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Can my previous employer pursue legal action? Help please! Ohio

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  • Can my previous employer pursue legal action? Help please! Ohio

    I've been stressing over a situation with my most recent employer all day. They are threatening legal action... and I only worked there 3 months! I am hoping some of you will have some insight into my current situation - I honestly don't know what to do!

    To give a little background... I graduated from college in 2009 and landed a job at a healthcare software company a few months later. I ended up working there for nearly 5 years before having a change of heart and realizing I wanted to get into a different industry. I applied for and was offered a job at an events company (I will call this Company A). I took an $8k pay cut but justified it by saying it would be a good foot-in-the-door job into the events field.

    Well, as it turned out, a week after I started, one of my two colleagues quit. She gave 1 day's notice (told them on a Thursday that Friday would be her last day) and they dismissed her on the spot. She was never asked where she was going, nor did she disclose this information to them. In talking to my one remaining colleague, I found out this employee had been unhappy there for much of the 10 months she worked there and couldn't take it anymore. The environment is very hostile, with the two owners often making demeaning comments, talking badly about one employee to another (or others), making false accusations... It should have been a red flag in the interview when I remember thinking the male owner acted as if he was an FBI interrogator. It took three 2-hour interviews with them for me to get the offer. During the interview process, they asked me about the personalities of my previous boyfriends and how those compared with my husband's personality, just weird things like that. They are very strange individuals, particularly him.

    I also found out that my one remaining colleague was looking for a job elsewhere, and at that point, I figured I should start looking too. We were approaching our busy season, and I didn't want to get stuck there by myself. So I began applying for jobs again... had a few phone interviews but nothing that really went anywhere, and/or nothing that really interested me. A couple of months passed, and I got a call from a company that did interest me (I will call this Company B). The salary would be substantially more (a $14k pay raise), and the position was more in line with what I am comfortable with (more marketing/writing... I have a journalism degree). After attending two interviews, I was offered the job. Company A was suspicious of me being out of the office for "dentist" and "doctor appointments" and even questioned me and accused me of interviewing elsewhere. At the time, I told them I was not interviewing elsewhere - no reason to jeopardize my current job for something uncertain.

    On the day I was offered my job, my supervisors were out of the office, so I decided to wait to tell them. As it turns out, the very next day, my colleague was offered her dream job. So it looked like we would both be leaving at the same time. I should mention that a month after I was hired, they did hire another employee. She came on and immediately was their star student, primarily because they found her themselves whereas the other planners (my colleagues) had found my resume. So, there would be one person remaining in this position, but my one colleague and I would be leaving.

    Well, that day she was offered her job, she spoke with the owners because she worked late that day and they had returned by that point. She told them she was resigning, and she gave them 1 week's notice. She was allowed to work out her week and transition her projects/clients. That weekend was Memorial Day weekend, and I didn't get to speak with my employers until Wednesday (5/28) of the following week (I was traveling on business that Tuesday after Memorial Day). When I told them I was also leaving, they were caught off guard. I told them I could work through the following Friday (so just over a week). They told me they wanted me to see if I could push back my start date at my new job, and I ended up telling them I could work through Monday (6/9), but that would be the absolute latest. I explained that my leaving was not personal but primarily financial - since my husband and I were buying a house, it just made sense for me to take this job which would be paying substantially more.

    At that time, they also asked where I was going to be working, and I told them I did not feel comfortable sharing that information. I didn't feel I was obligated to tell them. I just told them that I the new company was not competing. I also told them I have never told a place of employment the name of my new company. Knowing how crazy they are, I frankly was worried they would try to reach out to my new employer. I honestly do not know what they are capable of. Most importantly, I did not put Company A on my resume, so Company B does not know they even exist. As far as they are concerned, I am leaving my job at the healthcare software company to come there. I didn't think it would look very good to potential employers that I was leaving a job after only 3 months. They didn't like that I wouldn't tell them where I was going and referenced the non-compete clause of the employee agreement. I assured them this new company was not a client and not even in the same industry. They responded by saying they would find out where I was going for themselves if I refused to tell them.

    Anyway, my colleague worked her last day last week, and I had the full intention of coming in and working this entire week. Well, when I got into work this morning, they pulled me into their office and told me they have decided to have me leave early. They stated again that they would be doing some digging to find out what company I was going to work for, and that they would be obligated to send my new employer a copy of my employment agreement. Again, I told them this company was not a client or in any way affiliated, but they didn't seem to care nor believe me. They proceeded to escort me out after I gathered my things from my desk.

