I'm not eligible for re-hire. How do I get a job?!?
August 16, 2010 1:15 PM   Subscribe

I am about to do a second-round interview tomorrow at a place I'd like to work and seems like a good match for me. However, I'm not eligible for rehire at my previous employer, and I'm worried how to nip this inevitable discovery in the bud.

The reality is that I'm not eligible for rehire as part of a settlement of a lawsuit. (I sued, they opted to settle, and part of the settlement clauses included my noneligibility for rehire.) It is what it is; neither of us need admit to wrongdoing regardless of how wrong things were there.

I really feel great about this prospective job, and I believe that they'll want to check my references after this interview. I have a reference from Old Job of someone who isn't currently working there anymore, but they'll surely be calling HR at Old Job to check my employment dates and whether I'm eligible for rehire. I'm worried that this is going to cost me the job.

Is there anything I can do or say to this prospective employer to allay concern about my non-eligibility for rehire? I worry that if I don't bring it up and they find out through Old Job's HR, I'll have lost the opportunity. What can be said here? If you're a hiring manager, how have interviewees conveyed this information to you? What would be a cause for concern?
posted by juniperesque to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAL, but I don't believe that legally a former employer can tell anyone the reason for your leaving. All they can say is whether they would rehire you or not.

That being said, you might want to come clean in the second interview, explaining your side of the story, before they call for references and discover this themselves. Good luck!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 1:22 PM on August 16, 2010

call old job, ask for their employment verification line, pretend to be another employer, ask for verification/reference - see what they say. decide what you want to do after that.

for instance, the job i did hiring for, we wouldn't even verify rehirable status - we would only disclose dates of employment and that was all handled by an outside company to ensure that no one personally associated with the firing/quitting/etc was on the phone.
posted by nadawi at 1:34 PM on August 16, 2010

I can't comment on the disclosure aspect, but know that the rehire provision in your settlement is pretty standard stuff. Most people who end up settling a dispute with a former employer agree that the employee won't ever seek to work there again and that the employer doesn't ever have to rehire them.

That being said, I'd be less worried about the fact that you're ineligible for rehire than the fact that you sued a former employer. Employers don't like to know that they're hiring someone who sued a previous employer. (That is not a comment on your right to sue or on the legitimacy of any claims you brought. It's just a fact.) So I'd think more in terms of "how to disclose that I was forced to sue my previous employer" than in terms of "how to disclose that I can't be rehired by my former employer."
posted by devinemissk at 1:37 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Before the interview, check with your lawyer on what you're allowed to say about the suit and the settlement. Stick to that, but within its confines, tell the interviewer what you can about the situation.
posted by Etrigan at 1:37 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

As others have said, the lawsuit is more likely to be a problem for you than the "no rehire" part. Your former employer is more than likely going to verify employment dates and perhaps your title, and that's about it - that's just standard practice these days. On the other hand, most pre-employment background checks these days also include a public records check, and your lawsuit will likely be included in the results of that check. You need to figure out how you're going to get out in front of that, because I can tell you from personal experience (on the employer side - an extremely well-qualified candidate that I wanted to hire was vetoed by HR and legal) that a record like that is a total disqualifier for some employers. Sorry, it's a shitty catch-22, but it's an unfortunate part of the American corporate system.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:47 PM on August 16, 2010

When they ask you for references, I'd say something like the following:

"Here's the name of a reference from my last employer. If you prefer to go through their HR department, here's that number, but I should say that they're unlikely to give you much information about me. I was part of a separation agreement that makes me ineligible for rehire there, and they don't give out any other information about former employees."

If the new employer has questions, answer them, but I'd avoid mentioning the lawsuit if you can, because most employers are wary of litigious employees, even if your lawsuit was totally justified and righteous.

I should also say that I've done a lot of hiring, and I've never called an HR department when I had a personal contact available. YMMV (my company is small; big corporations may have a policy of calling HR), but I agree that it's better to preempt questions.

IANAL, but I don't believe that legally a former employer can tell anyone the reason for your leaving. All they can say is whether they would rehire you or not.

