It remains a problem – what do you say about ex-employees? At the end of the day, even if the employment relationship was fraught and unpleasant, employers usually want people to get on with their lifes and tend to be complimentary when the relationship come to an end. However, a too glossy reference and later under-performance might make the new employer feel ripped off and seek damages. Or if the reference is really bad, the ex-employee might. At least, thats the theory. In practise, those cases dont seem to exist. The advice then is to be as accurate as possible and avoid misleading or defamtory statements. Which is more or less common sense and probably also the reason why most references these days are by way of personal recommendation anyway. Because more often than not, there can be so much more said when things are not said.