back to article Singapore court awards $2.9m over bad job reference

Singapore's High Court has awarded S$4m* dollars ($2.9m, £2.25m) to a former insurance agent after a letter of reference lost him a potential new job. Singapore's Court of Appeal had asked the High Court to determine the damages after ruling last year that AXA had breached its "duty of care" to Ramesh Krishnan when its …

  1. adam payne

    The company I work for does not give references, they just confirmed that you worked here between whatever dates.

    Cases like this make me think that I lot more companies will be doing that in the future.

    1. Jay 2

      Same here, makes things a lot easier (on both sides) as it doesn't go into detail.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        I'd imagine it depends on the local culture in whatever part of the world you're in.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would any company give a reference that included anything other than the bare minimum facts about their employment. Anything that outlines performance can be a minefield.

    You say the employee is great and the hiring company can sue if they think they aren't, you say the employee is a challenge and the employee can sue for false information.

    Once they have left you then they no longer require any further performance evaluation. Safer not to say anything.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Once they have left you then they no longer require any further performance evaluation. Safer not to say anything.

      Of course, there's the apocryphal reference, famous for its ambiguity:

      "If you can get this individual to work for you, you will indeed be fortunate."

      1. David Roberts


        "He completed every job assigned to him to his own satisfaction".

        Subtext - but to nobody else's.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just Say No

    "I'm sorry, while we are normally able to meet such requests in this specific case we are unable to provide a character or performance reference. However we can confirm $PERSON worked here from X to Y."

    We all know what this means. Why would you need to say anything else?

    The only fathomable reason I can see for giving someone a reference that is both negative and detailed is if it was given by a senior manager (i.e. rather than HR) with an axe to grind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just Say No

      "I'm sorry, while we are normally able to meet such requests in this specific case we are unable to provide a character or performance reference. [..] We all know what this means."

      Well, exactly. Which is why I'd assume- albeit as an IANAL- that implying your meaning that strongly could (and possibly would) be treated the same as if you'd said it outright anyway, and form a similar basis for legal action.

      Which, I also assume, is why some companies don't give out anything more than the bare confirmation of employment in *any* case?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm curious how anybody ever finds out about a negative reference.

    If I were to apply for a job and my employer gave a negative reference, I'd just not get an interview and assume they didn't like my CV as much as the others. I'd have no way of finding out that I'd been given a bad reference.

    1. The Mole

      It depends at what stage in the process references are taken (if ever). It varies from industry to industry and country to country but it is common for references to be the very final checks to be performed after the rest of the hiring decision process has been made - including potentially wage negotiations and indications of the intent to hire to the candidate. Only then would references be taken (they are invasive and potentially time consuming to do) and if they come back bad the candidate may be told (or guess) the reason the company has changed its mind.

  5. Rande Knight

    Phone call

    HR will only give job title, dates from and to.

    That's why they call your old boss and get a phone reference. They can be more candid when there's no record on paper.

    1. Fatman

      Re: Phone call

      <quote>They can be more candid when there's no record on paper.</quote>

      Which has been known to bite someone on the ass!!!

      If you do not know the person you are speaking to is who they claim to be, then any verbally provided information may end up in the 'wrong' hands.

      I know of a company who got rid of incompetent manglement, and one of them used a shyster to 'pretext' a talkative receptionist into 'spilling the beans'. End result - a multi-million lawsuit for damages as the shyster recorded that call. The fact that the receptionist was not speaking "officially" for the company was considered irrelevant.

      That led to a policy change - NO telephone confirmation of employment for any reason, any requests about employment history must be done in writing, with the validity of the requesting company verified before a response is issued. Then, in those instances where the inquiry is about an employee that leaves the company under 'adverse circumstances'; the response is to provide facts only. Let the reader draw their own conclusions.

  6. RFC822

    But how much in real money?

    Thanks for converting Singapore Dollars to Trump Dollars in the article, but as this is the it would be nice if you could also convert into UK pounds...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Trump dollars

      Oh man, I just had this image of Trump ordering the Treasury to put his ugly mug on dollar bills. Though he'd probably want them to create million dollar bills to put his face on, so at least I'd never have to worry about having them in my wallet!

      1. d3vy

        Re: Trump dollars

        " I'd never have to worry about having them in my wallet!"

        True, at the tmrate he's going we will all be bartering with bottle caps by the end of the year.

    2. JJKing

      Re: But how much in real money?

      Pounds, real money? Hahahahahaha

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We believe his skill set is well suited to his current restaurant job"

    How hard is that?

    Companies should hire me to write their negative referral letters for them.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone I knew once got a reference from his former employer in the food industry that said "The day after this person left our employment, a large sum of money was found to be missing from the company safe. Further than that we would not wish to comment."

    There, short and factual. He couldn't be bothered to sue and retrained in IT instead.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the best reference you can hope for (if the referee is trying to cover themselves legally) is...

    X has worked for us in the position of Y for Z years and I would have no hesitation in re-employing X if they so wished.

    the worst reference is...

    the letter requesting the reference torn into quarters and posted back.

  10. Herby

    That's one way of doing it!

    "The letter requesting the reference torn into quarters and posted back."

    I like this! Of course this is but one way of providing references. Look, if you are giving references, you should know what the reference is going to say. Anything else is just plain dumb.

  11. Zmodem

    your references are how you all end up employing the losers who can't handle life and are always off sick, or just plain lazy or general just dumb with no common sense

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    X never worked for us, although we employed them for 6 years.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    We'd just taken on a new employee (assigned to me although I didn't ask for anyone) a couple of weeks before the company announced a relocation. Not surprisingly he gave in his notice. How do you give a sensible reference for someone who has only been with you a few weeks?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not his fault, so help him as much as possible. Imagine taking a job to find yourself in that position.

  14. Curtis

    "This employee works well when cornered like a rat and under constant supervision."

    That being said, I know one person who suspected a particular former employer was providing a bad and biased reference. Due to her separation, she had already engaged a lawyer. They had their receptionist call and ask for a reference. Which what then added to the suit for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Which, in Florida where this happened, is almost never decided in the employee's favor. This one was.

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