Checking in on reference checking

I would like to comment on the "Human Side of Engineering" case, "Reference checking? Get the full story" (PE, January 2000, p 28).
By Staff March 1, 2000

I would like to comment on the “Human Side of Engineering” case, “Reference checking? Get the full story” ( PE , January 2000, p 28).

After reading this article, I was rather disturbed at the idea of using a liability release as a method of coaxing out sensitive information. As a professional, I would be offended if any company tried to make signing something such as that a condition of anything. Did it ever occur to anyone that the average employee has no idea what type of information that a company may place in his or her file? And in the case of misinformation or blatant lies, an applicant is at the total mercy of whatever idiot has access to this information, and what that person might do with it.

Also, just because it claims to be a release does not make it a true release. Based on my own knowledge of the legal system, it probably wouldn’t take too long for a good attorney to poke a lot of holes in a case like this.

If this scenario is treated as a contract, where is the consideration for the applicant? Certainly, the offer of an interview is not enough to entice an applicant into signing such a form. Besides, in the end, in the case of misinformation being passed on, only the hiring company seems to benefit. The employee might be screwed out of a job, while the previous employer waits with baited breath to possibly have to defend a law suit, and the prospective new employer goes smiling along.

In my opinion, somebody better rethink this whole idea, especially the labor relations attorney, Kay Fielding.

— Stephen Maas, Project Engineer, Cerestar USA, Hammond, IN