my former employer is demanding to know where I’m working now and what my salary is

A reader writes:

My previous employment was a less than pleasant experience – bad environment, temperamental colleagues, arguments, etc.

I handed in my notice and found another job. That was over a year ago.

I received a letter from said former employee in the post yesterday. It says, and I quote: “Upon your departure from your position at our firm, you failed to provide certain information that has left our databases incomplete. Please answer the following questions and return the form to us in the envelope provided.”

The form asks for the full name, address and telephone number of my CURRENT employer, my position title, and my annual salary. They are also asking for my current home address.

Just to recap: I left over a year ago. At the time, nobody asked where I was going. Nobody asked me why I was leaving. I went to HR and told them I would be leaving in two weeks. They said “OK then,” and that was that.

Why does my former employer want to know where I work now, and is there anything they can do if I choose not to tell them? I did not a have a pleasant time at my old job, and I do not want it coming back to haunt me.

You are free to ignore their letter. You can put it in the trash and never think of it again. You can do that with any future follow-ups that arrive.

It’s pretty nervy to demand this information from a former employee — your current salary? That’s no one’s business but yours and the IRS’s; requesting it as if it’s no big deal or as if it’s information everyone shares with everyone is ridiculous.

And implying that it’s your fault that they don’t know this (“you failed to provide…”) and citing their “incomplete databases” as if that’s going to be a compelling reason to you?

If for some reason they want to track where former employees are ending up, the time to do that is in an exit interview when you’re leaving (and they still shouldn’t be asking about salary). Or, if they didn’t do that, they should reach out personally (not with an impersonal form letter written like this one), explain the context, and ask — not demand — if you’d be willing to update them.

But they are free to ask (and look like asses while doing it) and you are free to decline or simply ignore it.

You are also free to call them and say you’re confused about a bizarre letter you received from them and ask if perhaps a rogue intern is sending out joke correspondence.

{ 287 comments… read them below }

  1. Paige Turner*

    I’d be really tempted to just write NOPE all over it in sharpie and send it back.

      1. Mike C.*

        Still four letters long though.

        Maybe draw a few anatomical diagrams for good measure. In case they’re studying human anatomy or something. You never know.

        1. cuppa*

          You could get that Dunder Mifflin paper with the inappropriate watermark and write your response on that…

      2. Laura*

        You could pull a Dilbert on them – crumple up the paper and send it back to them in an envelope. Hee-hee-hee… But seriously, there is no law compelling you to answer. The only other thing I can think of is if you signed a non-compete and this is the sneaky way of checking up on you that you haven’t taken employment with a competitor as specified in the non-compete.

        1. Sarah*

          Not even necessarily sneaky — my non-compete at my current company requires that I give them the name and address of every employer I have in the two years following my departure. I can’t say “nope” to mine. Half my coworkers didn’t read what they signed, though.

          1. Tammy W*

            Thank you to Alison for your help and everybody else for your comments.

            @ Laura, Sarah, the old job was basically an office assistant for a storage company, and the new job is behind the tills at an old countryside arts & crafts shop down a busy A-road, (bric-a-brac shop, textiles & crafts department, cafe & takeaway.) so on this note, I don’t think it was about a non-compete issue – which I didn’t sign at my old job, because I read everything that I sign, and I’d remember something like that.

            It was generally just a bit creepy and unnerving that my old employer should contact me in such a manner – particularly when nobody seemed to care at the time when I left.

    1. AMG*

      I can’t imagine what the thought process is in creating this. It’s hard to imagine someon either really thought they would get an answer, or they really thought it would be appropriate. I wonder if it’s a nosy co-worker just trying to get gossip.

      1. Jane*

        Maybe we should all brainstorm and make up some answers for that nosy friggin form. So mad for this person to have to deal with this.

        1. azvlr*

          Off-topic, but your reply reminds me of the time my the school board wouldn’t give my Valedictorian nephew his diploma because he used the word Viagra in his graduation speech: “As I look out at my class mates, I see a future artist, a future engineer, a future Viagra salesman, a future chef, . . ”

          After the ceremony, he was told by one old bidy board member that he could have his diploma if he wrote a letter of apology. Our suggestions were, “Sorry you are having a HARD time with this, but. . .” and “It’s often HARD for a young person to know what’s right. . .”

