Question: I was wrongfully terminated for standing up for being a “whistleblower” and insisting on my employer fulfilling its contractual obligations to me. I am suing my former employer, along with several former colleagues.
My problem is with searching for new employment. If you “google” my name, my case comes up quite prominently, as it has become “high profile.”
The lie I was told was that my job was eliminated as part of a “budget cut.” I don’t know what to say when asked “Why were you let go?” I don’t know what to say when asked “Why are you suing your former employer?”
Setauket, New York
Answer: Gayle, as an attorney who has represented employees for over 25 years, I have had your question posed to me many times. The answer is not a simple one. The good news is that, to my knowledge, every single one of my clients who has sued their former employers has, indeed, found new employment.
There are many different ways to approach this dilemma. Some may be more applicable to your own situation; some may not be. What seems to help most people overcome this “hurdle” in the interviewing process is frank, reasoned, reassuring and calm explanation that:
1. You Did Not Take this Step Lightly, but only Based on Principle and As a Last Resort.
If appropriate, you might mention that the decision to seek the help of the Courts in resolving your differences with your former employer was not an easy decision to make. Instead, you did so only as a matter of Principle and Last Resort.
2. In Perspective, Litigation means Resolution; It is Not a Thing to be Ashamed of.
At one time or another, almost everyone – and every employer – is involved in a lawsuit, because this is the way our society has decided it is best to resolve disputes. Like needing surgery to resolve a medical problem, it is nothing to be ashamed of.
The words and phrases “law suit, litigation, suing,” and the like often conjure up a threat, or evilness, but they are actually synonyms with “resolution, bringing together, moving on.” No matter what company you may interview with, chances are that company has sued other companies, or has been sued by other companies, in the course of its business.
That does not make it a company you would not interview with, just as your being involved in a “resolution effort” should not make you an employee not to be interviewed.
Chances are even your interviewer has been involved in one kind of lawsuit or another during his or her lifetime. You may point this out, in a matter-of-fact manner. While you are not happy to be in court to resolve issues, neither are you ashamed.
3. You Tried Hard to Resolve Your Differences, and Always Do.
It takes two parties to resolve a difference between them, and sometimes one of those parties simply refuses to resolve matters. You are someone who pursues resolution, with an open heart and a positive heart, but this is one dispute that evaded resolution through discussion.
4. In Your Many Years of Employment, This is the Only Instance of Litigation.
Mention that you have been employed for many years, for several different employers, and that this is the one and only time you have been unabe to resolve a difference.
5. You Hope and Expect this will be Resolved Soon.
Lastly, it will be helpful if your interviewer is advised that this may be soon resolved, promptly over with, and not likely to prove a distraction or interference with your work if you were to be hired.
Don’t forget, “how you say it” may be more important than “what you say.” Always maintain a respectful tone, a calm voice, and an absence of personal invective, in all you say and how you say it.
I hope this has been helpful.
My Best to You,
We also offer several helpful Model Letters, Memos and Checklists to help you get a New Job. To review a list of those that are available, just [click here.]
© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.