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In light of the recent chilling incidents of violence in the workplace, your CEO has made updating your company’s hiring and firing practices a priority. A committee was formed and your task is to work on the company’s policy for giving references. Here’s a roadmap for your task. WHAT SHOULD YOUR REFERENCE POLICY INCLUDE? Your policy should be to provide references; failure to do so may make you liable should an ex-employee turn violent in a subsequent workplace if you had let that employee go because of violent tendencies or threatening behavior. Be consistent. The most important factor in a good policy is consistency. Have a firm, uniform policy for giving references and make sure that everyone who has the authority to give references follows that policy to the letter. Restrict the number of people who are authorized to give references and document each reference provided, even those given over the telephone, if your policy allows oral references. The following tips will guide you in setting up a reference practice that is uniform and fair: * Develop a formal policy for handling employee reference requests that addresses: The type of information that will be provided; Who is authorized to provide references; and The required form of the request. * Communicate the reference policy to managers and employees. * Make sure that terminated employees are given an accurate reason for their dismissals, based on documented evidence. * Do not provide references for former employees unless you have a release and waiver. * Do not provide blank “to whom it may concern” reference letters to separating employees. * Return responses to written reference requests to the requester in an envelope marked “confidential.” * Ask any party requesting a reference if it has the former employee’s permission to contact you. * Verify the identity of the person making a telephone inquiry by calling the employer to verify the inquirer’s position. * Communicate only with parties that have a need to know (HR, prospective supervisor, etc.) * Before giving references over the telephone, ask if the other party is alone and if the conversation is being recorded. * Provide only truthful, job-related information that is based on proper documentation. * Do not volunteer information that is not requested. * Do not provide misleading information. * Provide the same type of information about former employees at all levels. * Document the specifics of all references given in a log. Frank B. Garrett III, a principal at the Decatur, Ill., law firm of Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton & Taylor, speaking at the Eleventh Annual EEO Conference in Chicago. � 2000, CCH INCORPORATED. All Rights Reserved.

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