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The More You Know: Reference Checks

By Net Assets posted 25 days ago

  
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Risk Management |

States are enacting employee background check laws that apply as equally to independent schools as they do to public schools.

From the July/August 2018 Net Assets magazine

The following is an excerpt of the article "The More You Know," which covers nine additional topics (see box below). 

This information is provided for general educational purposes only. It should not be relied upon as, or in place of, legal advice. The authors and reader do not have an attorney/client relationship. Readers are encouraged to work with their legal counsel when addressing specific issues.

By Linda Adler and Michael Blacher, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore

Checking references should be a part of every school’s hiring practice. It increases the likelihood of making a well-informed hiring decision, protects against claims of negligent hiring, and demonstrates fairness, equity and transparency in the recruitment process. Yet we repeatedly find that schools fail to undertake this critical step – and that they do so to their detriment.

Schools may be reluctant to initiate reference checks because they anticipate that former employers will not provide meaningful information. That concern is not only speculative but can be remedied in at least two ways. First, require all applicants to sign a release permitting information to be shared without fear of defamation or other claims. Former employers may similarly require a release before sharing information. A refusal to provide a release is itself telling. Second, require all applicants to approve of sharing their personnel records.

When seeking references, speak to those who actually supervised the applicant. Include that information on your application. Prepare a list of open-ended questions that you use consistently. Examples include:

  • How would you describe the applicant’s personal characteristics, such as maturity and ability to get along with others?
  • Do you have any concerns about the applicant working directly with or supervising children?
  • Has the applicant ever been disciplined?
  • Would you rehire the applicant?

Finally, document the information you sought and obtained for each reference check. It’s a best practice whose time has come.

Linda Adler and Michael Blacher are based in California with Liebert Cassidy Whitmore.

Download a PDF of this article.

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