    Emotional and stressed thinking about my previous employer's words, I reached out to a lawyer who is a family friend to ask his advice. He told me I am in no way obligated to tell my employer the name of my new company. He said he would be happy to compose a letter to my previous employer essentially stating that his client (me) is not in breach of the employment agreement or non-compete clause of the employment agreement, and that they are prohibited from contacting my new employer as it would endanger my job at my new company. My lawyer stated that any communication should be routed through him. My employer responded by saying that they have "verified that your client is in breach of several areas of the employment agreement" and that they would "take action accordingly." My lawyer seems to think he's bluffing. I wouldn't put anything past my previous employer though. He's very aggressive and never likes to stand down.

    I have read through the employment agreement and it does state that any employee should give 14 days notice prior to resignation; however, I do not believe any employee who has ever left there has given the proper notice (most recently, employees gave 1 week and 1 DAY). As I mentioned, this is a very hostile work environment, and the company has a very high turnover rate. Not to mention, when employees have given notice in the past, this company typically terminates their employment early anyway. Why give 2 weeks when that could potentially mean 2 weeks without pay? (they never pay out if they terminate early)

    My lawyer responded to my previous employer asking him for his lawyer's name or to have his lawyer contact him directly. To that, my previous employer stated that my lawyer could just email him directly for the time being.

    So... my question is: Does my previous employer have grounds to pursue legal action against me? Will a 14 days notice clause in an employment contract hold up despite special circumstances, such as a hostile work environment, the fact that they terminated me early and that others in recent past have not given the full 14 days notice? Would they also have to pursue these other previous employees if they came after me for this reason? Do you think he is bluffing? Is there anything I should do now to prevent this from going any further?

    My husband and I were just married last June, we just bought a house and are preparing for the move, and we are trying to look toward the future. I am so stressed over this situation, and I just want this all behind me! I wish I had never gone to work for Company A. The last 3 months there have been miserable, and now this. I just don't know what I did to deserve this. I was professional during my time there. It just was not a good fit. PLEASE HELP!

  • #2
    There is no way for us to know what your previous employer might do. Since you have a lawyer, you really need to discuss your concerns with him - someone who has read your agreement.
    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


    • #3
      It is not a good idea to leave a job off your job history with a potential employer. Most applications have you sign that what you entered it truthful. Some companies will term if omissions are found. It is better to list the job and explain during the interview why you are looking to leave. You don't have to explain what you posted here but you can say that you were not a good fit with management.

      Comment


      • #4
        You have an attorney so that is who can answer questions about the meaning of any written agreement. How anyone here would know the contents of an agreement we have not read is beyond me. Running to an attorney upon quitting your job does raise a LOT of red flags. Leaving an employer of 10 months off your resume and lying about your most recent employer sends up even more. It would be completely legal for the new employer to rescind the offer or terminate if they find out you lied. It would also be very common and totally justified. It wouldn't even take this latest employer calling the new one either. One person who knows someone at either old company makes a comment, you slip up and mention the situation (face it, over the course of a career the odds are pretty good you will do this), or the new employer verifies employment which ended nearly a year ago and the dates do not match.
        I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

        Comment


        • #5
          Response

          Originally posted by ElleMD View Post
          You have an attorney so that is who can answer questions about the meaning of any written agreement. How anyone here would know the contents of an agreement we have not read is beyond me. Running to an attorney upon quitting your job does raise a LOT of red flags. Leaving an employer of 10 months off your resume and lying about your most recent employer sends up even more. It would be completely legal for the new employer to rescind the offer or terminate if they find out you lied. It would also be very common and totally justified. It wouldn't even take this latest employer calling the new one either. One person who knows someone at either old company makes a comment, you slip up and mention the situation (face it, over the course of a career the odds are pretty good you will do this), or the new employer verifies employment which ended nearly a year ago and the dates do not match.
          I only worked at this most recent position for 3 months, not 10 months. If it were 10 months, it would be a different story and I would not have left them off my employment history. I only went to a lawyer because I felt that if he reached out to my employer and basically told him to back off, I could nip the situation in the bud before my old boss reached out to my new employer. Honestly, it's difficult to put into words the type of psychopath this guy is, and I wouldn't put anything past him. This 3-month job is just a little blip in my otherwise very good employment history, having worked at my job before this for 5 years. I am not generally the type of person to leave when the chips are down, but the stress and anxiety this last job, and more specifically, my employer, put on me was not worth it to me to stick around. In the past, employees who have worked there have had to be put on anxiety meds due to the stress. No one who leaves there ever leaves on good terms, and each time someone leaves, the employer bad mouths them to the rest of the company. I've never met anyone like this guy in my life, and frankly, I just want to move on and pretend he never existed. I don't want him cropping up in the future, I don't want any other future jobs to speak with him (because I know he will give nasty feedback, it's his MO). I don't see what's wrong with leaving this job off my resume if it isn't relevant to my new job or new jobs in the future. This company will probably go under. It's a small company of 15 people, and they've lost 7 in the last YEAR. It's basically hell on earth.

