indicate or identify the employee’s status as a member of a protected class based on race,
ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, marital status or disability.
Limited Disclosure of Reference Information
To minimize potential claims or liability, many employers try to strictly limit the
information they provide in response to a reference request. Thus, many employers have a
policy to provide only name, dates of employment, and positions held. In addition,
employers may also provide last rate of pay and whether the separation was voluntary or, for
example, part of a general reduction in force (RIF). If an employer has such a policy, it
should seek to apply it consistently. This often means that human resources or executive
personnel must ensure that managers are familiar with the reference policy and consistently
More Expansive Reference if Authorized
Many employers who limit the information they provide as a matter of policy will
agree to provide additional information if an employee signs a written authorization
permitting the company to do so. The authorization should be broad enough to encompass
any information the company may want to share. It should also include specific language
releasing the company from liability for sharing information.
Negotiating Reference at Time of Separation
Under many circumstances, particularly in the context of a broader severance
negotiation, it is advantageous to negotiate the substance of a reference and a reference
protocol at the time of separation. Issues that employers may want to include in any such
The person or persons to whom a reference request will be directed (often a
specific manager or supervisor or, in other cases, a human relations staffer).