Dispute reference – this is how you contest an unfair reference


A job reference tells the HR manager how an employer was assessed by his previous HR manager. So that a malicious boss cannot obstruct anyone’s future, there are a few rules on how a reference must be worded – and if necessary, corrections can be requested. You have to keep this in mind if you want to challenge a certificate.

How to challenge an unfair job reference

  • Of course, you are entitled to have facts presented correctly: This includes your personal data, the length of service, but also your tasks. You can challenge incorrect information in the certificate.
  • A work reference must always be formulated in a benevolent manner – precisely because it is so important for future applications. That is why typical phrases have formed among HR managers that sound positive to laypeople, but from which experts can read an evaluation. Such formulations in the certificate can also be contested in principle.
  • Information that has nothing to do with the quality of your work does not belong in the certificate. This includes working on the works council or a trade union or your private life, but also one-off events from which no conclusion can be drawn about your overall work performance: For example, an event that led to termination without notice.
  • If you want to contest your reference, it is advisable to first seek talks with your former employer. Especially in small companies, the bosses are sometimes not familiar with the rules of the language of references and in reality do not mean bad wording at all. Arm yourself with good arguments and make suggestions as to how these passages could be rewritten.
  • If the boss remains unreasonable, only going to the labor court helps to contest the reference. There is no fixed deadline, but the judges usually give the employees six months after the certificate is issued.
  • If you contest your testimony and even have to go to court, it is very important who has to prove what. In principle, the following applies: the employer must provide proof of a below-average rating. If you request an above-average rating, you must prove that you have performed so well.

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