Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/22/1993 01:50 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
  SENATOR  KELLY introduced SB  122 (EMPLOYER'S  LIABILITY FOR                 
  REFERENCE INFORMATION) and invited the sponsor, SENATOR BERT                 
  SHARP, to testify.                                                           
                                                                               
  SENATOR SHARP  said SB 122 was  similar to a  bill passed by                 
  the Senate  last session,  and is  "An act  relating to  the                 
  disclosure  of  information  by an  employer  about  the job                 
  performance  of  an  employee  or   former  employee."    He                 
  explained it would  protect employers from liability  in the                 
  disclosure of job performance information regarding a former                 
  employee  to  a   prospective  employer.     He  gave   some                 
                                                                               
                                                                               
  statistical background on  the increase of such suits in the                 
  last few years,  and out of  fear from these lawsuits,  many                 
  employers  are  refusing to  give  honest or  meaningful job                 
  performance information to prospective employers.                            
                                                                               
  Number 150                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR SHARP explained SB 122 would free up the exchange of                 
  information in the work place, assure  reasonable protection                 
  to employers, and  protect only  employers who give  honest,                 
  well-intentioned references.  He urged support for SB 122.                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR LINCOLN asked  SENATOR SHARP if the  words, employer                 
  and employee, could be  defined in the legislation, and  she                 
  gave examples from her district.  SENATOR SHARP explained an                 
  employer is a person who engages  the services of any number                 
  of  persons, documented  in  a personnel  file,  and paid  a                 
  remuneration.                                                                
                                                                               
  Number 214                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR LINCOLN  said she  didn't  have a  problem with  the                 
  intent  of the  legislation, but  she described a  number of                 
  problems faced by employees who do not know what rights they                 
  have in relation to their personnel file.  She claimed there                 
  was  false information in some employee files that shouldn't                 
  be   there,  and  she  asked  how  the  employees  could  be                 
  protected.                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR SHARP suggested  the business people could  speak to                 
  the problem she outlined.  He also suggested some  available                 
  documents on the subject.                                                    
                                                                               
  SENATOR LINCOLN asked for assurances that individuals in the                 
  villages were protected, too, because the turn-over is quite                 
  rapid.  She asked for a correction within the legislation to                 
  protect the employees in her district.                                       
                                                                               
  SENATOR KELLY invited JAMIE PARSONS, President of the Alaska                 
  State Chamber of Commerce, to testify.                                       
                                                                               
  MR. PARSONS  read the  position paper  from the  ASCC, which                 
  supports  SB  122  because  of  the protection  it  provides                 
  employers.   He read "While ASCC  fully recognizes the value                 
  of good employees, it is important that employers be able to                 
  share   all   pertinent   information    without   fear   of                 
  repercussion, providing they are acting in good faith."                      
                                                                               
  MR. PARSONS had no statistics on defamation cases that  have                 
  been tried, won,  or settled out of court.   He concluded by                 
  explaining SB  122 was the  #1 legislative priority  for the                 
  State Chamber of Commerce, and he described how the decision                 
  was reached.                                                                 
                                                                               
                                                                               
  Number 284                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR  RIEGER   asked  MR.   PARSONS  whether   there  was                 
  information  in  a  personnel  file  any  of  the  data  was                 
  confidential.  MR. PARSONS thought  there were standards and                 
  rules, and he suggested to SENATOR  LINCOLN, that in a small                 
  business,  the  employee should  discuss the  personnel file                 
  with the  owner  or  manager.   MR.  PARSONS  explained  the                 
  legislation would involve the state, the private sector, and                 
  non-profit organizations.                                                    
  SENATOR RIEGER said he  liked the bill and referred  to line                 
  10 and suggested the Judiciary Committee resolve the type of                 
  disclosures.                                                                 
                                                                               
  SENATOR  KELLY  gave  a  personal  experience  of  being  an                 
  employer   where   negative  employment   might   have  been                 
  furnished, by  wasn't because of  the skidish nature  of the                 
  disclosure.                                                                  
                                                                               
  SENATOR LINCOLN  suggested the  bill might  be amendment  to                 
  include  "that  any   written  documentation  given  to   an                 
  employer, should also be given to the former employee,"  and                 
  she expanded on her request in  relation to companies in her                 
  district.                                                                    
                                                                               
  SENATOR LINCOLN,  in reference to  line 5, thought  this was                 
  and area where  "information" is defined as to  telephone or                 
  written.    She also  referred  to  line 8  to  question the                 
  meaning of the sentence.                                                     
                                                                               
  Number 359                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR LINCOLN asked  MR. PARSONS if he  had any objections                 
  to language added  to share  the written  document with  the                 
  former employee.  MR. PARSONS didn't think this would pose a                 
  problem, except  if  it  impacted  the  paper  work  of  the                 
  employer.  He explained, in his case, most of the references                 
  were verbal.                                                                 
                                                                               
  SENATOR  KELLY  wondered  aloud   the  solution  to  SENATOR                 
  LINCOLN'S  request  and  suggested  the  reference  be  made                 
  available if  the employee wish  to look at  it after it  is                 
  made available to the former employee.                                       
                                                                               
  SENATOR  SHARP explained,  from  his  past experience,  most                 
  reference requests were by phone on  a past employee, but he                 
  thought a hard copy could be sent to the last known address.                 
                                                                               
                                                                               
  SENATOR LINCOLN described  a procedure for getting  the most                 
  current address.   SENATOR KELLY thought the  easiest method                 
  would be to have the reference information be available upon                 
  request by the former employee.                                              
                                                                               
                                                                               
  SENATOR  SHARP  gave  what  he  considered  the  most  often                 
  scenario.                                                                    
                                                                               
  Number 411                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR KELLY invited RESA JERREL, President of the National                 
  Federation of Independent Businesses, to testify.                            
                                                                               
  SENATOR  LINCOLN asked for  a response from  her question on                 
  line 8 to explain the phrase relating to current or departed                 
  employees.  She discussed the response with SENATOR SHARP.                   
                                                                               
  MS. JERREL explained  the support  of SB 122  came from  her                 
  organization in the form  of a ballot question where  86% of                 
  the NFIB/Alaska  members voted  to support the  legislation.                 
  She reviewed the problems of small business people in Alaska                 
  who spend a great  deal of time hiring and  firing employees                 
  because  of drugs, alcohol, and thievery.  She discussed her                 
  research on giving  a written  reference to employers  which                 
  she offered to share with SENATOR SHARP.                                     
                                                                               
  SENATOR  LINCOLN  asked  SENATOR SHARP  if  he  recalled the                 
  Colorado  regulations, and SENATOR  SHARP had  just received                 
  them.   He said they  would be  made available  to the  next                 
  committee,  and  he  disclosed  the  regulations  dealt with                 
  giving a copy  of the  reference to the  employee.   SENATOR                 
  KELLY  asked that the regulation information be given to the                 
  Judiciary Committee.                                                         
                                                                               
  SENATOR PEARCE move to pass SENATE BILL  NO. 122 (EMPLOYER'S                 
  LIABILITY  FOR  REFERENCE INFORMATION)  from  committee with                 
  individual  recommendations and  no  fiscal note.    Without                 
  objections, so ordered.                                                      

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