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A Guide to Providing Ethical and Legal References

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Presentation on theme: "A Guide to Providing Ethical and Legal References"— Presentation transcript:

1 A Guide to Providing Ethical and Legal References

2 What we will discuss.. What Students Should Know
What a Reference Provider Should Know Written References Verbal References Pitfalls

3 What Students Should Know…
Effective references are vital The best reference providers are busy Reference providers must be able to write or speak confidentially about a student’s capabilities. I should take care of my references: keep them informed, thank them You will be asked for three or four references, so you should have five or six

4 Students- your reference providers must…
Have your resume Know you professionally Know for what positions you are applying- i.e. they have the job descriptions Be honest

5 Students- your references must not be…
Your neighbor Your clergy Your family friends Unwilling to work for nothing for you One gender only- balance the genders

6 Students- you must provide…
A reference’s full name, title, employer, daytime address, daytime telephone number, address An understanding or clear link to the relationship of the reference to you, in the resume or on the Reference page Your reference with information about the success (or failure) of your job search

7 What a Reference Provider Should Know…
First, ask yourself: Do I know this person well enough to be a reference? Am I able to do this by xxx date? What will I say about this person? Do I have this person’s resume? Do I have a Release from this person?

8 Written References… Provide a written reference only if a student has given your name as a reference. When you prepare reference letters, be factual; do not editorialize. Avoid vague statements. Respond to the specific inquiry about the student or job applicant. Direct the response to the particular person who requested the information. If a “to whom it may concern” reference letter is requested, document that this is the type of reference requested and that the student or job applicant takes responsibility for disseminating the letter to the proper persons.

9 Written References (cont.)
Avoid giving personal opinions or feelings. However, if you make subjective statements or give opinions because they are requested, clearly identify them as opinions and not as fact. If you give an opinion, explain the incident or circumstances upon which you base the opinion. Be able to document all information you release Relate references to the specific position for which the person applied and the work that the applicant will perform.

10 Written References (cont.)
State in the reference letter, “This information is confidential, should be treated as such, and is provided at the request of [name of student or applicant], who has asked me to serve as a reference.” Statements such as this give justification for the communication and leave no doubt that the information was not given to hurt a person’s reputation. Do not include information that might indicate the individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, citizenship status, sex, or marital status.

11 Written References (cont.)
Before disclosing educational information covered by FERPA (e.g. student's transcripts, GPA, grades, social security number, etc.), you must obtain the written consent of the student. Failure to obtain such consent may constitute a violation of FERPA.

Sample Release Form PERMISSION TO RELEASE PERSONAL INFORMATION I _______________________________________________ hereby grant permission to ____________________________ to release information contained in my personal file to employers, educational institutions, and foundations for the purpose of assisting me in obtaining employment, admission to graduate or professional school, fellowships, and/or scholarships. Signature______________________________Date________

13 Verbal References… Do not disclose information regarding a student’s education record without the written consent of the student. Informal “lunch” discussions or “off the record” telephone conversations with prospective employers regarding a student’s performance should be avoided unless the student is aware of the discussions and has given approval for such conversation. Information given should be factual, based upon personal knowledge/observation of and contact with the student.

14 Verbal References (c0nt.)
If any employer contacts faculty and advises the faculty that a student has given permission for the faculty member(s) to give a verbal reference, verification of this permission should be obtained from the student before giving any information to the employer. Such verification can include a copy of the student’s signed employment application listing the faculty as a reference, or a verbal confirmation by the student, followed by written confirmation. In addition, those giving verbal references should follow “Written Reference” guidelines .

15 Pitfalls..caution!... Candidate Referral
Employers may contact you to request the names of students who would be excellent candidates for job opportunities. If you or a colleague receive a job lead from an employer and choose only to refer a few individuals without publicizing the position to all students who may be qualified, you are not maintaining "a fair and equitable recruiting process." By identifying individuals for employment on a "regular" basis, you may be considered an "employment agency" for purposes of compliance with equal employment opportunity laws. For example, if it appears as if you are (innocently or otherwise) referring only male students or only minority students, you may be open to charges of discrimination.

16 What to do… If you receive a request for student referrals, you can notify individual students who have declared an interest in such positions and encourage them to apply. However, you should also post the position in your department/area and announce it to your classes or groups with which you work. Contact the Career Center so that the position can be listed campus-wide. There are practical reasons for these actions: The Career Center office may have an existing relationship with the requesting employer through co-op, part-time/summer job, internship, job fair, or other recruiting programs. Or, the Career Center practitioners may wish to develop a broader relationship with the employer. Sometimes unproductive misunderstandings occur when an employer works with more than one campus office

17 Referral of Minority Candidates
Another Tricky One… Referral of Minority Candidates Missouri State University has diversity objectives. Accordingly, we should make a special effort to identify and attract minority candidates. Our University endorses compliance with EEO guidelines and adherence to affirmative action principles. It is illegal to discriminate against protected groups. It is considered appropriate for Career Center practitioners to inform members of protected groups about employment opportunities, especially in areas where minorities are underrepresented. Similarly, employers are encouraged to inform minority populations of special activities, e.g., information sessions or career fairs that have been developed to help achieve an employer's affirmative action goals. You can support all of these activities.

