Reference checks are a useful way for employers to gather information about applicants that they might not discover through the application and interview process. However, despite the usefulness of reference checking, many employers are legitimately concerned about lawsuits from former employees based on information provided in response to a request for a reference and liability for the actions of employees where the company failed to conduct a thorough reference check. This creates a catch-22 for employers.
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.
Vermont has a limited and temporary reference immunity law that is scheduled for repeal on July 1, 2013. The law provides immunity to employers that in good faith provide information about a current or former employee's job performance to a prospective employer. The employer must provide a written copy of the reference to the employee. The law defines "prospective employer" as an employer of workers with duties that may place the person in a position of power, authority, or supervision over a minor or vulnerable adult, or whose duties are likely to permit regular and unsupervised contact with a minor on a paid or volunteer basis.
There is no immunity if the employee can show that the employer: provided false information knew or reasonable should have known it was false; knowingly disclosed misleading information; or disclosed information in violation of the ...