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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we discuss Iowa employers’ rights to disclose information about their former employees and answer the following questions:

  • What information can my ex-employer reveal about me to a potential employer?
  • Does being laid off versus quitting affect what an employer can disclose about you?
  • Can an Iowa employer be sued for disclosing information about an employee?
  • Can a potential Iowa employer contact my old employer without first getting my consent?
  • Can a potential Iowa employer contact my current employer?

What Information Can My Ex-Employer Reveal About Me To a Potential Employer?

There is no doubt this question haunts the mind of many potential employees interviewing for new jobs, even more so for those who were let go versus leaving on their own terms. But even model employees might wonder if a previous employer would say anything negative about them to a potential employer. After all, the employee leaving for a new position might have placed a strain on their old company and maybe the old employer just wants a little revenge. While that notion is considerably pessimistic, it speaks to just one of the concerns that potential employees have when looking for a new job.

On the flip side, many hiring managers and small businesses also wonder how much they can disclose about a current or previous employee’s behavior, work ethic, personality, etc. No employer wants to face litigation because an ex-employee decides to sue them for infringing on their civil rights. The good news is there are some general and legal guidelines that most companies follow when disclosing information about current and previous employees.

Does Being Laid Off Versus Quitting Affect What An Employer Can Disclose About Me?

No, whether an employee quits or is laid off it makes no difference to what information can be disclosed by the employer. Many employees believe that an employer has significant restrictions on what they can and cannot disclose about an employee. However, in most cases the opposite is true. There are no federal or state-level laws that place specific restrictions on what an employer can reveal about a current or past employee, beyond what is true. The only legal limitations are that the information must be true and not part of a non-disclosure agreement and the information must not be considered legally confidential.

Can An Iowa Employer Be Sued For Disclosing Information About an Employee?

Iowa protects employers and their individual employees from the potential liability associated with sharing information with another company. However, the information shared must not violate a handful of legal criteria, including:

  • The job seeker’s civil rights;
  • Sharing confidential information, such as the job seeker’s medical records;
  • Information not relevant to the potential employment position;
  • Information which is untrue or unable to be proven; or
  • Sharing information with someone who has no legitimate reason to receive the information.

The primary thing to keep in mind is if you don’t want the business to be sued, don’t disclose information about the job seeker that is false or not relevant to the work required by the position.

Can an Iowa Employer Contact My Old Employer Without My Consent?

Many employers ask for references on a job application and a typical resume will list a job seeker’s past employment. But does the potential employee have to give the future employer consent to contact references, and more importantly, any of the old employers? No. There is no law requiring a business to receive consent before contacting references or old employers.

Can a Potential Iowa Employer Contact My Current Employer?

Most job applications have a box titled “May we contact your current employer?” or “May we contact your past employers?” Neither of these boxes is legally binding. Even if the job seeker checks “no” for both boxes, all that keeps an employer from still contacting current and past employers is professional courtesy. Most employers understand that if they reveal to a job seeker’s current employer that the employee is looking for a new job it may inadvertently result in a negative impact to the job seeker.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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