          Comment


          • #6
            FYI, the term, hostile work environment, has a very specific meaning in employment law. Nothing you have posted suggests that the legal definition applies here.

            If you don't think it matters whether you include this employer in future, that's your decision. Just be aware that if some future employer does think it matters and fires you/refuses to hire you because of the omission, you will have no recourse as that will be a completely legal move on their part.

            Also be aware that it is MUCH easier for an employer to find out what's going on with a past (or current) employer than you may think, and the employer doesn't even have to be looking for it. Sometimes it falls into their lap. As an example, I'd have been in pretty big trouble if I'd been lying to my employer about anything in my past employment on several occasions; (1) when the new department manager turned out to be my old boss from a different company; (2) when the new COO turned out to be my father's next door neighbor; (3) when the recruiter who cold-called me to sell me on an applicant turned out to be a former co-worker; (4) when the new sales manager turned out to be a former co-worker. And I learned things about where my former employees had gone when their new employees turned out to be the health insurance company we were using (and my former employee was my account rep) and the broker who worked with our insurance policies. All true stories. Not made-up examples.

            And I actually did have an employer call me once and say, "Shame on us for not calling references when we hired him, but we've just found some discrepancies in the resume of one of our employees, and we want to confirm the dates he was employed with you". And the employee had lied about when he worked for us, to cover a break in service. And we told the employer the correct dates of employment. And he was fired.

            So it's your decision, but the decision to leave them off future applications is not without risk.
            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.

            Comment


            • #7
              Response

              I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do a this point. I'm physically sick over this whole thing. My new employer doesn't know my former employer is part of my work history, and if they find out about them, I'm afraid of what will happen. My former employer has made it his life's mission to find out where my new job is and I feel like I screwed up by 1) telling him I didn't feel comfortable sharing that information and then 2) having a lawyer reach out to him and tell him he is prohibited from contacting my new employer. My former employer is the type of person who thinks he is God and must know everything. I didn't think I was obligated to tell him where I was going, so I didn't. When I told my first job I was leaving, they asked where I was going, I didn't tell them and they said "Fair enough." This guy just won't let up. It's like he is bound and determined to make my life miserable. I probably shouldn't have lied to my new employer and told them that I was still employed at my first company, but I had tried telling potential companies that I was working at a job for 3 months (2 months at the time) and the interviews never went anywhere because this was a red flag - so I felt it better to leave my present company off my resume since it was for such a short period of time. And as soon as I did that, I ended up getting a job offer. I honestly don't think I would have been offered the job had I told them of my present employer.

              There is so much on the line right now. My husband and I just bought a new house and we are preparing to move. If my new job opportunity is jeopardized, we could lose everything. I honestly don't know what to do at this point. This is all I can think about, it consumes my life. I just want to move past this! As I said, I am physically sick over it. What should I do now? Realizing I cannot change what I did in the past, I'm not sure how to get through this. Should I really be worried?

              Comment


              • #8
                I doubt very much that your former employer can take legal action against you as long as everything you've told us is the truth. However, I do think you shot yourself in the foot here.

                I agree completely with your lawyer. There is no reason and no requirement that you had to tell the former employer where you were going. But when you refused to tell him no matter how hard he pressed you, what you were doing was just making him more and more certain that you were going to violate your agreement; otherwise, (from his view) why would you refuse to tell him?

                Let me present an example. It so happens that in my state, employers are required to provide copies of an employee's personnel file on request. But even if there was not such a requirement, I'd do so. Why? Because probably 75% of people who ask for their personnel files, ask for them so that they can get the "proof" they imagine is there, of some kind of illegal action towards them on the employer's behalf. I know for certain of at least one lawsuit that was averted because I promptly sent every piece of paper in the employee's file the same day she asked for it.

                The point I'm making is that sometimes, because you CAN withhold information doesn't mean you SHOULD.

                I don't think you can solve anything by telling him now. I think you're just going to have to ride it out. But if you ever again run into someone like your former boss, if you can avoid feeding his paranoia by giving him information even if there's no real reason for him to have it, you might want to consider whether standing on your right to withhold the info is really worth the trouble.
                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.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Response

                  Originally posted by cbg View Post
                  I doubt very much that your former employer can take legal action against you as long as everything you've told us is the truth. However, I do think you shot yourself in the foot here.

