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. 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 protections provided by these immunity laws are from claims for defamation of character—libel and slander.
Oklahoma is among the states that have enacted a reference immunity law. Under Oklahoma law, with the written consent of the current or former employee ("Employee") and at the request of the Employee or a prospective employer, an employer may disclose accurate information about the job performance of the Employee to the prospective employer (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 as well as an individual or agent ...