          My sister refused to let him write the letter. He went to university on a full scholarship. He has no high school diploma. Tee hee!

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            What? Is it even legal for them to refuse him his diploma that he earned? I hope not.

            (My high school made a bunch of kids repeat senior year because the school had “lost their records.” The principal told one girl, a friend of mine, “But this is such a wonderful place! You get to stay here another year!” with a huge smile in total sincerity. That girl’s mother fortunately called BS and threatened to sue the school if they didn’t let her daughter graduate – so the school let her graduate. But some other kids apparently weren’t as lucky.)

            1. The Strand*

              What? What! WHAT.

              I can’t even… Did your high school have a funding problem or some other issue that made them want to pull this incredibly shifty, sleazy stunt?

      2. AMT*

        That was my first thought, too! I was thinking more along the lines of a potential stalker, especially with the request for the OP’s home address!

        1. manybellsdown*

          Wait but … they asked for the current home address, but they mailed a letter …to that address? It’s been over a year, a forwarding order would have expired.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, my first reaction was to send back “HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

      But I wouldn’t waste the stamp. I bet they didn’t put postage on the provided envelope, did they, OP?

      1. Kristine*

        I just thought of something – if I “didn’t provide adequate information” how do they even know I’m at the same address anymore? I could write: “Return to Sender – Not at this Address” to make their “incomplete database” more, er, incomplete. :P

    3. brighidg*

      I would just give smart ass answers all the way through.

      Current Employer: Somewhere Better Than [Old Company]
      Current Salary: More than I ever got at [Old Company]

      1. Kelly O*

        Current Employer : Not Caramel Teapots, Inc.
        Current Title: Miss Information, 2015
        Current Salary: More than the guy who delivers pizza to THIS office on Fridays, but less than Warren Buffett
        Current Address: I come to you tonight as a candidate for Vice Presidency, and as a man whose honesty and integrity has been questioned.

    4. Demanding Excellence*

      This also works for junk mail. I used to write “Please remove me from your mailing list. I am not interested in your services.” Works like a charm!

    5. Artemesia*

      I know you are all joking here but this is one where the absolutely most effective approach is dead silence. Ignore, ignore, ignore. ‘Failed to provide’ my ass.

      1. The Strand*

        I disagree. Silence to the business? I can see your point.

        But total silence…I think a nice notice on review sites, such as Glassdoor, will tell prospectives what kind of crazies they’re dealing with.

    6. Sarah M.*

      I’d go old school and just reply: NUTS!
      (google “Battle of Bastogne surrender demand” for reference)

  2. NickelandDime*

    Are they asking this to build a new business pitch list? Oh, and I’d be really careful using these folks as a job reference in the future. Maybe try to find one sane soul that no longer works there to serve as a reference if needed.

    1. Dan*

      We throw the term “reference” around too loosely on this forum. There’s “where did you work and provide your manager’s name and contact info” and “list your references who can vouch for your professional accomplishments.” The later is completely up to the discretion of the applicant, the former, not so much.

      It’s pretty much a given that a background/reference checker will be contacting former managers. Not much can be done about that other than checking the “please don’t contact” box, which is a huge red flag for anything but a current employer.

    2. INTP*

      Hmm, a pitch list is a possibility. I was wondering if they have finally woken up to a turnover problem and someone is trying to get data together to figure out why people are leaving. If it’s for salaries, higher titles, etc. (OP didn’t mention a turnover problem, but between the bad work environment, not seeming to care when OP left, and then sending this ridiculous letter, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have one.)

      1. NickelandDime*

        I find often times employers know exactly why employees are leaving. They know if they pay under market or there’s been layoffs and people are scared, or bad managers are poisoning the atmosphere.

        I’m still going to vote for pitch list though.

