Am I Eligible to Work for my Former Employer?
June 15, 2010 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I've had a few interviews lately and the follow question keeps coming up. "Are you eligible to work for you former employer?" What would make me not eligible to work for them?

I worked for my former employer for 18 months, before my department was shut down. I was offered a severance package but instead got a new job in a different department in the company. The new job was not a good fit for me so I left after 5 months. At the urging of a friend who works in an HR department, I filed for Unemployment and 'won' the benefits. Would this possibly make me not eligible to return to my former company? What are some other things that would make me not eligible?
posted by tickettrader to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That question basically translates as, "Were you fired with cause from your previous employer?" -- if you were fired with cause, they would probably decline to re-hire you.
posted by SpecialK at 9:58 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

SpecialK is right. They don't mean "eligible" in some legal sense. Usually when companies "separate" from an employee they have a little form where they mark down whether they would ever re-hire the person or not.

Of course you have no way of knowing what that form says, really, but as long as you didn't get fired for incompetence or storm out throwing things, you can safely answer "yes."
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:01 AM on June 15, 2010

Being fired from my employer for certain things marks you as ineligible for rehire. Ex: If you get fired for calling out sick too much you can be re-hired, stealing not so much.
posted by ghharr at 10:07 AM on June 15, 2010

Its the legal way of asking if you were fired because of incompetance. Your answer to this question should always be "yes".
posted by WeekendJen at 10:13 AM on June 15, 2010

uh "yes" to eligible to work for previous employer, not "yes" to fired for incompetance. I just gave myself a pink slip for ambiguity.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:14 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sometimes when a company/group I work with terminates people, or allows them to resign, it specifically stipulates in the resignation agreement that they can't ever work for the company again. This is common in cases of serious wrongdoing without enough evidence to prove in court, or in cases where the lawsuit would have been really expensive and being well shot of the employee is the key goal.

We also have personnel files flagged for when someone calls for a recommendation with a statement like, "Due to a legal settlement with Employee X, we can only confirm the dates of his employment." Which is the legal way of saying, "Yes, we fired him for a reason and you'd be an idiot to hire him but to avoid a lawsuit we promised not to tell you what the reason was." (The language is agreed to by the fired person and his lawyer. I'm honestly always surprised when they agree to it.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:41 AM on June 15, 2010

Getting fired due to violating a Non-Disclosure Agreement would probably fall under this.
posted by griphus at 11:08 AM on June 15, 2010

One of the larger companies I worked for had the policy of never saying more than "we can confirm that person worked here then" for anyone, no matter how their employment ended.
posted by aubilenon at 12:19 PM on June 15, 2010

God I HATE this question. It is idiotic, why? Well many large companies have very strict rules about what makes a person eligible for rehire or not.

For example: I told my boss at Macy's that I had to quit and move back to another state. I told my boss the moment I knew this was going to happen, which was exactly 14 days before my last day. My boss told me I needed to write a letter to HR and I should give it to them the next day (they were already gone for the day). Problem? That means HR received my notice 13 days before my last day. Macy's has a policy that you must give 2 weeks notice or you are not eligible for rehire. My boss was kind of an asshat so didn't go to bat for me with HR (and I didn't care really BUT now my file is marked that I am not eligible for rehire at Macy's.

Good thing I'm at a point where working retail isn't really necessary in my life.
posted by magnetsphere at 12:53 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most larger employers have a formal policy - my current employer (I do hiring and termination paperwork) has a little check box labeled "eligible for rehire" on the termination paper the employee theoretically signs when they leave. You almost certainly know if you're not eligible for rehire, because either something awful happened or they flat-out told you. This question is meant to root out people who left under adverse circumstances (say, resignation in lieu of termination) but weren't actually "fired" - there's usually a second question, on a paper application, that asks about being fired.

Unemployment compensation is, in the US, an almost sure sign that you weren't terminated for cause, and a reasonably good sign that you're eligible for rehire. If they had a good reason to fire you, you're not unemployed for purposes of getting checks from the government (that's why it's insurance and not a benefit scheme, per se - if the employer is very responsible and never lays anyone off or chucks them because of their protected status or whatever, then the employees don't receive benefits.)

Anyway, if you say "no, there's someplace where they won't take me back," the interviewer will want to know why. If the answer is "they no longer exist" you're good, if it's "I stole several thousand dollars but they weren't able to prove it, so..." then not so much.
posted by SMPA at 4:46 PM on June 15, 2010

This is a round about way of asking if you were fired for cause. However normally one doesn't ask the interviewee about it ... typically it is a question you ask referees, because often they have been given strict instructions from HR not to say bad things about a previous employee due to fears of being sued for defamation. But they can answer that question with a Yes or No without fear of reprisals ... and everyone is "in the know" about what the question really means ... or so I thought

As I said, though, it is a pointless question to ask an interviewee ... they may as well just ask you directly if you were fired for cause ... you won't sue yourself.
posted by jannw at 4:47 AM on June 16, 2010

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