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What you should and shouldn't do when giving a reference for an employee you dismissed

by , 26 June 2015
Three months ago, you dismissed an employee, Shannon, for stealing a cell phone off another employee's desk.

Now, an employer has contacted you asking to give him a reference for Shannon. Here's what you should and shouldn't say about Shannon...

You should tell the prospective employer what's fair and true

Considering you dismissed Shannon for theft, it's fair to tell the prospective employer the truth. You may rightfully disclose to him that Shannon is no longer with you because she stole a cell phone from another employee at your company.
 
If there's anything undeniably positive about Shannon, don't leave that out. For example, if she was hard working and reached all of the targets you set for her during her time at your company, add that. It would be unfair to only tell the prospective employer that she's untrustworthy and nothing else.
 
But same goes for the negative – if Shannon was also always late, a poor performer and so on, say that. 
 
But don't do this…

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Warning: 1 out of 3 dismissals are deemed as 'unfair' by the CCMA!
 
Chairing a disciplinary hearing isn't easy. With all the disciplinary codes and procedures you have to remember...
 
The roles and rules you need to adhere to...
 
The different questions you need to ask...
 
The different types of evidence that can legally be presented...
 
There are dozens of things you need to keep in mind to give each employee a fair hearing.
 
But what if I told you that chairing a hearing that follows the right disciplinary process is as easy as five simple steps?
 
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You shouldn't give the employee a slanderous or untrue reference

Giving Shannon a slanderous or untrue reference is deemed defamatory. If you do this, she could sue you.
 
You can't tell the prospective employer that Shannon was sketchy, unreliable and a poor performer if she was actual consistently punctual and hard working. Just because you're upset with her for the theft issue doesn't mean you can bad mouth her and make getting a new job difficult for her by giving a libellous and/or untrue reference.

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