee's job performance;
- Is known to be false or deliberately misleading;
- Is disclosed with malicious intent;
- Is disclosed in violation of the former employee's civil rights under ORS 6591; or
- Is provided for a current employee2.
Although references for current employees are technically not protected by Oregon statute, supervisors are authorized to disclose information about current employees within the parameters described in this procedure.
The following guidelines are provided to help reduce the legal risks involved in providing employment references for both current and former employees.
- Be truthful. Don't make statements that are not based on credible evidence.
- Be clear and unambiguous. Don't make misleading or incomplete statements.
- Be objective. Don't use the employment reference to punish or "blacklist" an individual (see ORS 659.230-240).
- Stick to the information that the inquiring employer requests. Don't volunteer information that is not requested, especially unfavorable information.
- Beware of illegal questions, such as questions about an employee's disability, national origin, race, etc. Don't be led by an illegal question into providing information that is illegal to disclose.
- Remember that you don't have to answer all of the questions you are asked. You have the right to say, "I don't have information about that" or "I'd prefer not to comment on that."
- Be cautious when questioned about the employee's attendance record. Don't disclose information about disabilities or illnesses in this or any other context.
- Stick to job-related facts. Don't talk about the employee's private life.
- Be certain the person requesting the information has a legitimate business interest.
- Use care in providing references over the telephone. Arrange to provide the information in a return call, whenever possible. Before returning the call, contact Human Resources if you have any concerns.
- Document who is requesting the information and for what purpose.
- Document exactly what information is provided.
If the supervisor is aware that an individual has filed, or threatened to file a discrimination charge or a lawsuit of any type against the college, then no information should be given without first contacting Human Resources. In such a case, the supervisor should arrange to provide information in a return call and should not disclose to the prospective employer that a discrimination charge or lawsuit has been threatened or filed.
Supervisors with concerns about employment reference requests are encouraged to contact Human Resources for assistance.
1Employees have the right to oppose discriminatory employment practices, file an employment discrimination complaint or testify in an employment discrimination proceeding. An individual's participation in such activities should not be disclosed to a prospective employer by the supervisor. The supervisor should also avoid disclosure of any information about the individual's "protected class status" (such as race, color, religion, national original, disability, age, etc.).
2On its face, the statute applies only to disclosures about a "former employee."