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Should an employer provide references?

Business planning in Minnesota should include human resources' policies that help prevent litigation and secure profitability. Policies concerning job references may avoid employment disputes.

Private employers are not liable when providing references under certain circumstances. They may respond to requests for information from other prospective employers and employment agencies on dates of employment, wage and compensation history, job description and duties and employer-provided training and education.

In addition, an employer can respond to inquiries about theft, acts of violence, harassment, and other similar conduct, if that information is part of the employee's personal record and it resulted in resignation or disciplinary action. The employer's response must be written and a copy must be sent simultaneously to the employee's last known address by regular mail.

Liability protection also applies when the employee gave written authorization for written disclosure of other information. When this authorization is made, an employer may submit the employee's written evaluations before separation and any written response from the employee contained in the personnel record. In addition, an employer may share evidence of written disciplinary warnings which occurred up to five years before the authorization.

As with the other disclosures, an employer must provide the employee or former employee with a copy of the information and to whom it was disclosed. This has to be mailed to the employee at the same time of the disclosure.

A prospective employee or employment agency may not disclose any of this written information without the employee's written approval. These legal protections do not govern an employee's actions concerning alleged violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act or lessen or impair a person's rights under a collective bargaining agreement.

Business disputes and lawsuits may be foreclosed with legal advice, business planning and sensible procedures. This planning may also protect employers when business litigation is unavoidable.

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Small Business Assistance Office, "A guide to starting a business in Minnesota," Retrieved Dec. 15, 2014

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