West Virginia References laws & HR compliance analysis

West Virginia 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. West Virginia, like many states, has recognized the tort of negligent hiring (Sipple v. Starr, 205 W. Va. 717, 520 S.E.2d 884 (1999)). 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 protections provided by these immunity laws are from claims for defamation of character—libel and slander. West Virginia is among the states that have enacted a reference immunity law (W.V. Code § 55-7-18a).
Employers in West Virginia are immune from civil liability for the good-faith disclosure of job-related information about a former or current employee. The employer's reference must be in writing, and a copy must be provided to the former or current employee. The presumption of good faith can be rebutted by showing ...

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