        1. INTP*

          I think someone tends to know, but it might not be something that is talked about openly when everyone is trying to cover their own ass. If senior management sets the tone, salaries, and expectations that are driving people away and asks HR to look into the turnover, the employees and middle management are probably not going to just openly tell HR everything they are unhappy about. Most people will assume that the culture is not going to change and being on the record as being Not Happy With Things can only work against them. When I worked in a place like this, most of us had tried to bring up concerns at various points and been shot down. By the time management acknowledged there was a problem and started trying to fix it, no one would admit to being unhappy with anything because it just led to a pointless and unpleasant conversation about why you were wrong.

          1. AtWill*

            I had my review a little while ago. Got the usual “screw you” 2.5% raise. My manager and I discussed the fact that it was basically no raise at all after the increase in the cost of living and increased contributions to our medical/dental plans. Upper management is well aware of the fact that this makes the workers unhappy. They also don’t give a shit. There are no plans to improve the situation. The message is “Go work somewhere else if you want more money”. So people do. They know it increases turnover. They don’t care.

              1. AtWill*

                All of them. We’re just resigned to the fact that this is par for the course. It doesn’t make it right, but it’s what we’re used to. We need to not be used to that.

                It might be typical for your boss to punch you in the gut once a day, but that doesn’t make it right, just common.

                1. Musereader*

                  Ad Astra probably meant that 2.5% is still higher than some. If that is screw you then what is my pay raise of 1%?

              2. Jill*

                As AtWill implied when you take your 2.5% raise – then factor in the change in the cost of living plus the increase to the cost of your benefits it pretty much translates to no raise at all.

                ex. If I make $70,000 now, a 2.5% raise would be an extra $1750 per year. Except that they now charge an extra $35/month for my health insurance contribution, plus my mortgage went up another $90 per month because of property values in my area. Factor in what they deduct for my income taxes on my “raise” and I’m essentially not getting anymore than I was before the raise. Hence the “screw you” raise.

                1. ActCasual*

                  Except it’s $1750 more than I was making – and even if they didn’t give the “screw you” raise, there’s a good chance the $35/month and $90/month would be taken out of my salary anyway because that’s the way it is so…I’ll take the $1750. Glad to have a job. Grateful for my salary. Don’t feel entitled to what I’m getting or not getting. Lucky to have what I do.

                2. AtWill*

                  You’re wasting your breath. ActCasual has bought into the mindset that we should be grateful for the scraps that we get, and questioning anything makes you a whiner.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          Me too. When I quit JobFromHell, I started getting letters signed by the person who replaced me. The only way he could have gotten my name and address is if my old boss/coworkers gave it to him, as I had never heard of him or met him.

      2. Artemesia*

        I suspect that someone is doing this kind of followup — maybe a newbie who has been tasked to look into turnover. I know a couple of places that upped their salaries a bit when they had people leaving consistently for more money. They may want to find out if that is the case. Still. Ignore.

      3. Nobody*

        This is my suspicion, too. The company where I used to work has extremely high turnover, and there are periodic investigations to try to figure out the reason for it. It’s not uncommon for them to reach out to former employees and ask for an explanation, and if it’s about money, request a copy of the offer (presumably so management can make a case for increasing salaries). In these cases, though, the request is phrased as asking for a favor, not criticism for failing to provide the information for their database.

        I would totally ignore this letter. My former employer asked me very nicely to explain my reasons for leaving, and I still declined because I had repeatedly brought up the issues that ultimately prompted me to leave, and they didn’t care enough to do anything until I left. (Actually, in an effort to avoid burning bridges, I simply said that I was grateful for the experience of working there and I left to take advantage of a great opportunity elsewhere, but I didn’t go into the many reasons I couldn’t stand working there anymore.) The letter described here is so rude that the company doesn’t deserve a response.

      4. Cog in the Wheel*

        I wonder if it’s a scam. Someone got ahold of some addresses and letterhead and is attempting to do some identity theft.

        1. INTP*

          I mentioned above but my guess is that they have a turnover problem that they have finally acknowledged and this is a misguided strategy to put together some data on why people are leaving. But yeah, it’s very strange.

