Weeding out Jabba the Hutt’s henchman: West Atlantic learned a lesson in reference checking

If you fail to reference check, you could end up making headlines like West Atlantic. The company has just realised that one of its pilots had been given a reference by Desilijic Tiure – an alternative name for Star Wars’ Jabba the Hutt.

Under this villainous character’s employ, Nigel Francis-McGann worked as an airline captain. So, when he applied for the same role at West Atlantic, he was accepted.

Even if it was meant to illicit humour, the reference would have been inappropriate. But what makes matters worse is his lack of experience in a captain’s role. He wasn’t qualified, and so he was dismissed.

Reference checking, especially when the safety of so many people are involved, is paramount. And as was suggested by Royds Withy King solicitor Jasmine Chadha, while references are usually obtained from a previous employer, “unscrupulous employees” may seek to provide references themselves.

“It is essential to have robust reference verification processes in place and ensure that they always verify a reference with the actual employer on whose behalf that reference is provided,” Chadha explained.

This is especially the case when candidates are given responsibility for obtaining or providing references themselves.

“Providing a false reference is almost always gross misconduct because of the dishonesty element,” she added. “There is also the potentially adverse reputational impact on any recruiter that has, even inadvertently, placed a candidate on the basis of a false reference as a result of failing to carry out reliable reference checks.”

Whether for a Resistance X-wing pilot or airline captain, reference checking can determine what previous employers think about the person you are considering hiring.

But the fact remains that many companies miss out the referencing, because if you hire a lot of people it can be a long-winded and difficult job.

If you don’t have the time for reference checking though, test candidates for the knowledge or skills they have stated they have. West Atlantic management may not have been the biggest Star Wars fans. But they certainly should have made sure Francis-McGann had the skills to fulfil his role.

Had he made an error just before the release of his false reference, then West Atlantic would be feeling a very different kind of media pressure.

While West Atlantic highlighted the importance of researching potential staff, it also bought another element to light. A tribunal is unlikely to take the employee’s side.

If an employee has been dishonest about what they can do and has doctored their reference to fictional proportions, then don’t let the possible wrath of employee law stop you from letting them go.

After all, West Atlantic managed to get almost £5,000 of training costs back from Jabba the Hutt’s alleged henchman.

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