So you were fired. Terminated. Discharged. Let go. Basically your separation from the company was not your idea. So what do you say if the job application for your next position asks why you left your previous one?
There are some things that should be considered when deciding what to write. One thing is that you shouldn’t lie. Lying on a job application can come back to bite a job seeker years later. Imagine you are suing an employer for discrimination. You are sitting in the witness box at trial. The lawyer for the company suddenly flashes your job application onto a giant projector screen.
“Mr. Smith, is this the application you filled out when you applied for the job 8 years ago?”
“Yes, it looks like it.”
“Do you remember writing that you quit the job that you had before you started to work for Company X?”
“I suppose I did, I don’t really remember.”
“And that’s not true is it, you were asked to leave!”
“Well, I don’t know. I had issues and I was leaving and they might have…”
“So they fired you!”
“I guess you could say that”
“But you wrote on your job application that you left. That was a lie, correct?”
“Do you always lie on job applications, Mr. Smith!? Are you a liar?”
As you can see, defense lawyers love to make a huge song and dance about any little discrepancy that might even remotely suggest that a plaintiff can not be trusted to tell the truth. You don’t want to give them any ammunition.
In the same vein, lying on a job application can help a company to cover up illegal or discriminatory conduct. One of the ways a company can successfully defend against a discrimination claim for example is to give a “legitimate, non discriminatory reason” for a termination. By lying on a job application, a company is potentially given a legitimate, non discriminatory reason to explain why you were terminated. They can say “she wasn’t fired because she was a woman. We fired her because she was dishonest!”
Does that mean you have to write exactly what happened and why you were fired? Probably not. Lying is bad, but being vague isn’t a crime. “Personal reasons” is an old classic that covers so much while implying that further discussion is unwelcome. Telling the whole truth on a job application might also be considered an admission if you have an issue with the company that fired you. If you are claiming that a company fired you because you are African-American, why did you write on all future job applications that you were fired for being late all the time?
In the end it is a tough situation. How truthful you are might depend on the real reason you are no longer at your old job and how damaging the truth will be to the chances of getting the job.
As always this is not legal advice. This advice does not create or imply any attorney-client relationship. If you have any legal questions you should call or email attorney Ben Kandy for a free consultation.