Can an Ex-Employer Tell Why You Were Terminated From a Job?

by Tony Guerra

People leave jobs for many different reasons, with some of them being voluntary in nature. For example, people frequently leave jobs to take new jobs or to concentrate on their families. People sometimes leave jobs involuntarily, though, including when they're terminated. Otherwise known as getting fired, being terminated from your job usually occurs for reasons such as nonperformance, absenteeism or some sort of misconduct. And knowing what your ex-employer can say about why you were terminated may be important to future job prospects.

Employers and Employment

Outside of union-contracted employment situations, most jobs in the U.S. are "at will," meaning employers can fire employees at any time and for any reason. Employers can't terminate you, though, for reasons of gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, marital status or disability. Employers themselves also generally don't just fire employees without reason because hiring and training new ones can be expensive. But if you are fired, understand that your employer isn't prohibited by law from telling others just why you were terminated.

Employers and Termination

Ex-employers are sometimes contacted by other employers looking to verify job histories of applicants. Unfortunately, your old boss is free to discuss with potential employers the reasons for why you might have left, or been terminated from, your job. So long as as what she says is truthful, your old boss is free to discuss you and your job performance with prospective employers. For example, if you were fired for absenteeism your old boss can relate that to your hoped-for new employer.

Employers and Defamation

Even though employers can discuss reasons for why they've terminated employees many opt not to share such information. In fact, some employers choose not to give out references of any kind for former or current employees. Employers are wary of being sued for defamation, or saying untruthful things, by old employees and thus may not say anything at all. Even if you were fired for misconduct your old boss may not provide prospective employers with more than your dates of employment and salary information.

Termination and Your Resume

Employers typically require resumes from job applicants, and gaps in employment can be a red flag. Legally, you're not required to say anything about previous jobs, including why you might have left them, though prospective employers can still ask. Honesty is also recommended when a hoped-for boss asks about a previous job listed on your resume. If you're asked, frankly discussing a previous job and giving positive and constructive answers about your termination and how it's made you a stronger candidate may be best.

About the Author

Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.

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