Employers generally use reference checks to verify or gather information about job applicants. Despite the usefulness of reference checks, employers that are asked to provide references may be legitimately concerned about defamation lawsuits by former employees if negative information is provided in response to a reference request. A discussion of these legal issues is available.
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. Connecticut has not enacted a reference immunity law.
However, the state Supreme Court has recognized a qualified privilege for communications among managers of the same company regarding an employee’s job performance and the preparation of documents regarding an employee’s termination (Torosyan v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 662 A.2d 89 (Conn. 1995)).
In a later case, the Supreme Court clarified that the qualified privilege may be defeated in certain circumstances (Gambardella v. Apple Health Care, Inc., 969 A.2d 736 (Conn. 2009)). In this case, the plaintiff worked as an admissions counselor at an extended-care facility and was fired for theft despite clear evidence to the contrary. Other individuals, including the plaintiff's daughter, learned that the plaintiff had been fired for stealing, and the plaintiff sued for defamation. The defendant healthcare facility argued that its intracorporate communications regarding the plaintiff's termination were privileged.
The Supreme Court upheld a verdict in ...