18 Another Tricky One (cont.)
While it is lawful and ethical for you to assist employers in reaching out to minority groups, it is inappropriate for you to identify only minority individuals who might fit the needs of an organization. You have an obligation to provide a "fair" system, i.e., one where all students have access to information about career opportunities. If you receive a request for minority candidate referrals, you can make announcements in class, post signs in your department, notify minority students' organizations , pass the request on to the Career Center, or refer the employer to the Multicultural Student Services office.

19 Suggestions… Written references should be limited to one (1) typed page, al least size 12 font Notify a student when you provide a reference, written or verbal Be honest; don’t embellish trying to help.

20 Sample Employer Reference Letter
Samples Sample Employer Reference Letter Dear [Name of Employer]: This reference letter is provided at the request of (or with the written authorization of) [name of former employee]. It is my understanding that [individual's name] has applied for the position of [job title] with your organization. The information contained in this letter is confidential and should be treated as such. It should not be disclosed to anyone within your organization who would not be involved in the hiring decision regarding this individual. Moreover, it should not be disclosed to anyone outside of your organization without the written consent of [individual's name]. [Individual's name] has been employed [or has participated in an internship, cooperative education, or work-study program] by our company since [date] and has held the following position(s): [list positions and salary in each position]. In [his/her] most recent position, [he/she] had responsibility for [explain the person's main responsibilities in this position]. [State your estimation of his/her performance, based upon performance appraisals or other work records that would support your evaluation]. [Individual's name] interacted well with co-employees, was reliable, and showed good judgment. [Give examples.] If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me. Sincerely,

21 Sample Faculty Reference Letter
Samples Sample Faculty Reference Letter Dear [Name of Employer]: This reference letter is provided at the written request of [name of student], who has asked me to serve as a reference on [his/her] behalf. It is my understanding that [name of student] is being considered by your organization for the position of [job title]. Please be advised that the information contained in this letter is confidential and should be treated as such. The information should not be disclosed to [name of student, if student has waived access] or anyone in your organization who would not be involved in the hiring decision regarding this individual. Additionally, the information should not be disclosed to anyone outside of your organization without the consent of the student. I have known [name of student] for the past [number of months, semesters, years] as [he/she] has taken the following courses which I teach: [list courses, give brief description of content of course]. As [his/her] professor, I have had an opportunity to observe the student's participation and interaction in class and to evaluate the student's knowledge of the subject matter. I would rate the student's overall performance in these subjects as average. This is evidenced by [his/her] grades--[state the grades]. [One or two specific examples of the student's performance may be appropriate.] As part of [his/her] grade in [name of course], the student was required to prepare a paper. The paper was designed to measure the student's ability to research, to analyze the results of the research, and to write. [Discuss how the paper submitted by the student indicated to you the student's skills in these areas.] Based upon this, I rate the student's skills competent but not excelling. The one area in which the student performed above average was in oral communications. [Give specific example to support this.] Based upon the student's academic performance and my understanding of the position for which the student is applying, I believe the student would perform (place overall evaluation here). If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me. Sincerely,

22 Defamation To be defamatory, a statement must be false and must harm the person’s reputation and lower his or her esteem within the community. “Harm to one’s reputation” must result in tangible harm, e.g., loss of money, business, or employment, to the person. A substantially true statement may be defamatory if it is incomplete and misleading. Statements of opinion are defamatory if they are based on unsubstantiated facts. The general rule is that no defamation is committed unless the erroneous statement is written or spoken to someone other than the person about whom the statement is made. Some courts have held that if the communication is among managerial personnel of the same organization and concerns business issues, such as performance problems of employees, it is not considered “a publication” to a third person.

23 Qualified Privilege In the employment context, the law provides a “qualified privilege” for communications made in good faith on any subject in which the party making the communication has an interest. Some courts have held that qualified privilege applies to personnel evaluation information or intra-company communications regarding an employee’s fitness. Even though remarks may be untrue, if the conditions of qualified privilege are met, the communicator has a complete defense against the defamation claim. An employer may be protected by a qualified privilege when it discloses information necessary to serve its legitimate interest in an employee’s fitness to perform. For example, qualified privilege applies when a current employer discloses the reasons for an employee’s discharge to a prospective employer. It also applies when a supervisor is informed of his/her employee’s improper conduct. The privilege may be lost if the communication reaches people who do not have a legitimate interest in the subject. A statement also loses its privileged character if the communicator is motivated by ill will, if there is excessive communication of the statement, or if the statement is made without a reasonable belief that it is true. At issue is not only the factual accuracy of the statement. For a statement to be defamatory, it must be shown that substantial evidence exists that the supervisor knowingly lied or had no idea (reckless disregard for the truth) whether the statement was true. Reckless disregard for the truth includes a failure to verify circumstances where verification is practical.

24 Thank you for enabling this exchange of ideas…

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