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 protections provided by these immunity laws are from claims for defamation of character—libel and slander. Missouri is among the states that have enacted reference immunity laws. Under Missouri law (MO Rev. Stat. Sec. 290.152), employers are immune from civil liability for truthfully responding to a written request from a former employee or prospective new employer by providing the following information:
• A disclosure of the nature and character of service rendered by the current or former employee to the disclosing employer and the duration thereof; and
• A truthful statement of the cause, if any, of discharge or cessation of employment.
The disclosing employer must mail a copy of its disclosure to the current or former employee at his or her last known address and must comply with any requests from the current or former employee for a copy of the disclosure for a period of one year following the date of the disclosure. The disclosure must be consistent with any service letter issued pursuant to Missouri's service letter law and may not be used as evidence in an unemployment compensation claim. Employers may only be held liable for statements made in the disclosure if it can be proven that the information disclosed was false and the employer disclosed it with knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard as to whether it was true or false (MO Rev. Stat. Sec. 290.152).
Employers may be obligated to inquire further if they receive a response to a reference request that provides only identifying ...