Employment Reference Policy
Jodi Gentry, Vice President, UF Human Resources (UFHR)
Amy Hass, Interim Vice President and General Counsel
Employment references for former or current faculty and staff can provide prospective employers with useful information about a job candidate’s competitiveness for a vacancy. In keeping with Florida Statutes, Section 768.095, truthful reference information can be provided without fear of liability if the information is factual and without malicious intent or discrimination if provided about former or current employees to a prospective employer at the prospective employer’s request.
Under UF policy, when providing an employment reference, the following guidelines must be observed. These guidelines apply to any faculty or staff member acting as an employment reference for any current or former employee, including faculty, staff, graduate assistants, or postdoctoral associates.
• Only provide an employment reference if you have personal knowledge of the employee. Generally, only a supervisor or manager should speak on behalf of the University as an employer. For example, “Would you rehire this person?” could only be accurately answered by the person who would have rehire authority. If you are providing a reference as a colleague, rather than as a supervisor or manager, be sure that relationship is clarified.
• Employment references for employees who have been involuntarily terminated from UF (probationary dismissal, termination for cause, or nonrenewal) must be discussed with UFHR before being provided. Please contact Employee Relations via phone at (352) 392-1072. You also may always decline to provide a reference.
• When providing an employment reference, restrict your comments to those aspects of the employee’s job performance about which you have specific and personal knowledge (i.e., performance you have personally observed or experienced). Do not guess or rely on hearsay to respond to reference questions.
• Avoid providing negative information about an employee’s job performance if you did not make the employee aware of the performance problem or behavioral concern. There are possible exceptions—e.g., you learn about a problem after the employee has left employment but have documentation that the problem did exist. For this reason, UFHR discourages you from providing generic “To whom it may concern” character or employment reference letters.
• Do not disclose medical information while providing a reference, even if the employee voluntarily disclosed such information to you. You should not discuss with a prospective employer the health of the employee and any accommodations provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When asked about attendance, absences protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), along with leaves for military service, cannot be discussed nor should they negatively or otherwise influence information provided.
• Do not disclose any details regarding, addressing, or alluding to the employee’s known or suspected membership in a protected class—national origin, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc.
• Do not provide information about an employee that is not directly work related—e.g., religious beliefs, familial status, non-professional activities.
While UF policy does not prohibit managers or supervisors from providing employment references, UFHR also has a contract with The Work Number to provide employment verifications (dates of employment and salary only) for employees to whom prospective employers may be directed: www.theworknumber.com or 1-800-367-5690.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact UFHR for assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org.