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Terminated for doing something stupid and need advice
Old 08-06-2011, 04:01 PM   #1
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Terminated for doing something stupid and need advice

I was employed for 19 months and the company never had any issues with me and I performed above expectations, (I am in inside sales). The company is located in a small industrial park and down the road is a wooded area.

I had thrown some trash in that area over a period of a few months and the city found out and a city representative came to my place of employment along with a police officer and asked for me. I was notified by the HR Director to meet them in the lobby where I saw them speaking to the CFO. After the meeting, the HR Director said for me to go home and to decompose and that I wasn't being punished and to come back the next day, but that evening, the director called me to say that he, the President and CFO decided to put me on a 2 week suspension to determine my employment status.

In the meantime, I paid a fine and cleaned everything up within a week. After 2 weeks, I received a termination letter in the mail.

I called HR to see what they would say and was told they would give out general information about dates and salary. The director also suggested to say I left for personal reasons and to tell potential employers that everything has been resolved.

I know this was stupid and that some people will find this disturbing, but I really need advice on how best to handle this, because I feel I will never work again.

A recruiter advised me to say there was a workforce reduction, but I didn't take his advice.

This happened 3 months ago and I have told what happened on all the interviews I have had, (but not including the police showing up), but no one is interested in hiring me. Some have appreciated me being truthful, but still didn't want me.

Thanks in advance for any feedback.
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Old 08-06-2011, 04:27 PM   #2
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Welcome Joe, everyone makes mistakes and it seems that you were punished enough for yours. I think that you should listen to the recruiter at this point. Your way doesn't seem to be working. Good luck.
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Old 08-06-2011, 04:36 PM   #3
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I agree with the recruiter. The mistake you made had nothing to do with your employment or your ability to handle the job. If you paid the fine and cleaned up the area you made restitution. It seems kind of harsh that you were fired for this reason. Do you really know for sure that this is why you were fired or was it some sort of excuse to get rid of you? Good employees are let go for no good reasons all of the time.

I was let go once and I used the same answer- downsizing because sales/revenue were low.
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Old 08-06-2011, 04:38 PM   #4
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You made a mistake and have paid dearly for it. I would tell any prospective employers that you were "downsized" by the company, which is technically the truth. I would not volunteer any other information about your mistake. Were you charged with a misdemeanor?
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Old 08-06-2011, 04:39 PM   #5
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If in the application you are asked reason for leaving follow your HR person's advice. Don't go into specifics unless asked in an interview. Bring copies of your performance appraisals, names & contacts of references to the interview.

If asked about the circumstances in an interview don't go into a lot of detail. Suffice to say that you unthinkingly disposed of a personal item in violation of City Ordinance near, but not on, your former employer's place of business. Although you removed the item and tried to make amends you were discharged. Assure the prospective employer that you have learned your lesson.
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Old 08-06-2011, 04:44 PM   #6
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I think I would follow the advice of your former employer's HR and the recruiters. Unless you really don't want to work, because by telling the interviewers about your scrape, you are giving them a reason to choose another candidate over you.
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Old 08-06-2011, 09:22 PM   #7
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While I agree with growing_older that what you did was clearly wrong (and stupid by your own admission) since it had nothing to do with your work and the performance of your duties your former employer's behavior seems questionable too.

What was the reason that your employer gave you for being fired? Ask them for a copy of their employment policies. In most companies I am familiar with something like what you describe would result in a verbal or written warning or probation rather than firing. Is there anything more to it? If they did not follow their own employment policies you might be able to ask them to reinstate you on probationary status. Worst they could do is to say no.

Meanwhile, since the ostensible reason for your firing had nothing to do with your work performance, I would spin it somewhat. I would not feel comfortable for the personal reasons excuse or the workforce reduction excuse recommended by your HR rep or recruiter. I would just say that you did something stupid outside of work that resulted in a minor legal trouble that has since been fully resolved and that your dismissal had nothing to do with your work performance. When pressed for details just say that you are embarrassed by it, have learned your lesson and would rather not get into the details.

You may also want to talk with an attorney as to whether you might have a case for a wrongful discharge claim against your former employer since your scrape with the law had no connection with your employment.
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Old 08-06-2011, 09:34 PM   #8
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Hi Joecaf53, and belated welcome to the forum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaf53 View Post
I called HR to see what they would say and was told they would give out general information about dates and salary. The director also suggested to say I left for personal reasons and to tell potential employers that everything has been resolved.
This is good advice. It's not a lie or misrepresentation, and the HR person is telling you they will not impede you from getting a job elsewhere. Take them at their word, practice saying something along the lines of
Quote:
I left for personal reasons and there are no issues between us
and continue to look for another job. Companies everywhere always need good sales reps.
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Old 08-06-2011, 09:37 PM   #9
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You may wish to get some legal advice here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaf53 View Post
A recruiter advised me to say there was a workforce reduction, but I didn't take his advice.
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Old 08-06-2011, 09:51 PM   #10
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pb4uski has an excellent point. I think that is the best way to present what happened.