          1. Journalist Wife*

            This was my first thought, too. Though they have a pretty crappy way of soliciting this information. Even if they hadn’t caught wise at the time of OP’s departure that they should probably be doing exit interviews to see what prompted employees to leave, approaching it in such a stupid form letter, and insinuating that it was OP’s negligence that they have an incomplete “database” as a result is a poor means of finding out. I think they’d be better off contacting former employees and reaching out by saying, “We’re looking to find out why people in the past have left our company to see if there are any patterns management could address to make our work environment better. Would you mind meeting for coffee [or whatever] and having a sort of informational interview regarding your experiences during your time at our firm? We’d value your feedback greatly.” I might consider it if it were presented that way, but definitely some idiotic letter demanding my current salary. That’s just moronic.

            1. Artemesia*

              Exactly and then disclosing that you left for ‘substantially better pay’ is a lot different than sharing details of your salary and benefits.

            2. AdAgencyChick*

              Exactly. When you need a favor, you have a better chance by asking nicely than by being imperious.

            3. Retail Lifer*

              I might actually reply to THIS letter (yours). If the company was terrible and they asked me nicely for some feedback, I’d be willing to help, especially if some of my nicer co-workers were still there.

              NICLEY is the key word, though. Who would actually respond to the one the OP got?

              1. AtWill*

                If the company was terrible, why would you help them, no matter how nicely they asked? If you answer honestly (“your company is bad and you should feel bad”) you can count on their terrible nature to provide you with a “pretty sure he/she strangles kittens in their spare time” reference when someone calls. If you don’t answer honestly.. well why would you answer at all.

                1. ArtsNerd*

                  Actually a lot of bad companies employ really good people. I’ve left rough work environments but am on good terms with basically everyone I worked with. Saw an old (indirect) manager the other week and we laughed at how she must have had such a skewed impression of me because she only saw me during my department’s worst crisis period when we were totally falling apart.

                  If she asked me for a candid discussion about what went wrong, I’d certainly be able to calmly and professionally talk about it without burning that bridge.

          2. Manders*

            My most charitable thought was that they’re concerned that they might be out of sync with similar companies on salary or opportunities for promotion, and they gave some random employee the task of gathering information on whether former employees are leaving for jobs with higher salaries or better titles. But this is absolutely the worst way to go about it.

    1. HR Jeanne*

      This is just ridiculous. The only information you need to give them is your current address within the first year so they can send you your tax information. Otherwise, I like the above poster who recommended that you write “NOPE” in large letters and return. :-)

  3. Zahra*

    The only reason why I’d provide my personal address is to get my W-2 (if I haven’t received yet).

    For the rest, I’d ignore the request or contact HR to ask them WTH.

    1. TootsNYC*

      But they should have a personal address on file from when you worked there, and hopefully if the OP has moved, she’s put a forwarding request in w/ the post office.

      1. Malissa*

        Yes, but it’s always a good idea to update your address with former employers if you are still due a W-2. Forwarding service is limited.
        But it sounds like the OP is past the need for that and I wouldn’t provide such information to obviously unstable people.

        1. Jane*

          Oh, love, don’t be naiive. Those people are jerks at that company and from the sounds of the temperamental yelling workplace, probably bullies and abusive, so giving them information is like crucifying yourself. Self- preservation when dealing with those types is key.

          1. Meeee*

            Why so condescending? Malissa is simply stating that if you know you need a piece of mail from the company, it is smart to give them an updated address. I don’t see anything naive about that.

          2. MegEB*

            I’m sure you meant to be kind, but your comment comes off as pretty condescending. Calling someone naive isn’t going to go over well with most people, and quite a few people aren’t fans of pet names (i.e. “love”, “sweetie”, etc) either. For what it’s worth, Malissa has an excellent point about W2’s, and I actually think a mailing address is one of the safer pieces of information you could provide to an old employer. What are they going to do, show up at her doorstep?

            1. Chriama*

              Actually, sometimes they do. And then they bang on the doors so hard they make a dent in your home ;)

              1. MegEB*

                I think that’s exceptionally rare though. There are crazy bosses everywhere, but the vast, vast majority of bosses don’t just show up at a former employee’s home and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that.

