New Jersey References laws & HR compliance analysis

New Jersey References: What you need to know

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. This creates a quandary for employers.
Employers are also concerned about liability for the actions of employees where the company failed to conduct a thorough reference check. New Jersey, like many states, has recognized the tort of negligent hiring (Di Cosala v. Kay, 91 N.J. 159 (1982)). 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.
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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. New Jersey is not among the states that have enacted reference immunity laws.
In fact, the New Jersey courts have ruled that an employer may be liable for negligent misrepresentation if it provides an inaccurate or false employment reference (Singer v. Beach Trading Co., Inc., 876 A.2d 885 (N.J. App. Div., 2005)). An employer can be held liable for misrepresenting a former employee's work history if:
• The inquiring party clearly identifies ...

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