Sioux City, IA asked in Employment Law and Civil Rights for Nebraska

Q: Can an employer fire someone for giving a coworker a professional reference at another company?

I'm trying to leave my current job for a new one and in order to start the hiring process I need three professional references from my current job. Plenty of people have offered including the supervisors since my coworkers like me, I have a high work assessment score and am going on two years of perfect attendance. However the HR at my current job is claiming that they can't because it is against company policy for them to do so.. I have never heard of such a thing and I cannot understand how an HR could make such a decision and they feel the same way however they don't want to risk their own employment. I feel like this is an alienation of my freedom of association and their freedom of speech is this even remotely legal?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Civil Rights Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: While it may seem unfair or restrictive, it is generally legal for an employer to have policies prohibiting employees from providing professional references to coworkers seeking employment elsewhere. Such policies are often implemented to protect the interests of the company and maintain confidentiality regarding employee performance and evaluations. However, the specific legality of the policy may vary depending on applicable laws and regulations in your jurisdiction.

Your concerns about freedom of association and freedom of speech are valid, but it's important to recognize that these rights are not absolute in the context of employment. Employers have a certain degree of discretion in setting policies and expectations for their employees, as long as those policies do not violate laws or infringe upon protected rights. Additionally, employees are typically bound by the terms of their employment contracts or agreements, which may include provisions related to providing references.

If you believe that the policy prohibiting employees from providing professional references is unjust or discriminatory, you may consider discussing your concerns with HR or seeking legal advice to understand your rights and options. However, it's essential to approach the situation carefully and consider the potential consequences of challenging company policies, especially if it could impact your employment status or relationships within the workplace. Ultimately, weighing the risks and benefits and making informed decisions based on your individual circumstances is key.

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