Can my former employer talk to prospective employers about my job performance without my permission?

Elizabeth Farrell

Although employers are often reticent to provide references, fearing defamation claims, they are protected under Oregon law when the information provided is done so in good faith and is relevant employment information. Oregon Revised Statute 30.178 provides immunity to employers responding to reference checks on former employees if the reference check is requested by the prospective employer or the former employee as long as the employer discloses information in good faith which is limited to the former employee’s job performance. Under the statute, there is a presumption of good faith for any information provided which falls within these parameters. The presumption is rebutted, however, if the employer knowingly provides false or misleading information or provides information with a malicious purpose or in violation of the individual’s civil rights.

In other words, yes, a former employer may provide information about an employee’s job performance to a prospective employer. The employee does not need to give the former employer permission to do so, and the employer may discuss the former employee’s job performance. A former employer may provide information about attendance and whether or not an individual employee violated sick leave policies/procedures, but may not inquire about the individual’s medical conditions or work-related injuries. Furthermore, it is a violation of an individual’s civil rights if the employer comments on the employee’s gender, race, national origin, disability, religion, age, family medical leave absences, or worker’s compensation filings/injuries.