BOSTON, MASS. - It's a natural occurrence in today's
economy. Companies downsize and employees are let go. As a parting
gesture, the supervisor or manager offers to write a recommendation on
LinkedIn, Monster or another social media site. While this may seem
harmless, does it make the company vulnerable to a possible wrongful
termination suit? Or perhaps another kind of lawsuit (e.g. age, gender,
It’s quite possible.
"When companies downsize, it's natural to want to help former employees out to find a new position," said Kerry Ryan,
a member at Boston-based Tarlow Breed Hart & Rodgers, P.C. "What
happens in many situations is the former employee's job search goes on
for a while and they start to wonder why they were let go and so-and-so
was not. Having a glowing recommendation from their supervisor only
feeds the fire that they were wrongly terminated and that’s where
So what should a company do?
"There are some basic steps that can help protect a
company," says Ryan. "You need to balance the desire to help out a
former employee with the realities of potential litigation."
For starters, companies could:
- Require any online recommendations to be reviewed and signed off
on by a point person (e.g. director of human resources, company
executive). All requests by telephone for a recommendation should be
referred to the same point person.
- Adopt a company-wide policy barring employees from giving
written recommendations for either current or former employees on a
non-company Web site. This will give the supervisor a legitimate reason
to tell the departing employee that the supervisor can't give the
requested recommendation. The policy may help the supervisor out
of a difficult situation.
- Provide additional career counseling and other outplacement services in lieu of online recommendations.
- A supervisor could call other people in the industry
suggesting that they interview the departing employee. These
introductions may be more valuable than a written reference on a
"It used to be 'if you can't say anything nice, don't
say anything at all.' When it comes to recommending one of your former
employees on LinkedIn or other social media sites, saying something
nice could open the door to litigation," said Ryan.
Related content: "How Facebook Ruined My Career," Forbes.com, April 13, 2010
About Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C.
Formed in 1991, Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C.
is committed to providing high quality, comprehensive legal services to
its clients. Featuring a breadth and depth of experience and
perspective usually found only at larger law firms, Tarlow, Breed, Hart
& Rodgers. P.C. offers sophisticated legal counsel to
entrepreneurs, businesses, individuals, families, and institutions.
Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers’ areas of expertise
include corporate law, employment matters, mergers and acquisitions,
litigation and dispute resolution, estate planning, taxation, real
estate, bankruptcy, and municipal law.
The offices of Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C.
are located at 101 Huntington Avenue, Prudential Center, in Boston, MA
02199. For additional information, or to arrange for a consultation,
please call (617) 218-2000, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.tbhr-law.com.