As an employer, you'll frequently get calls regarding former employees.
People may want to verify their employment, confirm when they were employed with you, get confirmation on compensation levels or simply find out whether you will provide the former employee with a reference.
These reference and background check calls are very common.
The problem is that you can't be sure these calls are legitimate.
Think about it. What stops a con artist, jilted lover, stalker or private investigator from calling you to get dirt on one of your former employees?
Nothing, unless you require a signed Authorization to Release Employment Information before you discuss a former employee.
When you get the call, you can simply say "I'm sorry. We don't discuss former employees unless we receive an Authorization to Release Employment Information that has been signed by the individual in question."
This is not a complex legal document, so there should be little objection to your request. In its simplest form, the format of an Authorization to Release Employment Information looks something like this:
I, ____________, do hereby authorize _______________, my prior employer, to release any and all information relating to my employment with them to ________________ (the company that is requesting the employee information). I understand that that this information will be held in strictest confidence, that it will be viewed only for the purposes of _________________, and that neither I nor anyone else not so involved will have the right to see the information. I further release and hold harmless both ______________ (company getting the information) and _____________ (company giving the information) from any and all liability that may result from the disclosure of this information and/or the use of such information.
As a matter of practice, "any and all information" is sometimes replaced with more specific language that limits the disclosure to specific pieces of information like salary, title and dates of employment.
The inquiring entity will need to get your former employee to sign something like this, or else you won't disclose the information. That's not likely to happen if the inquiry isn't legitimate.
Note that in our discussion so far, you're putting the burden on the other company to get your former employee to sign the document. Some companies take a slightly different approach.
Requiring Your Employees to Sign an Authorization to Release Employment Information
Another scenario for using an Authorization to Release Employment Information is to have all your new hires sign one so that you are protected from liability if at any time in the future, somebody calls you asking for information about the employee.
Many companies will have every new employee sign a document that allows the employer to release information about salary, job title and dates of employment.
After all, these inquiries can come in while the employee is currently employed, so this isn't just something that comes up exclusively with former employees. The inquiries are particularly common for employees who are buying a house or refinancing a mortgage.
If you do decide to use an employee information release authorization document of some kind, run it by your legal counsel. The laws on disclosing employee information can vary by country, state and even city.
The punchline on this topic is that while the risk would seem to be minimal when you get a call asking for information about an employee, you never know who's really calling you.
Fortunately, the Authorization to Release Employment Information provides a way to avoid legal complications caused by an infraction of confidentiality laws.
To protect your employee and to protect yourself, using a legal document to authorize the disclosure of employee information is often a good idea for all involved parties.