The truth of the matter is anybody can sue anybody else for just about anything, but that doesn’t mean the complaining party is always going to win. A word also needs to be said about what the lawyers in a corporate legal department are being paid to do. Whenever a question with possible legal consequences is sent their way, their mission – and to some extent, their responsibility – is to look at the worst thing that could possibly happen and try to reduce the risk to the greatest extent possible. Corporate lawyers, in other words, are really the risk managers for a lot of companies.
Here’s how all this could play out in the HR department of many American companies: When the discussion turns to reference and background checking, the legal department creates a comprehensive “no comment” policy for the HR people to hide behind to avoid the perceived risk of a lawsuit. The less that’s said, in other words, the lower the risk of being sued – or so the thinking seems to go.
Obviously, if we’re in the business of hiring people, regardless of the venue, some risk is going to be involved. In subsequent blogs we’ll be looking at the major legal issues around hiring policies and see if they can’t be put in a more practical and commonsense perspective. Stay tuned!