Colorado References: What you need to know

Reference checks are a useful way for employers to gather information about applicants that might not be discovered through the application and interview process. However, despite the usefulness of reference checking, many employers are legitimately concerned about defamation lawsuits from former employees based on information provided in response to a request for a reference. Employers are also concerned about liability for the actions of employees where the company failed to conduct a thorough reference check. Colorado, like several other states, has recognized the tort of negligent hiring (Raleigh v. Performance Plumbing and Heating, Inc., 130 P.3d 1011 (CO 2006)). Employers may be liable for intentional or negligent acts of an employee if they knew or should have known of an employee's dangerous propensities. Therefore, employers should be diligent in conducting reference and background checks on new employees, particularly when the job involves contact with the public. A detailed discussion of these legal issues is available.
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To deal with employers' reluctance to provide information about former employees, a number of states have enacted laws “immunizing” employers against employee claims over such disclosures. The immunity laws generally provide protection from claims by former employees for defamation of character.
Colorado is among the states that have enacted reference immunity laws. Employers are immune from civil liability for the consequences of providing, at the request of any prospective employer, or current or former employee, information about the current or former employee's job history and/or job performance (CO Rev. Stat. Sec. 8-2-114). An employer is immune to ...

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