Sunday, May 10, 2020

What is a Previous Employer really Allowed to say about You?

What is a Previous Employer really allowed to say about You?
When it comes to a background check, do you know what a former employer will say about you? Do you know what they are actually legally allowed to say?

The quick answer to this question is ~ It depends! Some states and localities have statutes addressing this issue, while others do not. And even among areas that have regulations the guidelines can vary.

However, there is some information that past employers commonly reveal. These are your start and finish dates and your job title. For a growing number of companies, this is the extent of the information they will provide. Some others may also include your reason for leaving and whether you are eligible for rehire.

But what about things like your job performance or other “personal” details?   

When it comes to what a previous employer will say about you, your best bet is to know in advance. Not only is it better for your chances of landing a new job, but having this information will also prevent any unwelcome surprises during the employment background check!


Many states have regulations that outline the information a previous employer can reveal about you. These may cover things like requiring a signed release or limiting the information provided. In some instances, employers that follow these guidelines are then protected from being sued for defamation.

For example, in Pennsylvania, as in many other states, employers can only legally disclose information about your job performance and are protected from liability unless they outright provide false information or are in violation of your civil rights under employment discrimination laws.

In South Carolina, employers have a list of allowable information ~ length of employment; pay level and pay history; reason(s) for termination/separation; job performance; job description and duties; attendance, attitude, and effort; awards, demotions and promotions; and disciplinary actions. The employer is also immune from liability unless they knowingly or thoughtlessly lie.

In Connecticut, the information an employer can provide is any “truthful statement of any facts” and in Iowa, it is only “work-related information” that is allowed. Then there are also states and localities that have no limitations at all or where information can only be provided to certain types of businesses ~ hospitals, home health agencies, banks, public utilities, transportation companies, and contractors.

And, despite state and local regulations like these, many employers are only revealing dates of employment and job title or nothing, all to protect themselves from potential liability!

So, what can you do to give yourself a heads up on what past employers will say about you?

Do a little research! Find out the laws in your state and locality governing employer background check guidelines, along with any state and locality where you may have worked!

You can discover your state laws through this link or on your state or local websites, State Laws on References and Statements by Former Employers”.

But despite “best practices” and legal regulations, can you really be 100% sure that you know what a former employer will say about you? That is why your best course of action is to take the time to do a Background Check on yourself first! 


What will your Employment Background Check Say about You?
Knowing in advance what a former employer will disclose simply makes sense! 

Are you looking for a job? Ready to change careers? This is when running a background check on yourself BEFORE you apply is smart ~ and it will help you stand out from the crowd!

When it comes to preparing for an employment background check ~ your best defense is a good offense. Depending on the kind of job you are pursuing, you should make sure you include these basics in your background check:
  • Criminal History Check
  • Education/Certification/License Check
  • Internet Search
  • Driving History
  • Employment History
While you most likely know what will be found for most of these, what past employers may say can sometimes be a wild card. That is why knowing in advance is your best bet.

It is important to contact all past employers listed on your resume to verify what they will release to anyone doing a background check. Is it limited to job titles and dates of employment? Will they verify reason for leaving or comment on work performance?

Learning this information will give you that chance to make any corrections needed on your resume before a background check discovers any discrepancies. Find out more about why and how to do a background check on yourself in “Why, When, and How You should Run a Background Check on Yourself!”.

Being forewarned about what your past employers will say about you will give you peace of mind to go after that new job or promotion. And all it takes is a little work on your part first!

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