Reference and letter of recommendation

Your employment discrimination attorney should make sure that your settlement or severance agreement contains provisions that will aid your ability to obtain future employment with prospective employers.

The defendant-employer’s standard policy letter is not enough.

Normally, the defense counsel will want to limit this provision about references or letters of recommendation to a simple statement that the employer will act in accordance with its Employee Reference Policy in handling inquiries that prospective employers will make about you. The language of such a provision usually only says: “Pursuant to company policy, we provide only dates of employment and last position held.”

Unless you have already secured a good employment position elsewhere, this provision fails to protect you as a plaintiff-employee. Your attorney should try to obtain the following from the defendant-employer, especially if you had good performance evaluations during your employment:

1. Letter of reference. This is a letter of reference that you can use in seeking employment. The letter should be drafted by you and your lawyer, subject to approval by the defendant-employer and its counsel. Your lawyer should make sure that the reference letter is finalized before the execution of the settlement/severance agreement and that it is attached to the agreement as an exhibit. Your attorney should also make sure that the appropriate person signs the reference letter. The appropriate person is someone who holds a higher position than you at the place of employment—obviously, the higher the position, the better.

a. Sample language: “Employer agrees to provide a letter of reference, a copy of which is attached as Exhibit ‘A.’”

2. Departure letter. If you are currently employed, this is a departure letter or e-mail which the defendant-employer circulates around the workplace, praising you for a job well done and wishing you good luck in all future endeavors. Again, your attorney should ensure that the person who signs this departure letter is the appropriate person.

a. Sample language: “Employer agrees to send an e-mail message to its entire work force regarding Employee’s departure. A copy of the text of such email is attached as Exhibit ‘B.’”

3. Individual responsible for references. This is an agreement that all inquiries regarding you will be directed to a specified person (usually someone in the Human Resources Department) who will respond solely with the information contained in the letter of reference.

a. Sample language: “Employer agrees that in response to any reference requests, Employer shall comply with its reference policy and provide only the dates of Employee’s employment and the title of Employee’s last position.”

4. No unfavorable information. This is an agreement that the defendant-employer will not provide any unfavorable information about you to anyone.