"Wrongful discharge" isn't an approach to take IMHO. Put this episode behind you.
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:45 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaf53 View Post
I called HR to see what they would say and was told they would give out general information about dates and salary. The director also suggested to say I left for personal reasons and to tell potential employers that everything has been resolved.

I know this was stupid and that some people will find this disturbing, but I really need advice on how best to handle this, because I feel I will never work again.

A recruiter advised me to say there was a workforce reduction, but I didn't take his advice.

This happened 3 months ago and I have told what happened on all the interviews I have had, (but not including the police showing up), but no one is interested in hiring me. Some have appreciated me being truthful, but still didn't want me.

Thanks in advance for any feedback.
Ask your former employer for a voluntary quit. They seem to want to help you move on and are willing to cooperate with you re: employment interviews. The recruiter gave you helpful advice (which you mentioned you didn't take). Your own approach isn't working. For some reason, you seem to be blocking you. You are still asking for advice. Any idea what you want to hear?

ps: this post has been edited as I misread your post and responded accordingly.
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Old 08-07-2011, 11:18 AM   #12
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Chalk it up to experience and be honest with your next employer by telling them what happened. Cover ups and lies by ommision will catch up to you sooner or later.
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Old 08-07-2011, 12:03 PM   #13
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A couple of thoughts..
*Your interviewers may be reluctant to level with you as to why you are not being hired, but you certainly can ask.
*To tell the truth or to not tell/avoid the truth. Both have merit, either course could adversly affect you.
One thing is for certain, if you want to provide this information, at least develop the most sugar coated version you can.
I learned as a occasionally unruly teen, that telling the truth is noble, but survival demands a certain amount of spin doctoring..
Perhaps you have a politician in the family who could advise you..
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Old 08-07-2011, 12:27 PM   #14
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I want to thank everyone who replied. I live in Massachusetts which is an at will state and the employer is an at will employer, which means you can be let go for no reason. I checked with an attorney who said I didn't have a case.

I recently found out that the sales supervisor has stepped down and now has my territory, so I am not sure if she wanted the territory all along.
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Old 08-07-2011, 01:26 PM   #15
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Ah ha, there may have been more than your mischief in their decision. That should be part of your spin.
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:13 PM   #16
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joescaf53,

Welcome to the forum. Sorry that happened to you. I think that that was a pretty lame excuse for getting rid of someone. "...more than your mischief in their decision" sounds about right. Hard to see right now but maybe you are better off.

I can think of another person who got in trouble for dumping garbage. Folk hero?
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:56 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Free To Canoe View Post
joescaf53,

Welcome to the forum. Sorry that happened to you. I think that that was a pretty lame excuse for getting rid of someone. "...more than your mischief in their decision" sounds about right. Hard to see right now but maybe you are better off.

I can think of another person who got in trouble for dumping garbage. Folk hero?
‪Alice's Restaurant Part 1‬‏ - YouTube

‪Arlo Guthrie/Alice's Restaurant‬‏ - YouTube
Yeah, I had been thinking he got sent to the Group W bench myself. Watch out for the father rapers.
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Old 08-08-2011, 06:26 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPatrick View Post
I learned as a occasionally unruly teen, that telling the truth is noble, but survival demands a certain amount of spin doctoring..
Perhaps you have a politician in the family who could advise you..
+1

Turn your sales experience into selling YOURSELF! You'd never begin a sales pitch by telling the customer a "perceived" negative about the product. Especially since it doesn't effect the product's performance.

Furthermore, you have the ability to spin this unfortunate experience into a positive...

In other words...
"I was caught dumping garbage." =

"I regularly volunteer to clean our local woodlands; returning them to their pristine, natural condition. Believing that this benefits so many small innocent creatures is my sole compensation." =

Good luck...
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Old 08-08-2011, 08:25 AM   #19
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Quote:
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In other words...
"I was caught dumping garbage." =

"I regularly volunteer to clean our local woodlands; returning them to their pristine, natural condition. Believing that this benefits so many small innocent creatures is my sole compensation." =
...
Yeah! Right on..

Be sure to slip a picture of Bambi in your wallet right next to those of the kids.
How about some before/after shots.
Pic 1 Shot at the local dump
Pic 2 Shot at Yellowstone
Accidently/on purpose allow a copy of the 101 Dalmatians DVD drop out of your briefcase during the interview.
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Old 08-11-2011, 08:09 PM   #20
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I would just say that you did something stupid outside of work that resulted in a minor legal trouble that has since been fully resolved and that your dismissal had nothing to do with your work performance. When pressed for details just say that you are embarrassed by it, have learned your lesson and would rather not get into the details.
Hmmm ... I'm not sure that this is a good idea. People tend to fear the worst, and most potential employers would likely imagine that the mysterious conduct was far worse than it actually was (e.g., sexual impropriety, theft, spousal abuse, drunk driving, bar fight, etc.

MichaelB's version ("I left for personal reasons and there are no issues between us") makes sense to me. Most reasonable employers will respect your desire not to elaborate on that.
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