Managing Obstacles to Employment after Termination
Negative Employment References
Some employers may give bad references regarding former employees. As such, finding employment after termination from a job may be challenging. While giving a false reference is actionable at law, most employees will never know when a false reference has been given.
To prevent liability from defamation claims for giving false references, some companies have policies in place that allow for the release of dates of employment only. However, many companies have no such policies in place and will respond to request for information in the most damaging of ways.
Some former employers may advise prospective employers that a former employee was; not up to par, did not suit their needs, may be a business risk, was habitually late, or cannot be trusted.
Employees seldom know when false references have been given by former employers because a prospective employer usually does not relay this information to a potential candidate. One reason is because many references are often given over the telephone. Many things are said during those phone calls to which prospective employees not privy. The job seeker will find that he or she did not get an expected call from the prospective employer. At other times, employers may simply advise the potential candidate that the position was already filled or that they are pursuing other qualified candidates.
The Reference Request
Many companies will ask applicants for a list of references. There are two main types of references. These are personal references and professional references. A personal reference is a reference from someone who can vouch for an employee’s character. Personal references while helpful, are not by themselves instrumental in helping employees land a position. Professional references are reference from individuals who can provide information about an employee's suitability for a particular position. Employers usually care more about professional references. The professional references that are of great significance to employers are references from former supervisors and managers. The idea is that former employers and supervisors may have insight into an employees ability to perform.
Employers will also ask applicants whether they can contact a former employer. Please consider this a trick question. Once you say no, the position is virtually lost. Employers usually get suspicious when a person indicates that a former employer should not be contacted.
Many employers require prospective employees to sign a reference request form that gets sent to former employers. If the applicant refuses to sign this form, chances are that that prospective employer will not bother with further review of the application.
Some Questions on Reference Request Forms That are Used by Employers
1. Would you rehire this applicant?
If asked this question, a former employer who has just terminated the employee, would have no choice but to say “no” if the employee was terminated for cause. If the former employer had listed the former employee as a no rehire, then clearly the employer is within its right to say no. One employee found out that her former company had made her a “no rehire” several years after leaving the company. The employee happened to call the company many years later to get accurate information regarding dates of employment in order to complete an application for a federal job. During the conversation, she discovered that her former supervisor had listed her as a “no rehire.” Prior to leaving that position, the supervisor had asked her if she was willing to transfer to another facility as opposed to terminating her relationship with the company. The employee declined the offer. Making the employee a “no rehire” after offer a transfer was clearly a vindictive act on the part of the employer.
2. Was the employee Punctual?
The word punctual is subject to all types of interpretations. One employee reported that she was never more than 5 minutes late for her job on any day and was never confronted for years. After reporting her supervisor to his superior for an unrelated matter, the “5 minutes” became a big issue and became part of her personal record.
3. Is the employee Honest?
A prospective employer may ask a former employer if the applicant is honest. An employer with a grudge can use this to destroy the chances of an applicant getting a new job. A prospective employer would have no reason to hire a dishonest employee. If the employer labeled the employee as dishonest, there is nothing that that employee can do to clear his or her name. This means that he or she will never get hired. A prospective employer has no reason to wait for any one candidate to clear his name when there are probably 10 to 20 equally qualified candidates competing for the same position
4. Would you recommend the employee?
If the employee left on good terms with the employer, the employer may be generous enough to say a few kind words. However, if the employee left at a time when the employer was short staffed or if the departure caused hardship to the company, the employee should not expect any type of positive recommendations. One employee reported that on advising her supervisor that she was leaving the company the supervisor became upset. The supervisor was upset because she was now required to cover the functions of the departing employee until new staff could be secured.
The employee advised her supervisor that the new position that she had accepted was a good move for her. The supervisor responded by stating angrily, “Yeah, it may be good for you, but not for me.”
5. Reason for termination
The employer’s reason and an employee's reason for termination may differ. Consequently the prospective employer may not know who to believe. However, more often than not, the prospective employer may decide that it is more prudent to accept a statement made by the former employer as opposed to the prospective candidate. As such, the employee is always at a disadvantage.
