California statute provides a qualified privilege for information given to potential employers or licensing agencies who contact the County seeking information. A qualified privilege means that no damages can result from your action, provided that you are not found to have been malicious. In addition to the guidance in Section A above, the following criteria must also be met:
- Any statement you make must be made without malice. You and the County would be at peril if it could be shown that any statements which you made were made out of ill will toward the employee, if you lacked reasonable grounds for believing your statements to be true, or if the statements are made for a reason other than to protect the interest of the person seeking information (for instance, if your statements are made because of a previous grudge, a desire for someone else to get the job, etc). If there is any fact that could indicate that you would be responding other than as an objective person, you should not respond. In these cases, seek guidance from your supervisor as to whether he or she, or some other manager, might provide the response.
- You must honestly believe the information you give to be true, and should never give out erroneous information. To meet these criteria, we recommend that you give out factual information borne out by the person’s personnel file and that you not express opinions. If an employee was dismissed for excessive absenteeism and the dismissal and reason are documented in the file, it would be appropriate to state this fact. If the employee resigned and there is no written documentation stating that the employee was absent too often, it would not be appropriate to express your opinion that the employee’s attendance record was below standard.