Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/04/1993 01:47 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.