Employment References can be a beartrap for the unwary, writes Stephen Brookes
The Employment Appeals Tribunal has recently upheld a claim by a solicitor who claimed compensation against former employers when a reference they provided to subsequent prospective employers referred, gratuitously, to a previous discrimination claim the employee had brought against the firm providing the reference. The solicitor had, several years earlier, brought an unfair dismissal and discrimination claim against the former employers which the employers had settled upon terms that a reference would be provided. The mention of that history in the reference given to the prospective employers resulted in the employers withdrawing the offer of employment and the employee claimed against both the former employer and the prospective employer. The prospective employer settled the claim but the Employment Appeals Tribunal held that in respect of the reference the reverse burden of proof should apply since it was a victimisation claim under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the former employer was therefore obliged to prove that victimisation had not occurred when it provided the reference. The case aptly demonstrates the dangers of any employer providing a reference other than the name, duration of employment and job title.