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We are a small family run operation. Once in a while we get a phone call asking for employment verification concerning present or former employees. I feel uncomfortable giving out private information without the consent of the employee. Are there legal issues involved by us giving such information? What are your thoughts? Thank you.

– Andrew Resney, Partner, Autumn Cafe', Oneonta, NY


Employment verifications happen for a variety of reasons—when an employee or former employee applies for a car loan, mortgage or other lending; when she or he applies to a new position; or as part of a background check for government service, to name a few. Overall, you don’t have to respond to any requests unless the information is subpoenaed, but is standard practice to do so. In general, less is more when responding. Most states agree that you don’t need permission to verify the dates of a person’s employment, full- or part-time status, and position and should answer truthfully.  Many government agencies conducting background checks say that they can compel you to respond. For private firms like mortgage companies, you can more easily choose not to respond, but there is little reason not to—and it may keep the employee from achieving his or her goal.

The best way to cover yourself is to include a form in your employee manual that all new hires sign, indicating that if asked for employment verification anytime during or after employment, you will provide that type of information.

It’s important you keep employment verifications short and to the point. It is not the time to wax poetic about a star employee or warn anyone off of a train wreck. “Yes that employee was with us in this capacity at this time” is plenty!

More on employment verification here. As always, consult your attorney to be sure you are complying with state and federal law. 

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