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What Can Potential Employers Ask My Previous Employers? Pennsylvania

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  • What Can Potential Employers Ask My Previous Employers? Pennsylvania

    I was recently fired from a job and I'm wondering what potential employers can ask my previous employers?

    Anyone know about this in Pennsylvania?

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    They can ask anything they want. And your former employer can answer anything they want as long as their answer is true or their honest and supportable opinion, with limited exceptions regarding medical information.

    This answer applies in all 50 states.

    If you are referring to the persistant but totally untrue myth that employers can only ask for dates of employment and job title, that is, as indicated, a myth. If you are asking whether your former employer can say that you were fired, the answer is yes, he not only can say that you were fired, but also why you were fired.

    This answer also applies in all 50 states.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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    • #3
      Wow! Yes, I always thought that they could only ask dates, and verify employment.

      If this is all legal, why does it seem that so many employers avoid answering the questions? (Or, at least that's the impression that I get.)

      Also, it is appropriate to call an old employer to ask how they will respond to potential employers calling them?
      Last edited by Orbit13; 06-09-2011, 06:47 PM.

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      • #4
        Many employers don't answer these questions because (a) the myth is so powerful that the employer believes it too (b) the employer doesn't believe it but doesn't want to bother defending the baseless lawsuits they are afraid will be filed (c) the division of HR that gives out the references does not have copies of performance reviews (that's the reason where I work) (d) any one of about a million other reasons.
        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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        • #5
          I have worked for places where the employer was particular about exactly who did the talking. The problem is not the employer telling the truth. That is always legal. The problem is having someone working for the employer running their mouth off, making statements that cannot be later supported if challenged. Telling everyone who is not in a position of great authority to shut the heck up stops that. My last four employers pretty much had that policy. Not that the company would never say anything, but rather that the number of people in the company who had the authority to make substantive statements about former employees could be counted on one hand with some fingers left over. I have been a manager at some pretty big employers and one of the many documents I had to sign was to agree to not make statements about former employees. If I wanted a statement made, say a letter of recommendation, I had to send the statement to HR (and maybe Legal) to make sure that the statement was something that the company as a whole was willing to stand behind. HR basically had to review the personnel file and make sure that everything I said could be supported. It was not impossible to get something like a letter of recommendation issued, but the employers made it very clear that they did not want random employees running off their mouths.

          Now different companies can and do have very different handling of this. There have been (a very few) interesting court cases in which the employer got in trouble for keeping quiet. But generally speaking the laws on slander/libel/defamation are very clear that truth is always a defense. More over, making statements that one believes to be true at the time is almost always a defense. Even if the statement is wrong, "absence of malice" is a generally good defense. But some employers feel by never talking to anyone about anything they avoid being sued in the first place.

          Employers make decisions. Good decisions. Bad decisions. Sometimes strange decisions. But they expect THEIR employees to pay attention to THEIR decisions, no matter what people think of the decisions. Firing employees who break (or critique) company policies is generally also legal.
          Last edited by DAW; 06-10-2011, 02:03 PM.
          "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
          Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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          • #6
            Agreed with all of the above. For far as your question:

            Originally posted by Orbit13 View Post
            Also, it is appropriate to call an old employer to ask how they will respond to potential employers calling them?
            A more effective approach would be to call the company as a prospective employer and see what all they will answer and what they say when asked specific questions.

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            • #7
              Some former employees have a friend/relative call instead of calling theirself. They
              worry their voice might be recognized & for other reasons.
              Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

              Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by DAW View Post
                There have been (a very few) interesting court cases in which the employer got in trouble for keeping quiet.
                Yes, in NJ we now have a law based on one of these interesting cases. A nurse was "helping people be at peace" in a hospital, usually without the patients asking for this help. What a thoughtful guy.
                An employer (it later turned out to be several employers) fired the guy, based on suspicion of this, but then never informed new prospective employers who called for references. He then started "helping" more old folks die at a new hospital, and finally got charged with murder. The new employer went after the old employers for not disclosing their concerns about him (turns out they were afraid of lawsuits from him). Now we have the Cullen Law. Now all healthcare providers in NJ are in big trouble if we don't disclose cases of negligence, medical incompetence, and, oh, killing patients.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by RRPayroll View Post
                  Agreed with all of the above. For far as your question:


                  A more effective approach would be to call the company as a prospective employer and see what all they will answer and what they say when asked specific questions.

                  Would there be any harm in just contacting them myself to find out their policies?

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                  • #10
                    You can though I don't know how much info you will get. They can also change
                    their policies at any time.
                    Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                    Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Agreed with Betty. Additionally, you're less likely to get a true representation of what they would do if called by a prospective employer. Asking "what are your company policies" is much more abstract than "was John Doe employed here, would you recommend them as an employee, under what circumstances did they leave, etc." It also makes it clear to your current employer that you're contemplating being less than truthful on your applications.

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