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Whistle Blower Employees
Employees may Suffer Severe Consequence of Whistle-Blowing Activities.
A particular group of employees may have a more difficult time than others in finding new employment after termination. These are whistle blowers within an organization. Whistle blowers are employees who report the alleged wrong doing of their employers. These types of wrongs may vary from violation of State or Federal laws and include safety violations, fraud, corruption and unethical conduct.
Some whistle blowers suffer severe consequences after reporting the wrong doing of employers. For example, several whistle blowers related to the publicized BP Oil Spill allegedly ended up dead, injured, mysteriously disappeared or had various charges filed against them.
More common acts of retaliation are demotions, suspensions, failure to promote or terminations.
Whistle blowers, who manage to stay alive or remain unharmed after they have been terminated by their employers for whistle-blowing activities, are protected under certain provisions within State and Federal laws.
Two special types of laws under which employees may bring wrongful termination claims are the Federal False Claim Act and the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).
The Federal False Claims Act
The Federal False Claims Act is a Federal Law that imposes liability upon employers and other individuals and companies who have defrauded the Federal Government.
Federal false claims are common in the healthcare field. Employers in the healthcare field are known to aggressively defend themselves when accused of false claims such as Medicare or Medicaid fraud. Medicare and Medicaid fraud may involve over billing, billing for care that was not rendered, or billing for worthless care.
Many Healthcare organizations will retaliate against whistle blowers by blackballing employees from further employment with other employers. Some employers have gone out of their way to file criminal charges against employees who reported them to Federal or State agencies under this Act.
The Federal False claims Acts allow individuals to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the government (a qui tam claim) and receive a portion of any recovered monies. The employee must hire the services of an attorney in order to bring a qui tam claim.
If the employer retaliated against the employee for blowing the whistle, the employee gets to include a count for employment retaliation as part of his federal suit.
Conscientious Employee Protection Act
Many States have laws that protect employees from retaliation for reporting acts of wrongdoing to outside agencies or internally. In New Jersey, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) forbids an employer from retaliating against an employee for disclosing or threatening to disclose acts that the employee believes to be; criminal, fraudulent, improper care (in the case of healthcare facilities) deceptive acts or acts of misrepresentation that may defraud others.
Employees are required to hire their own private attorneys to file claims against employers under both CEPA.
Despite laws like CEPA and the Federal False Claims Act, employers still engage in acts of retaliation on a large basis as evidenced by the number of claims that are filed by employees under these provisions annually.
Minimizing The Effect Of A Possible Bad Reference From A Former Employer
A resume may make a difference in the decision to hire an employee who had past difficulties with former employers. A resume is a snapshot of a person’s employment history and capabilities. It does not have to be detailed. The two primary types of resumes are functional resumes and chronological resumes. A cover letter should always accompany your resume.
An applicant should always include a cover letter with a resume. A cover letter is the introduction or prelude to your resume. A well written cover letter compliments a resume. It is the first opportunity to make your case. A cover letter should be brief with no more than two to three paragraphs. If should be specific and easy to read. It should not be a reiteration of the same facts from your resume. The cover letter should tell the employer a quick story about who you are and why you are qualified for the posted position. It will also give the prospective employer an introduction to your writing skills. A well written cover letter can be instrumental in helping an applicant land a job.
A functional resume emphasizes capabilities and skills of the particular applicant.To minimize the effects of a possible bad reference, an applicant should use a functional resume. A functional resume summarizes competencies and skills and does not focus on time in place. It draws the employer’s attention to the qualifications so that a determination can be made as to whether the applicant is a perfect fit.
The functional resume is appropriate because it highlights a candidate’s skills as opposed to highlighting the former places of employment. This will allow the employer to focus first on the individual before attempting to reach out to an employer. The functional resume may zone in on a particular skill that the applicant wants to emphasize. This skill may have been acquired many years ago. The functional resume should be crafted in such a way to convince the employer to give an in office interview as opposed to a telephone interview.
A face-to-face meeting allows an employer to make an in-person determination of the person’s body language and genuineness. The in-office interview also allows the interviewer a chance to evaluate the overall appearance of candidates and ability to express themselves and interact with others .