                  The point I'm making is that sometimes, because you CAN withhold information doesn't mean you SHOULD.

                  I don't think you can solve anything by telling him now. I think you're just going to have to ride it out. But if you ever again run into someone like your former boss, if you can avoid feeding his paranoia by giving him information even if there's no real reason for him to have it, you might want to consider whether standing on your right to withhold the info is really worth the trouble.
                  At this point, I wish I could go back in time and just tell the guy where I was going to be working. Maybe nothing would have come of it. My fear was that he would reach out to them, and since they do not know he exists, it would tarnish my reputation and potentially cause me the job. I realized that my current employer would probably find out where I went eventually, but I was hoping by that time I would already be at the new job and had a chance to prove my value to the company should anything come up. There was just no way of knowing how the situation would have panned out. I only know what I've been told from colleagues, that this guy is relentless and will do anything in his power to ruin people. He's just a bad person with no moral compass who thinks everyone is in a conspiracy against him. By holding back where I was going to, I think I fueled this even more. And when my mom suggested I reach out to the lawyer (who is a family friend) just to get advice, I thought it wouldn't hurt to have a lawyer in my corner if anything were to happen. It was the lawyer's idea to send a letter to my boss (who he called "just a bully") because his thought (and mine) were that this might nip whatever he was thinking of doing in the bud. The letter basically stated that I was under no legal obligation to tell him where I was going, I was not in violation of the non-compete clause, and he was prohibited from reaching out to my new employer and/or doing anything that might jeopardize my business practices. The letter may have fueled my boss's paranoia even further, because his response to the letter was that I was in violation of the employment agreement.

                  I could sit here all day and go over every detail what I did or should have done with a fine tooth comb (which is basically what I have been doing since they terminated me early yesterday morning), but I can't change the past. I wish I had never gone to work for this company in the first place. I was there for 3 short months and feel like they ruined my life. I just want to get past this, but I feel like this will always be looming over my head. I will always have the fear that they will find something to use against me and try to pursue some course of legal action, or reach out to my new employer, or my new employer will find out I was dishonest during my interviews and they will fire me. And my husband and I will lose our house. I am under so much stress that I honestly don't know what to do. I was naive and didn't realize the long-term consequences of leaving an employer off of my resume. Everyone I talked to told me it shouldn't be a big deal. Now I feel like I have this huge burden to carry.

                  I don't understand how this all happened. I am a good person. The job was a bad fit. I left it off my resume to avoid red flags. And now I have legal drama and the fear of being fired before even starting a new job.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'd be really tempted to go ahead and tell my new employer about the 3 month employment. State basically (definitely NOT the saga you posted here) that the 3 month job was not a good fit and since the time was so short you hadn't updated your resume. The question though is did you tell them that you were with the previous employer for those 3 months? Or did your resume just state hire date - present?

                    If you don't bring it up, you will constantly have the worry that they will find out. And I know I would feel differently about a new employee who came to me honestly upfront when they realized they make a mistake than for me to find it later.

                    Personally, I love a saying that my CEO quotes -- "Get to failure as soon as possible, correct it and learn from it. Then move on." We all fail and make mistakes.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Response

                      Originally posted by hr for me View Post
                      I'd be really tempted to go ahead and tell my new employer about the 3 month employment. State basically (definitely NOT the saga you posted here) that the 3 month job was not a good fit and since the time was so short you hadn't updated your resume. The question though is did you tell them that you were with the previous employer for those 3 months? Or did your resume just state hire date - present?

                      If you don't bring it up, you will constantly have the worry that they will find out. And I know I would feel differently about a new employee who came to me honestly upfront when they realized they make a mistake than for me to find it later.

