Do I have to disclose that I was fired?

by Evil HR Lady on April 15, 2016

I moved across the country for a new job. Everything they told me in the interview was a lie. I was abused and bullied to the point of medical issues and having to see a therapist. After inquiring about short-term disability medical leave, just today, I was fired from that job.

I was thinking about filing an EEOC complaint, but I’m so spiritually exhausted that I just want to move on now.

Legally, do I have to disclose that I was fired to future employers? Can I just say something like, “It was a bad fit” when they ask why I left?

First, I don’t blame you for just wanting to walk away. While some people feel the need to get legal justice, the reality is, filing a complaint is never an emotionally easy thing. If the EEOC takes your case it’s no guarantee that you’ll end up winning. A private attorney is the same thing–a long battle that’s emotionally and financially draining.

So, mostly, I think it’s a wise decision to just move on. File for unemployment and appeal if it’s denied, but letting it go after that is a rational choice.

Now on to your question–what do you have disclose? Well, on your resume, nothing. Since this job was a short one, you can even leave it off your resume if you wanted to. Remember, resumes are marketing documents not your life on a platter.

However, lots of companies ask you to fill out an application and those applications often ask two things: list all the jobs you’ve had in a certain time period and have you ever been fired from a job. You have to be honest here. Why? Because if you lie on this form and they find out, you’ll be eliminated from consideration and if it’s after you’re hired, you’ll be fired. Not a great thing. So, yes, you have to disclose it.

Your situation is tricky because of the medical leave request. While it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because of a disability or perceived disability, when you say, “I asked about short term disability and they fired me” you’re likely  to have interviewers concerned equally about the disability and the firing. The concern about your health is simply that when companies hire someone they want that person to work. If you’ve shown in the past that you need considerable time off for health reasons they’re concerned you’ll need it again. They shouldn’t do this, and I’d even argue that most of the discrimination that happens in this type of situation is subconscious, but it does happen.

So, while your previous company was absolutely horrible, pointing out just how horrible they were probably won’t get you anywhere good. So, I’d probably leave out the part about the medical leave request and go with the “bad fit.”

So, just as you proposed, talk about how it was a bad fit, and in the end they “let you go.” It might be tempting to talk about how awful they were, but it won’t serve you well in the job hunt.

Another thing you need to do is follow up with your former boss and the HR department to find out what they are going to say in a reference check. It’s in their best interest to not mention the disability application either as it’s like bragging, “Hey, we illegally discriminate!” But they may want to badmouth you in order to make themselves look better. While it’s perfectly legal to give a bad reference, that bad reference must be true.

My favorite employee side attorney, Donna Ballman, told me that she recommends clients hire a reference checking firm to find out what their previous employers are saying. In the past I’ve recommended using a friend, but Donna points out that a professionally documented reference check will hold up better in court. Now, I know you don’t want to go to court, but if they are giving a false reference, you will want to hire an attorney to send them a letter informing them that a false reference is illegal. Some reference checking firms will also provide this service. Usually a letter solves this.

On a side note, I never ever understand why hiring managers misrepresent jobs in the interviews. Be honest and you’ll get a better fit.

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