Performance record: does an employer have to correct a job reference if requested?

It depends on the particular requirement of a staff member.

No one has to sit on a bad evaluation

Faulty job reference No one has to sit on a bad evaluation. Photo: Bruce Mars on Unsplash

If a job reference is not complete, was issued incorrectly, or contains spelling errors, the employee can request that the job reference be changed. But how serious must such mistakes be?

– Isn’t it enough for an employee’s activities to be enumerated only in bullet points in a job reference?

– Do minor spelling mistakes really weigh so heavily that a new reference has to be made right away??

– What role does it play if the closing formula is missing??

Are employees allowed to demand changes to the reference from the boss in such a case?? Such requests for changes are partly justified.

This is the result of a ruling now published by the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Regional Labor Court (Ref.: 2 Sa 187/18). The case is reported in the "Neue Zeitschrift fur Arbeitsrecht" (NZA-RR issue 10/2019).

Mere enumeration of activities is sufficient in qualified job reference

The judges ruled: In a qualified reference, a keyword-like enumeration of activities is common, especially in the skilled trades and in small companies.

This is not yet a sign that the boss is making derogatory comments. The enumeration thus satisfies the requirements for a properly qualified testimonial.

Spelling errors are a no-go

Spelling errors in the certificate, however, the employer must eliminate in principle. Otherwise, there might be a presumption that the writer is distancing himself or herself from the content by deliberately failing to take due care.

The employee cannot require however that the boss takes over deviating formulations.

Closing formula is a must

A closing formula in the reference is usual, with thanks and good wishes for the future of the employee, he said. If the employer refuses such a formulation, his behavior can amount to a publicly documented insult.

If there is concrete evidence that the employer wants to harm the departing colleague with the refusal of the closing formula, there may even be a claim to this formality.

Other reasons to amend the employment reference:

  • Essential activities of the employee are not listed
  • Performance appraisal does not correspond to the facts
  • Behavioral assessment is inaccurate
  • Dates are partially wrong

Good to know:

Even if employees have accepted an interim reference with deficiencies, they can still insist on correction of the errors in the final reference. Such corrections may not negatively affect the assessment of their person, however.

How long is the possibility to have a job reference corrected?

Up to half a year after issuance of the employer’s reference, affected persons can ask for correction.

What is to be done if the employer reacts intransigently or deliberately wants to stick to his formulations??

In case of doubt, this is decided by the competent labor court, to which those affected must file a complaint.

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