                      Personally, I love a saying that my CEO quotes -- "Get to failure as soon as possible, correct it and learn from it. Then move on." We all fail and make mistakes.
                      That's what I've been struggling with... The resume the new company had listed my first company as my most recent employer (hired date - present). When they brought me in for the interview, they told me how great it was to see that I have been working there for 5 years and that it really showed a lot of loyalty. They were impressed at my position there. I felt it would have hindered my chances at getting the job had I said "Well, actually, left that place for a completely different industry. Been there a little over 2 months and I'm trying to get out now." So I went along with it. The first job really is more aligned with what I will be doing at this new job, and the 3-month job has absolutely nothing to do with it. I let them believe I was still working at my first job. At the time, it seemed like the best option. I even played into it a little, saying I would of course need to give 2 weeks notice because of my position there (as lead) and would need time to disperse my projects. So, to answer your question, yes, they still think I am coming from the first job and have no idea the other job existed. Maybe I screwed up, but at the time, I was desperate to get out of my last job and didn't want to chance them passing me up because they thought it was a red flag that I was leaving after such a short period of time. I feel very stupid now and wish I had been honest, but at this point, I don't know if it would do more harm than good to come clean about it. Maybe they wouldn't ever find out... Thoughts? Ugh, I hate this!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Wow, outright lying in the interview is going to be a very hard obstacle to overcome. Hiring a lawyer right off the bat also made things so very much worse as you had absolutely no reason to have a lawyer write a letter to say that you weren't going to disclose your new employer. You just had to do what you already did which was not tell him. Why the lawyer would indicate that your current employer may not contact this mysterious new employer is beyond me as legally, there is no way to prevent the two parties from talking. The letter is meaningless other than to tick off someone who was already upset and send up a million red flags. You handled this situation very poorly all around and there are no good options here. This is going to be a live and learn situation either way.

                        Personally, I would come clean on the lie with the newest employer before they find out some other way and drop the lawyer shenanigans and just tell your current where you are going. Let the chips fall where they may and learn your lesson going forward.
                        I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Agree, I would still come clean. And I would tell the prior employer where I was going.

                          Hindsight is 20/20. Can't tell you what the new employer will do. But I don't think I could live with the guilt personally. Even if it meant some tough times for my family financially.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Response

                            Originally posted by ElleMD View Post
                            Wow, outright lying in the interview is going to be a very hard obstacle to overcome. Hiring a lawyer right off the bat also made things so very much worse as you had absolutely no reason to have a lawyer write a letter to say that you weren't going to disclose your new employer. You just had to do what you already did which was not tell him. Why the lawyer would indicate that your current employer may not contact this mysterious new employer is beyond me as legally, there is no way to prevent the two parties from talking. The letter is meaningless other than to tick off someone who was already upset and send up a million red flags. You handled this situation very poorly all around and there are no good options here. This is going to be a live and learn situation either way.

                            Personally, I would come clean on the lie with the newest employer before they find out some other way and drop the lawyer shenanigans and just tell your current where you are going. Let the chips fall where they may and learn your lesson going forward.
                            Yes, OK, I realize I screwed up. I am making myself sick over this situation already and was hoping to have some support rather than being scolded again and again. I have a feeling this new company I am going to work for will not find out because they are very laid-back and just seemed eager to have me join the team. It's a new position and they are essentially creating specifically for me. I did not "hire" a lawyer. As I mentioned, he is a family friend, and HE was the one who thought it best just to send a letter stating I am not legally obligated to tell him where I am going and basically, to leave me ALONE. I am not paying for his services or anything. Also, when I was terminated before my resignation date, my boss once again told me "Also, just so you know, you have left me with no choice but to find out where you will be working on my own and reach out to that employer to let them know you are in a non-compete agreement." To which I responded, "Once again, this is not a competing company so I am not in breach of the non-compete clause of the contract. I am not obligated to tell any employer where I am going." I then offered to tell him where I was going just to get him off my back, and he replied by saying "Nope, don't bother. We will do our own research." So, I DID offer to tell him to get him to leave me alone. This is just a sick human being who wants to make everyone's lives hell. I've contemplated driving up to the building, walking into his office and pleading with him to leave me alone, in an attempt to appeal to any human side of him. I know that is probably not the best course of action, but I don't know what else to do at this point.

                            Yes, I know I shouldn't have lied to the new employer. The fact is they were looking at an older resume. In the past, I had done interviews and told the companies I was employed at a company where I had only been for a couple months, and the interview seemed to end shortly after - and no further communication. Even when I did explain the circumstances. So, although I know it wasn't the best thing to do ethically, I felt I had no other choice if I ever wanted to escape.

                            Does anyone have anything supportive they could offer? I feel like everyone is responding so harshly, and I understand where it's coming from, but I can't be the only person who has ever been in this situation before!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Oh, Confused, please don't interpret the senior members as being less than supportive. They cared enough to take the time to respond to your post, and offer straightforward, meaningful advice from an HR perpective. And the resounding advice is come clean, and move forward. I'd love to offer advice on how to manage that, I honestly would, but every situation is different. Nobody has a magic 8 ball to give you a solution assuring a perfect outcome. Hang in there - this too shall pass.

                              -HB

                              Comment

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