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Should You Reference a Former Employer You Sued?

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Summary: This article addresses whether you should reference a former employer you sued for sexual harassment in a resume and in an interview.


Question: I’m a baby boomer with a diverse resume. I’ve been a corporate officer for a bank, a business consultant for a government-funded program, an outside salesperson and a business manager. I’ve trained at many large companies where I moved up through the ranks. While working as a consultant, I joined an employer that was on the verge of bankruptcy. Within two weeks, I’d organized his business, and within 14 months, the company was in the black. During this time, I suffered sexual harassment and was assaulted by the owner for turning down his advances. We ended up in court, and I won. Later, I learned there were other victims. No one wins in these situations, but at least I brought this person’s behavior to light, which may protect others in the future. Now for the dilemma: My resume offers many great references, except for this job. Do I bring my court judgment with me to interviews? So far, I’ve had only one interview, and when asked about that job, I said he assaulted me and that I pressed charges. I know employers will wonder whether I plan to sue them, too. How would you handle this situation?

Answer: Career advisers agree that if you’ve taken a former employer to court, the less said the better. Sadly, the fact that your suit was justified and that you prevailed in court usually doesn’t matter to hiring managers. Any hint that you may be litigious will steer them away from you and toward other candidates. Your best approach is to explain that your former boss acted inappropriately, and that you’d be happy to provide other references, such as a former subordinate or customer, who can testify to your effectiveness. If you’ve developed a strong rapport with the hiring manager and you feel that full disclosure is the best policy, keep it short and simple. Don’t dwell on the details.

See How Do You Answer Tough Interview Questions? for more information.

Should You Reference a Former Employer You Sued? by
Authored by: Andrew Ostler

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