The employer’s refe­rence always gives rise to debate. This is under­stan­da­ble, as refe­ren­ces are important for the employee’s future career advance­ment. The fol­lo­wing, the­r­e­fore, is a sum­mary of the most important prin­ci­ples in con­nec­tion with the employer’s reference.

The employee may at any time request a refe­rence from the employer, which not only speaks about the nature and dura­tion of the employ­ment rela­ti­onship, but also about his per­for­mance and con­duct (Art. 330a para. 1 SCO). On the one hand, such a so-cal­led qua­li­fied refe­rence or full refe­rence is inten­ded to pro­mote the employee’s pro­fes­sio­nal advance­ment and is the­r­e­fore for­mu­la­ted in a com­pas­sio­nate man­ner. On the other hand, it is inten­ded to give future employ­ers as true a pic­ture as pos­si­ble of the employee’s acti­vity, per­for­mance and con­duct, which is why it must in prin­ci­ple be true and com­plete (BGE 136 III 510 E. 4.1 with fur­ther evi­dence). The­r­e­fore, a qua­li­fied refe­rence may and must also men­tion nega­tive facts with regard to the employee’s per­for­mance, inso­far as these are rele­vant for his over­all assess­ment. In the case of incor­rect, incom­plete or ambi­guous con­tent or other vio­la­ti­ons of the prin­ci­ples of refe­ren­ces, the employee is entit­led to a rec­ti­fi­ca­tion claim, which he can enforce by legal action if neces­sary, wher­eby the employee must include in his legal action a new text or con­crete pro­po­sals for amend­ments. In rec­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­cee­dings, great weight is atta­ched to exis­ting inte­rim refe­ren­ces and staff app­raisals. Dete­rio­ra­ti­ons in the final refe­rence com­pared to an inte­rim refe­rence issued shortly before require that signi­fi­cant chan­ges have occur­red since the inte­rim refe­rence, which jus­tify a dif­fe­rent assess­ment. Alt­hough in prin­ci­ple the employee is not entit­led to a spe­ci­fic for­mu­la­tion and the courts exer­cise res­traint with regard to sub­jec­tive expres­si­ons in refe­ren­ces, value jud­ge­ments also remain in prin­ci­ple sub­ject to judi­cial review. As a rule, howe­ver, the court will reject petty requests for cor­rec­tions to a refe­rence that is in its­elf correct.

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