    2. Rebecca*

      I had a former employer send me a letter (years after I’d been employed) about a data breach, letting me know that the info they had on file for me may have been compromised. So I think it’s not a bad practice to have updated addresses. (I had actually used my parents’ address when I worked for them, so that’s where the letter went.)

      But other than that, none of their business!

  4. jhhj*

    See, I’d be tempted to make everything up. Write down CIA, cross it off, then write State Department or cultural attache or whatever. Say you have a salary of 2x your current salary.

    1. AMG*

      LOL–lead investigator of dysfunctional work environments and BS HR practices. Current salary: (insert hefty commission based on new leads)

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      My grandad used to do that when he got lots of market research questionnaires in the post. He put all this joke information and said he had a 24 year old partner called Philomena McDougall. (He claimed to be 87 at the time). I don’t remember much of what he said but they were obviously joke replies, but they were taken seriously, added to some system, sold on to companies and junk mail for Philomena McDougall kept turning up for about six years! To see if they even got read, he then sent one in with ” Ms S Cooby” as the partner’s name ( Ms S Cooby being an inflatable dog belonging to my uncle) and this inflatable dog then started getting offered personal loans.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        In high school, a friend filled out some form for herself (can’t remember what it was for) and grabbed an extra one. She made up a guy named Don Yonder at her address. This guy started receiving mail, got approved for Visa, and even had an army recruiter show up to visit him.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Ha ha! No one ever showed up to visit Philomena McDougall, but on one of the forms my grandad must have said that she wanted to buy a new Rover car, because they kept phoning for her at one point and in the end he had to say she had left him to get rid.

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Here is one of my life lessons: ridiculous and inappropriate requests should never, ever elicit a response.  Don’t even entertain the idea of responding because if you do, you’re operating under the assumption that these are legitimate inquiries when they’re oh so not.

    Please don’t waste time on the “whys” of the matter either.  You’ll be wasting too much brain activity on something that will never be answered.  Trying to decipher your ex-employer’s motives is like trying to figure out why a date ghosted on you after telling you s/he had a nice time and definitely wanted to see you again.  

    Also, if they don’t have your home address, that’s entirely their fault.  They would have had that when you worked there.  If they don’t have it now, too bad.

    You’ve left zero doubts as to why you left.

    1. Judy*

      If there is any pension or 401k, it is to OP’s best interest to keep the company, or their benefits administrator, aware of their home addresses. And consider rolling the 401k over to an IRA, so you don’t have to worry about that. Otherwise, nope.

      1. some1*

        There’s no reason the LW can’t contact retirement plan provider on her own. In fact, I work for a company that provides a retirement plan that most of our clients get through their employers, and this is what I would recommend.

        1. Judy*

          I’m fairly sure that my past employers have specified that we were not to contact the retirement provider directly to change contact information. I know the online portal for the 401k from my most recent employer doesn’t allow address changes, it states to call the employer at 800-xxx-xxxx. I do need to get that rolled over soon.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I agree–intrustive, weird, stupid questions (whether delivered in person or mailed) shouldn’t be replied to in any way. Not even to say “I’m not going to answer that.” Just pretend the words (or letter) never crossed your radar screen.

    3. the gold digger*

      Trying to decipher your ex-employer’s motives is like trying to figure out why a date ghosted on you after telling you s/he had a nice time and definitely wanted to see you again.

      1. Sometimes, people lie.
      2. Sometimes, the guy at work on whom you have a major crush turns out to make porn movies on the weekend, with casting calls and everything. He works with that cute Cuban guy in corporate finance. Your boss, who knows you have a crush on someone and who is an avid scuba diver/underwater photographer, tells you that the crushee asked him if he was interested in filming stuff underwater. Boss declined but thought you might like this information.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        Why is your life so weird? I have no doubt the point 2 happened to you. Are you soaked in some sort of “weird people” attractant? Do you look for these people? Just a very odd and amusing twist in fate that you’re always in these situations? What’s it like living in an actual novel?

        (In case it isn’t clear, I’m not condemning you or anything. Your anecdotes always make me smile and I enjoy browsing your blog.)

