Dike v Rickman and another

Unfavourable references
Dike v Rickman and another, Queens Bench Division, 22 November 2005

Facts Mr Dike, an independent financial adviser, was offered a job subject to a satisfactory reference. His previous company provided a reference which stated, among other things, that Dike was “a very difficult person with whom to work. We shall not be sorry to lose his services.”

Subsequently, the prospective employer withdrew its offer of employment and Dike sued his previous company for breach of contract and negligence in giving the unfavourable reference. The company argued that the reference was true to the best of its knowledge and belief, and was not negligently given.

Decision The claims were dismissed. Dike took exception to a number of statements in the reference, but the judge found them to be true.
In relation to the particular claim that Dike was difficult to work with, the judge acknowledged that identifying particular incidents to illustrate such a claim could appear to be a catalogue of the trivial. However, in this case, the comment was found to be justified.

Comment This case highlights that when it comes to references, the truth is always fair, however unwelcome. Generally, an employer is not obliged to provide a reference. Employers should be aware that refusing to provide a reference or giving an adverse reference in certain circumstances may lead to claims of post-employment discrimination.

When giving a reference, employers owe a duty of care to the employee and the prospective employer. A reference must be true, accurate and fair and it must not give an unfair or misleading impression overall.

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