The main purpose of using the functional resume is to get the employee through the door so that he or she may get a chance to discuss all places of former employment that may be relevant to a position. Once the employee gets an interview, there can be a meaningful discussion of former places of employment whether or not those were listed on the resume.
The applicant should take the opportunity to mention all places of relevant employment. The applicant should use the in office interview to present his version of publicized issues related to a particular employer before the reference is sought. The applicant should take care to describe the relationship with former employers without disparaging them.
Four Main Areas of Functional Resumes
Qualification:This is a brief summary of training and may include an applicant's reasons for seeking employment.
Experience: This should be lengthy detailing all the skills in a particular area regardless of whereever the skill was acquired. Talk about the daily activities or regular duties that make you an expert in this area. Specify what skills or attributes you demonstrated. Talk about your supervisory or management skills and types of employees whom you supervised, monitored, directed or educated. Explain how you implemented a program, designed a product or organized an event. Show off your problem-solving skills and creativity and achievements. This is where you let the prospective employer know what you will be bringing to your new place of employment.
Employment History: Write a quick list of relevant places of employment and former employment titles. For example, Clerk at Bulls Eye, Inc.This is enough for one entry.
Education and Training: List all institutions of learning that relate to the position. Include all present courses being taken as well as certifications and awards.
Sample Functional Resume
Jenny James RN
2 Clifford Terrace, Parsippany, New Jersey 07034
Phone (973) 213-3366 Email. Jennyjames@gmail.com
Seeking a position as a Chemotherapy Nurse in an organization that will allow me to utilize my extensive chemotherapy experience and patient assessment skills to improve the lives of patients.
Skilled at conducting patient assessment and formulating care plans. In-depth knowledge of chemotherapeutic drugs. Ability to administer chemotherapy safely and effectively. Extensive knowledge of psychological effects of cancer diagnosis and therapy. Experienced at promoting positive outcome and evaluating clinical care. Competent at educating patients and family about chemotherapeutic agents.
- Identify actual and potential problems and draft and update care plans tailored to the need of each patient
- Administer chemotherapeutic drugs Intravenously and orally
- Assess, monitor and supervise patient care
- Provide patient and family with education about medications, side effects and complications of chemotherapy
- Provide palliate wound care
- Utilize team approach to estimate clinical outcomes
- Document all care provided and ensure privacy of patient records
- Collaborate with physicians with respect to treatment plans
- Received a patent for designing a device that allowed easier access of IV insertion sites
- Received recognition for excellence in Chemotherapy Nursing
- Four time recipient of Nurse of the Month Award (Montauge Hospital, New York, NY)
1994 to 2010 Supervisor, Melville Cancer Center
1991 to 1993 Charge Nurse, Montague Hospital
1986 to 1990 Staff Nurse, Mount Elizabeth Medical Center
Columbia University, New York, NY
2nd Year Masters of Science in Nursing Program
Cherry Hill University, Cherry HILL, New Jersey
BS Nursing- 1990
Randolph Community College, Randolph, New Jersey College
Basic Life Support, ALS, PALS -2010
Chemotherapy Nurse Certification- 2012
A chronological resume as the name implies, lists a candidate’s experience in a reverse chronological order. This usually shows a person’s career path or growth over a time period that can easily be read by an employer. This type of resume is not ideal for candidates with gaps in their employment history. An interviewer will usually ask the individual to explain an obvious gap in the applicant’s chronological employment history.
Do not forget to send a thank-you letter after an interview. A thank-you letter is your last opportunity to convince your interviewer that you are the ideal candidate for the position. The letter should be brief and free of errors.
Employees are subject to termination for various reasons. However, choosing the wrong employer at some point in your life should not be the end. There are ways for individuals with adequate qualifications to move on with other employers and continue their careers. The employee should start by using a functional resume to highlight his or her qualifications. If the employee has knowledge that the former employer is engaging in harmful unlawful acts of retaliation, the employee should find a good attorney and get legal advice regarding filing a lawsuit.