This is flat-out false in the United States. Your former employer can say anything they wish about your separation from the company. That's freedom of speech. However many companies worry that if they say something untrue, something that prevents you from getting a new job, or something barred by a contract you both signed, you might sue them and tangle them up in expensive litigation. That's why many companies have policies of not giving information beyond dates of employment and rehire eligibility. But the law doesn't bar them from saying whatever they want about you.
posted by decathecting at 1:55 PM on August 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

i had a lot of managers and such call me directly for reference/verification. i, and everyone in my company, were trained to say the same thing and not doing so was a risk of our job, "call this number, they will give you all the information you will need." if pressed further, we were strictly instructed to not answer a single question and just keep referring them to the verificiation line.

a lot of corporations work this way.
posted by nadawi at 2:04 PM on August 16, 2010

"Not eligible for rehire" usually signals that you were terminated for cause (e.g., defrauding the company, drunk on the job...). It's not really the same as a settlement agreement provision that you won't reapply. Call your old attorney's for advice.
posted by yarly at 4:51 PM on August 16, 2010

Also, I don't think decathecting's answer is the one to be favoriting. You may be prohibited from disclosing the existence of your separation agreement, and you may not (in practice) even need to mention "ineligible for rehire" at all. You should really contact your old lawyers about this.
posted by yarly at 4:53 PM on August 16, 2010

I was ineligible for rehire at a company I worked at a couple years ago. When asked for references I gave some but fortunately they never checked them.

When I get asked why I left what do I say?

"Well, they were bought out shortly after I started there and lots of changes weren't put in place and I decided that (the job I took after it) was the next move for me."

I've also given:

"I ended up on a fairly top-heavy team right when the recession hit full force and thanks to the lovely economy I got let go since I was the newest."

Any mention of the recession and the economy usually just gets a wink and a nod and that is that. If you convince them you are a good fit for the job, you'd be surprised at how many times they might gloss over things like checking references and such--at least that has been the case I've encountered at smaller companies where its just one person in HR who is usually overwhelmed.
posted by Elminster24 at 8:34 PM on August 16, 2010

Oh gosh, indeed! -- do not follow decathecting's advice. (No offence, decathecting.)

Most former employers are super-cautious about reference checks. It just makes sense -- they have lots to lose if they're reckless, and nothing to gain from honesty. Nobody wants to be the reference giver who got the company in trouble, and they have no real incentive to care about the new employer. So yes, most former employers will give minimal information --- and if there was a lawsuit, that's doubly the case. Assuming they're not totally incompetent, you can be guaranteed they will have a standard company line for you already prepared, which they will not deviate from.

Definitely do not disclose the lawsuit. Everyone who says it is a bigger problem than your ineligibility to be rehired -- they are absolutely correct. And it's fairly likely you're legally obligated to keep the whole thing confidential.

You don't have time to speak with your lawyer or reference-check yourself before tomorrow, so just give the name of your preferred reference and hope for the best. You can't (and shouldn't try to) stop them from calling your old company. So just hold your breath and hope they don't.... and if they do, hope your old company is prudent. They probably will be.

(Honestly, as someone who does a fair amount of hiring, I wish former employers were more candid. Most reference checks are bullshit for exactly these types of reasons. Which is lucky for job-seekers, but not so much for hiring managers.)

But good luck to you anyway!
posted by Susan PG at 10:47 PM on August 16, 2010

I'd never disclose the lawsuit - in fact, I'm prohibited from doing so, and so are they. I'm more concerned with the "not eligible for re-hire" issue. Generally in my field, when potential employers check references, they also call HR from former jobs and ask two questions: (1) Can you confirm the dates of employment? and (2) Is candidate eligible for re-hire?

A "no" for answer #2 is generally a red flag, and that's what I'm hoping to nip in the bud. I liked decathecting's script for how to address it. If anyone else has some basic scripts for pre-emptively addressing this specific issue, I'm all ears.
posted by juniperesque at 6:41 AM on August 17, 2010

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