Reference checking? Get the full story

With employment-related litigation mushrooming, employers are naturally reluctant to poormouth former employees.


With employment-related litigation mushrooming, employers are naturally reluctant to poormouth former employees. Given this situation, how does one go about finding out if a job applicant has been convicted of a crime, or fired for some other infraction or misbehavior?

One day Plant Engineer Horace Bogart confronted Maintenance Foreman Chuck Baine and Personnel Manager Elaine Citron with a serious problem. Three employees hired in the past 6 mo had been fired for cause. One had been terminated for stealing; another because of violent behavior; and a third when narcotic use was detected.

Bogart asked how these duds had managed to filter through the screening procedure. After reviewing their employment applications and reference letters received from former employers, Baine and Citron agreed that there had been no indication from these documents that they were undesirable candidates.

Bogart shook his head. "There must be some way of tightening up." He asked his counterpart, "Do you have any ideas?"

"I don't at the moment," Citron replied. "But let me look into it."

Question: What, if anything, do you think the managers will come up with?

Citron's response: "I checked this out with our labor relations attorney, Kay Fielding, and she offered to prepare a liability release."

"What's that?" Bogart asked.

"It's a form authorizing a reference check that applicants will be required to sign. This form would include a release of liability to former employers asked to provide information. Given such assurance, an employer would be less fearful of legal action and more likely to confide sensitive information useful in making the hiring decision."

"Good idea," Bogart replied. "Let's take her up on it."

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Welding ergonomics, 2017 Salary Survey, and surge protection
2017 Top Plant winner, Best practices, Plant Engineering at 70, Top 10 stories of 2017
Pipe fabrication and IIoT; 2017 Product of the Year finalists
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Setting internal automation standards
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PID controllers, Solar-powered SCADA, Using 80 GHz radar sensors

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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