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After Being Terminated: What Can My Prior Company Legally Disclose to Potential Employers?

Being terminated from a job is never a pleasant experience. It’s stressful and scary to find yourself out of work, especially if you didn’t see it coming. You may be left with a lot of questions and concerns about what happens next. You may also want to get back into the workforce as quickly as possible.

To do that, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board and update your resume, either alone or with resume help in Denver. From there, it’s a question of finding appropriate openings and submitting your applications. But what if your next prospective employer contacts your last one to find out more about you?

Words that say "What information employers can disclose about former employees" with 6 key components like salary, job title, job performance, responsibilities, professional conduct, and resignation

This guide covers everything your old employer is legally allowed to disclose to a new one.

The Laws Around Employers Sharing Information

Here’s the first thing to know about what employers can tell one another:

  • There are no federal laws that prohibit your old employer from telling your new one why you were fired.

  • Employers are legally allowed to go into detail and share all the nitty-gritty of the situation if they want.

That’s the bad news. Luckily, there’s some good news to counter-act it.

While there may not be any federal laws against this kind of behavior, there are some state laws to prevent it. These laws aren’t present in every state, but a lot of them have rules in place that control what your former employer can tell your new one. In some states, they may only be able to share the dates you were employed or make a general comment on your performance, for instance.

man and woman holding boxes after being terminated with the words "6 signs you're getting fired"

What Do Former Employers Tend to Tell New Ones?

Here’s some more good news:

  • A lot of employers will not go into too much detail when discussing terminated employees with other companies.

  • They’ll want to be as brief as possible, and many companies even have policies in place regarding this kind of situation.

  • Their policy might be, for instance, to only say “[Former employee] worked with us from [date] to [date] as [job title].”

They may not go into any more detail than that, even when asked. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the main one is simply to avoid any hassle. The more a company tells about a former employee, the more they may put themselves at risk of legal action from that former worker, if what they say is inaccurate or not possible to prove, for instance.

How to Prepare for Applications and Interviews After Being Terminated

So, in most cases, there’s not necessarily anything to worry about your former employer sharing too much about your past. However, you can’t just assume that your potential new employer won’t find out that you were fired and may want to know more about it.

They might even ask you about it, should you reach the interview stage.

Here’s what to do.

Keep Calm – You’re Not Alone

First, while it’s certainly stressful to be fired, try not to panic too much. Know that you’re far from the only person in this situation. In fact, more than 40% of Americans have been fired at one time in their careers.

That means almost half of people will find themselves in the same situation as you and the majority of them end up back in work without too much hassle. By being proactive and committed to your job search, you, too, can find new employment and bounce back from this difficult moment.

Check Your Former Company’s Policy

You might be wondering whether or not you can ask your old employer what they will tell your next one if asked. The answer is yes, you absolutely can, and, in many cases, you should. It’s much better to ask and find out, rather than living in doubt and worrying about what they might share.

As touched on earlier, a lot of companies have clear policies in place for this sort of situation. Even if they terminated your employment, they should be able to let you know what their policy is and what they’ll share with any prospective employer you apply to and who seeks information in the coming weeks.

Understand Your Rights

As explained above, state laws can vary a lot on this issue. Some states are quite relaxed about it, allowing former employers to share pretty much anything they want with new ones. Others are much stricter and control what your old bosses can tell your next ones.

It’s worth digging into the laws of your state to find out what rights you have. In some states, your old employer isn’t even allowed to disclose anything at all without getting consent from you first. So, it’s good to know what your position is and what you’re entitled to.

woman with a zipper closing her mouth and the words "After Being Fired Be Careful What You Say"

Be Prepared to Explain Your Situation

If you make it to the interview stage of a job application, the recruiter may ask about your last job. They might want to know why you left (or why you were terminated, in this case), and it helps to have an explanation ready to go.

In terms of how to explain a termination, the golden rule is to be honest, but brief. There’s no need to evade the question, as that may only arouse suspicion. Nor do you need to go into great detail. Explain what happened truthfully and concisely. Try to put a positive spin on the situation too, if you can, by focusing on the future and discussing what you learned from the experience.

Look to the Future and Learn from the Past

It’s hard to find any positives in a termination. However, the next best step is simply to move forward, rather than dwelling on what came before. Learn from what happened at your former position and use it to propel yourself forward and upwards for the next step of your career.

As this guide has shown, there are cases when your old employer might tell your next one quite a lot about you, and how you were fired. In other cases, they might not tell them much at all. Either way, you don’t have much control over that process.

But you do have control over other aspects of your job search. You can strengthen your resume, for example, with a resume writing service, as well as working hard on cover letters, interview prep, and adopting a positive, forward-thinking attitude to help you back into the workforce.

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