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What information can your former employer disclose?

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2023 | Employment Law For Workers |

Background checks are standard practice for companies that are hiring new employees. The hiring manager may ask for information about your previous employer at the initial stages of your job interview. Various factors, however, may make you hesitant to provide it. Knowing what your previous boss can disclose might help ease your concerns.

What can previous employers say about you?

California Civil Code maintains that information shared between a former and a potential employer may fall under privileged communication. Acting as a shield, this privilege allows employers to express their honest feedback with some protection from facing a lawsuit.

Still, it comes with limitations. Privileged communication is not a free pass to harm someone’s reputation. It does not protect statements that are malicious or false, nor those that touch on protected activities. Similarly, it does not apply to unsolicited communications, such as when a former employer contacts a potential employer without being asked.

To avoid any trouble with the law, most previous employers will choose to stick to facts. They might share your name, position held, responsibilities and work performance.

Reasons why employees hesitate to add references

Indeed, not all work experiences are positive. Among the common reasons why applicants are apprehensive about their previous and potential employer talking include:

  • Having had a poor relationship with the previous manager
  • Experienced a toxic work environment
  • Currently employed and fear termination for job seeking
  • Were terminated or laid off
  • Did not meet the previous employer’s expectations

Knowing that your references can affect your prospects, safeguarding your reputation may be challenging without compromising your chances of landing the job.

Protecting yourself without hurting your prospects

Potential employers look into your work history to understand if you’ve gained any insights and see how you might fit in within their organization. Strive to protect your reputation with these two steps:

  1. Be transparent with the potential employer. Communicate your concerns and reframe those negative experiences as valuable lessons that helped you grow professionally.
  2. Contact your previous employer and references. Check with your previous HR or manager to determine what information they can disclose. Additionally, ask permission from your references first and help them prepare their responses for when your potential employer calls.

Your references help paint a picture of you as a professional, potentially influencing your potential employer’s decision. If you’ve had some bumps in your career path, informing your potential employer about them can show your honesty and willingness to grow professionally.