A reference for a worker you fired

November 4, 2005

A colleague wants to hire my former receptionist, whom I had to fire for excessive tardiness. If he calls for a reference, should I warn him that this job candidate is bad news?

Q: A colleague wants to hire my former receptionist, whom I had to fire for excessive tardiness. If he calls for a reference, should I warn him that this job candidate is bad news?

A: Any negative reference about a former employee could put you at risk for a defamation suit, unless there's legal evidence of a crime or harm. Stick with the basic fact that the person didn't "fit in" with your office and was terminated. Don't give any more details.

Furthermore, tell your colleague that you need to reply in writing only. A telephone reference could open the door to a messy "he said/she said" situation.