Question: Dear Alan: About a month ago I resigned from my job to join a different employer. A few days ago, I was terminated from my present job by my employer’s Surveillance Team for unknowingly emailing a private document to my personal email. I was told to turn over all of my company ID’s and take my personal belongings and leave the office.

I had planned to leave anyway, and had a job offer outstanding. I am scheduled to start that new job in about a month. Do you think what has happened is likely to affect my job offer?

Do help me.

Sacked
Mumbai, India

Answer: Dear Sacked: I believe that the odds are that what has happened will not affect your open job offer. Here are my thoughts:

1. The fact that you resigned prior to being fired provides you with an entirely good and reasonable reason for no longer being with your former employer. Lots of people take time off between jobs, perhaps even most. And, too, many employers terminate employees immediately upon their resigning, out of a view that the departing employee might otherwise (a) encourage others to leave, (b) take information with them, or (c) simply not do much work. So, your being out of work for a month between jobs, in itself, is not unusual and should not cause you a problem.

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2. It is exceedingly rare for a former employer to reach out to a future employer and provide information, especially negative information. I would also not worry too much about your former employer reaching out to your future employer to let them know that you were fired or what you allegedly did to get fired. Almost all employers have strict policies prohibiting sharing such information with others, and that is even more true (a) in large organizations, (b) where firing was for misconduct, and (c) because you could possibly bring a lawsuit against them for divulging such information. So, your former employer reaching out to your future employer is not something I would worry about.

3. That said, it is quite possible that your future employer might still reach out to your former employer in the course of doing “background checks” on you. If your future employer has not completed its background checks on you, it may well find out that you are no longer employed by your former employer. If that takes place, it is quite likely that they will come back to you wanting to know why you are no longer there.

You are more than justified in saying “I resigned,” because it is entirely true. However, if your are asked this precise question, “Did you, or did you not, get fired?” then the answer to that question definitely poses a moral dilemma for you: be honest or not to be. This is one circumstance – and one that I do not believe is likely to arise – in which you may have a problem to solve.

The best solution: honesty. I believe that an inadvertent email transmission of a work document to your home – so long as it was not a regular course of action, did not involve any transfer of secrets, and was not obviously deliberate – is an understandable and forgivable offense. There is not a person on this earth who has not made a mistake. For this reason, if you are asked “Were you fired?” I think that honesty may just be the wisest course to take. It does present a risk, but so does lying. The choice, of course, is your own.

4. The only other circumstance in which I think you will likely have a problem is if you are licensed in a regulated profession which requires that employers report to licensing authorities if and when an employee is fired. In this regard, three industries stand out as examples:

(i) First, in the securities and investment industries regarding “registered representatives,” employers are required to report to a Central Registry the reason an employee is no longer working for them, and that information is available to the public, including all other employers;

(ii) Second, in the medical profession, when a doctor’s or a nurse’s employment is terminated many state medical licensing boards require employers to report if misconduct or illegality was the reason for termination; here, too, the information is available to other employers; and

(iii) Additionally, in the transportation industries, including trucking, air travel and trains, if drivers, pilots and engineers are fired for certain offenses, such as operating while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, that information is often available to the public.

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5. One thing you should bear in mind is that your “transgression” is one of inadvertence only, and not one of greed, deception or corruption. Your anxiety and fears are both understandable. But fear is the first human instinct, and quite often people unnecessarily focus upon what might go wrong, as opposed to what might go right. I recommend you focus on the positive, and part of that “positive” is that your “transgression” was one of inadvertence, not guile. One day you may have to explain what happened. If you do, and are confident, comfortable and contrite, you will be convincing. Focus on the positive; that always helps.

Hope this helps, and at the least lowers your anxiety level a bit. That never hurts.

My Best,
Al Sklover

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