March 30th, 2011 — 12:39am
Many Fortune 500 companies do not give employee references. Instead, they behave like the military and only provide name, rank and serial number for an employee applying for a new job. They only give the dates of employment. They are gun-shy about giving recommendations, especially when an employee has been terminated. Their generic reference letters focus only on tenure, position and pure objective facts. Nothing is said about the employees performance.But this approach does the raise an issue about LinkedIn, where people often recommend someone by writing a little review of their performance. Obviously, most employees terminated will not seek an online reference from an employer that canned them (either with cause or without cause). So the question becomes ‘does an employer have the right to tell you that you can not write a LinkedIn reference.’ And if you do, does the employer have the right to take action against you.So, there is risk on both sides here. The employee can loose his job or be punished if he writes a recommendation. And the employer might have a law suit against them unless they specifically call out LinkedIn in employee agreement docs.Employers need to cover the LinkedIn issue in their ‘onboarding’ training when an employee joins the company. Unfortunately, very few do. It is too simple to say that managers can not do any recommendations online. Companies do not own their employees and LinkedIn is an external service. Now, I am sure the lawyers and HR managers will jump in here and say I am wrong. But unless there is specific language in an employment doc, a corporation might be challenged in a way that it will be difficult to defend itself.