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by Abigail Van Buren

Guilt Remains 40 Years After Job Reference Was Withheld

DEAR ABBY: About 40 years ago, I did someone an injustice, and I have felt guilty ever since. I worked for a consulting firm in Washington, D.C., that fired an accounting clerk who was in my small office. I didn't know why she was fired, and I never heard a cross word exchanged between her and her supervisor. She seemed to be capable and friendly.

A prospective employer called me for a reference, and because my company told me that it did not respond to requests for references, I didn't give her one. Ever since, I have wished I had shared what I knew about her. If I was allowed a do-over, I would have told the employer about my positive experience with her and my belief that she was capable and friendly. Her being Black and not having my reference may have increased her difficulty in finding a job. I am sharing this with your readers so they may avoid making a similar mistake. -- GUILT-RIDDEN IN TEXAS

DEAR GUILT-RIDDEN: Some companies, on the advice of their legal counsel, strictly adhere to a policy of disclosing only dates of hire and discharge of employees. This has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. It was not a mistake to do as your employers instructed, and you should not feel guilty for having done so.

Read more in: Work & School | Etiquette & Ethics