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 detailed 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 laws generally protect employers from defamation lawsuits by former employees.
Oklahoma is among the states that have enacted a reference immunity law. Under the law, an employer may disclose information about a current or former employee’s job performance to a prospective employer when requested by the prospective employer (or the employee) as long as the employee has provided written consent (OK Stat. Tit. 40 Sec. 61).
The statute protects employers from lawsuits related to references by creating a presumption that a disclosure made pursuant to the statute was made in good faith. This presumption of good faith may be rebutted if the employee can show that the information was false and that the employer knew it was false at the time of the disclosure or that the employer acted with malice or reckless disregard of the truth in disclosing the information. The law protects the employer and an individual or agent authorized to act on the employer's behalf in making the disclosure.
Note: Oklahoma's immunity statute does not require an employer to provide job performance information about an employee. An employer is ...