How to handle an unethical former employer?
November 20, 2006 7:53 AM   Subscribe

How should I handle an unethical former employer who is contacting my employment references for his own purposes?

I work in non-profit management, and was laid off from my job of 5 years in May. In June, I interviewed with a very small charity started by a venture capitalist. I had a lot of misgivings because it was very new, and there were few formal systems in place. I would be the third employee, and responsible for building most of the internal structures. The director was charismatic, and a indicated that this would be a position where I could pretty much shape the direction of the organization. I did as much research as I could on both him and the charity... not turning up much, but also not finding anything negative. So I took the job.

I quit after two days after finding numerous questionable practices. They hadn't filed taxes nor and extension for the previous year. Their records were a mess. They were being investigated by a local news channel. The bare minimum of funds raised was actually going to the causes that he advertised. The last straw was when the director wanted me to think about ways we could take advantage of (fleece) corporate matching gift programs. When I told him ideas were completely unethical, he told me I needed to be more "open minded". At the end of my second day, I left my keys. Then I went home and e-mailed my letter of resignation (and told him not to worry about paying me). True, it wasn't the most professional way to handle the situation, but I really didn't want a face to face confrontation with the guy.

So now it's five months later and I am at a new, wonderful job. I just got a call from one of my friends and former co-workers, who I also use as an employment reference. The director of charity called him to see if he would donate some time to work on designing a database for the organization. The only other contact that my friend had with this guy was when he called to check my reference. Needless to say, I am pretty pissed. I don't think that it is in any way appropriate that he should be contacting my employment references for his own purposes.

I don't know quite how to handle this situation. I've thought about contacting him directly, or contacting the state attorney general to blow the whistle on his charity. But this guy is pretty shady and has things like my social security number, so I fear retaliation. I would appreciate any and all advice.
posted by kimdog to Work & Money (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would think this would work itself out, in a way. Your references will think it's weird and inappropriate for him to call them. Also, you could preemptively contact all of your references and ask them to let you know if they hear anything from him. Word of mouth will "work its wonders," and he will end up with the reputation he deserves.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:07 AM on November 20, 2006

I agree with ClaudiaCenter. keep him out of it and contact your references directly and let them know what this guy, and his "charity" are about. Then contact the news and AG and let them know what he is about. Bask in the good feeling you'll have from exposing this scumbag and making sure people that want to donate have one less scam artist taking their money.
posted by ChazB at 8:23 AM on November 20, 2006

I agree with both of these; you wouldn't have listed these people as references if you didn't have a solid, comfortable relationship with them. So just call and give a heads-up.
posted by Sabine3283 at 7:33 AM on June 24, 2007

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