Black Listed by Former Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace about what a former boss said.

I do truly believe that I am being blackballed by an old boss from about ten years ago. I left for several reasons but mostly tired of working 12 hour days(salary position) and $$ issues. My salary was a direct line item expense for my boss. I had been promised after one year I would receive a raise. Company mergers and I was given a two year contract of course at my starting salary. (If I was a terrible employee she could have used the merger as an excuse to get rid of me but didn’t) The new company HR messed up and mailed me both my and my bosses contract. Well turns out the boss is in the 98th salary percentile while I’m in less than 25 percentile.

Naturally this didn’t help the situation. I ended up leaving for a significant raise. I have had at least four situations in the past year that I think my old boss directly prevented me from future employment. I had interviews that went very well and jobs I was qualified for suddenly evaporate. I even had people tell me they had a good feeling about me and then I was told they were going to call my old boss. Poof dropped like a hot potato. (I’m in a very small specialized professional field) Again last week I talked to someone and was invited for an interview and then the interview was cancelled. I have at least 4 examples of this happening and I think that my old boss had me put on the “do not rehire List” of a large company because out of multiple applications for multiple positions I did not get a single interview! It has been over 10 years and this boss will not let go of a grudge! I have an upcoming interview with people that she knows. Should I disclose this story or at least the contract part? The witch is destroying my career. Very frustrated.
Signed, Applying Again

Our Response. Dear Applying Again,

I requested advice for your question from one of our respected guest respondents, Mark Mindell, who has years of  managing Human Resources for major corporations. I think you will find his advice specific to your situation. His remarks are within the four following paragraphs::

“First, it is illegal for any previous employer to provide any information about you other than the dates you were employed at his/her company.  You could certainly file a lawsuit or report this previous employer but you will likely have a difficult time proving it.  

Instead of focusing on all of the wrong reasons you were separated from your previous employer, I would write your resume in such a way that you make clear what happened nothing that this was over 10 years ago and, instead, focus on all of your accomplishments since that time.  Also, if you are providing the specific name of your previous manager as a referral or, when asked by a prospective employer, only provide the HR department.  That department is far more likely to follow the law.

Finally, I would contact the HR department and let them know that your previous manager is providing information that is preventing you from “earning a living” and that’s illegal.  My guess is that HR will get to your previous manager and ‘strongly advise’ that such information needs to stop immediately.

Perhaps most importantly, insure you stay away from getting into details about why you believe you were let go.  Instead, keep things general and simply indicate that things didn’t work out but that has not kept you from moving forward or being highly incented to get a job offer for the position you are interviewing for.  And never end a sentence with a preposition:)”

We try to reply promptly and I trust that Dr. Mindell’s provides guidelines if you seek legal advice and how to respond when communicating with prospective employment. You can find legal opinions via the Internet that appears to conflict with “it is illegal for any previous employer to provide any information about you other than the dates you were employed at his/her company”, e.g. If a prospective employer contacts your previous workplace, your prior employer can legally disclose anything about your employment, including your salary, job duties, vacation days taken, disciplinary action, or concerns about your job performance. What Former Employers Can Legally Disclose When Contacted … If you seek legal help be sure they are labor-employee attorneys. A test of their trust that you have a case is if they will take in on contingency. A legal recourse is long and stressful. I don’t recommend this for now.    We have many Q&As you can access by searching on the site under Blackballed.

So, Applying Again, it is evident that you have expertise and persistence. I know that both competence and grit are not always rewarded. But they are necessary. Please make time to update us as the weeks go by. –William Gorden