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Harassment–is there a way to come back from it?

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Question: “The harassment charge against me was false, but I was fired anyway. When applying for a new job, how will I explain how my years of loyal service ended?” – Michael D., Purchasing Assistant

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Janette June 4, 2012 at 3:39 pm

I was an employment co ordinator and this is very hard to come back from only because the new employer may think you are skating the incident. However if you explain that you were not given a chance to submit the details, and any evidence you had, you could on your own do a poly graph to have on hand to help. Any person or person’s who could write a letter supporting the incident which should be notarized may help. I wouldn’t volunteer the information unless they ask. The old employer is under restraints as to what they can or cannot say due to privacy laws. If they disclose this information without fullproof evidence they open themselves up to trouble and most won’t take that risk.

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Calvin G. June 4, 2012 at 8:44 am

Maybe it would be a good idea to accumulate written testimonials from as many co-workers as you can trust so that you can make note of them on your resume and then produce them at will. This might put it in the employer’s mind from the start that you’ve definitely got more behind you than just the dates of employment that they’ll get from HR. If asked why you left your last job, I say be realistic and be vague–mention how there was a policy disagreement that you thought was wildly misinterpreted and misapplied by your employer. Above all, never sound negative, bitter, or defensive. The more pragmatic and rational you seem, the more credible you’ll appear.

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Mark June 1, 2012 at 11:18 am

With all due respect to those who are saying a former employer can only verify information such as title, start dates, ending dates, etc, that’s just not accurate. Many state laws allow full disclosure, such as my state (Illinois). We are allowed to disclose anything about the former employee as long as we have documentation. (We have often warned prospective employers about problem employees, but we have full documentation to back up what we say.) But you have to have that documentation. For example, you can’t say, “Jane was always late for her shift”, but you can say, “Jane was written up five times for being late.” You can’t say, “People did not like him”, but you can say, “We have complaints against him on file from seven customers.”

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Melanie June 7, 2012 at 10:48 am

Mark is correct. Many companies have a policy limiting the information they’ll release, but there is no law that says a company cannot give as much information as it deems appropriate.

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Glenda June 1, 2012 at 8:28 am

As others have said your employer can only verify dates and position of your previous employment. If asked if you left voluntarily or were dismissed and the reason why, they cannot give the details. The blanket reason when someone is dismissed is generally “violation of company policy.” For those of us in HR it can be interpeted as anything from positive drug screen, theft, harrassment, excessive absenteeism, insubordination, etc. and it is left to the imagination or speculation of the interviewer.

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Gloria June 1, 2012 at 7:22 am

Employers can only verify employment dates and positions held. There are other ways to verify salary. Regarding the charge, do not use your boss as a reference. HR should have a basic number your prospective employer can call to verify employment. No one from your former employer should discuss this, esp with a prospective employer, because it opens them up to a lawsuit. They would be interfering with you from gaining employment elsewhere and supporting yourself. I don’t recall the actual name of the law this applies to but read it in a few resume, interviewing, getting hired books some years ago. If you worked at a small firm, they might not be aware of this. In this case, play it safe. I would double check with HR to find out types of employment verification info they provide to prospective employers. HR verifies facts: titles, dates employed, possibly salary. The References you provide will speak to your character and work ethic. You’re emotionally charged right now. Get that together. It will be alright. This will be behind you. No one knows the details but you. Not the new employer. Don’t discuss it. You need to steer the interview in the direction you want it to go. What can you do for the employer. Your prospective employer wants to make sure you won’t leave them after all the work they will be investing in hiring and training you. When explaining on your interview, I agree with Rebecca…you felt the need to move on. Why? There are many reasons you can find without highlighting anything on this event. I wouldn’t knock your old employer, manager or workers either. It’s kind of like dating. If you knock your ex, why would a potential partner want to take you on because you’ll only knock that one, too, after you leave. You have more control than you realize. Check out Martin Yate or some other books to give you more guidance on this subject.

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Rebecca May 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Hi Mike
I would say that you wanted to move on from your current position or try to keep it neutral as possible. As far as what your previous employer will say, they can only verify factual information such as employement dates, positions held at the company and length of employement (and possibly salary) . Employers hesitate to give bad references because they fear a possible lawsuit. The only information that is legally barred from disclosing is your medical history. Doing so, would violate HIPAA laws and your rights. In the meantime, I would contact my previous employers and request that the false allegations be expunged from the records since you are not a current employee at their establishment.

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Melody May 31, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I’d get in touch with HR at the old job, or whoever the appropriate person is, and find out what they will say to inquiries from prospective employers. I’d want my response to be consistent with what the old employer will say.

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Mark May 31, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I don’t know if this applies, but an example might be, “There was a misunderstanding regarding an incident that had occurred, but the company has a ‘fire first and ask questions later’ philosophy.”

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Patricia June 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Mark, in my opinion I think that that example comment sounds somewhat negative . A better statement might be, “My former employer and I had a policy disagreement and I decided to move on. I am glad I worked for him/her because I learned…..” making that something something which would be beneficial to the company with which you are interviewing. I think that this kind of statement puts you in a much more positive light.

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Sharon May 31, 2012 at 4:19 pm

just wanted to read the comments

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