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I’ve come to the conclusion that some people just have this kind of life. And I, for one, really like being friends with those people.

          2. Windchime*

            You don’t need an imagination because your life already provides more weirndness than your imagination could possibly cook up. I need to start reading your blog.

    4. Dan*

      “Trying to decipher your ex-employer’s motives is like trying to figure out why a date ghosted on you after telling you s/he had a nice time and definitely wanted to see you again.”

      Oh, that’s like job hunting too. Even as an applicant, I’ll tell employers that “I’m definitely interested” until I’m definitely not. I’d never tell either to their face that I’m lukewarm about them. I’m also not going to tell either about the number of irons I have in the fire, or where they stand in *my* process.

      In both cases, nothing’s official until it’s official.

  6. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Wait a minute.

    If you received this notice in the mail, then they already have your home address.

    What the what?

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That’s like my university alumni association. They sent me a letter, an email, left a message on my home phone and sent a text to my cell asking me to update my contact information with them. I was like, what contact information do I have at which they haven’t already reached me??!! They’re like Hogwarts when they were trying to deliver Harry Potter’s admissions paperwork! I was expecting the update-contact forms to come flying in through the windows!

        1. Melissa*

          At first I read your second-to-last sentence as “They’re like Hogwarts when WE were trying to deliver…” and for a split second, I was like “…you work at Hogwarts?!”

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          They contacted you every way possible in the hopes of getting a response, so they knew you were receiving their stuff. So they could keep sending you letters to donate.

        3. AdAgencyChick*

          I refuse to give my alumni association my phone number. Nothing good can come of that!

      1. Retail Lifer*

        I got an email about a bridal shower from the bride’s sister, who asked for my phone number. She later called me to ask for my email.

    1. AW*

      They likely anticipated their letter getting forwarded in case the OP’s address changed. So what they really meant was, “If the address we have for you is wrong, send us the correct one”.

  7. BRR*

    Unless it would jeopardize a reference from them, I would have fun with it.

    Even just after “…has left our databases incomplete” I would love to write a nice “too bad.”

  8. Katie the Fed*

    maybe there’s some kind of non-compete agreement? Either way – totally ridiculous.

    1. AMG*

      I assumed they were looking for evidence of a non-compete violation, but this doesn’t seem to exactly fit that…

      1. Steve G*

        Me too. Of course, you don’t need to know the salary anyway.

        And this raises the issue of non-competes to begin with. I worked for one place where they made sense because one of the main competitors was a family member who branched off and started his own competitor, and they don’t talk to him (I know, drama!).

        But my other company that was all about the non-compete? It was really hard to steal a customer away anyways (in energy management services)…there usually wasn’t a good enough reason to, there were setup costs the customer had to incur (which wouldn’t make sense to incur just because a sales rep switched companies), and there were many channel partners who wanted all of their business under one energy provider, and energy facility managers who wanted the business under one energy services company….so the chances of finding an unhappy customer with no fetters to us was slim to none.

        1. Steve G*

          And given all of this….if a sales rep wasn’t great when working for you, why not cut them loose and let them try the same thing elsewhere?

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            From what i hear, non competes are pretty hard to uphold. Its more of a gesture or good will/intention type thing except for a few industries. Everywhere ive worked sales people sign them then end up working for a competitor anyway

        2. A Cita*

          You would need to know salary if they were skeevy and trying to calculate how much they could get out of you for damages. Whether or not that would actually pan out is another thing.

          1. Steve G*

            Maybe, but “damages” should be based on how much you sold/took away from the previous company, not your salary, right? IDK, this is out of my realm, are there ever cases where companies actually enforce non-competes and get damages?

            1. Brett*

              For the post-employment restriction I am under, the penalty is last 12 months salary with current employer or first 12 months salary with new employer, whichever is higher. That’s a public sector post-employment restriction, not a private sector non-compete, but that language apparently comes from one way in which Missouri allows non-competes to be handled.

              1. Steve G*

                Wow, that is a serious enforcement clause! I mean what if someone was in sales and never sold anything at the new place, and thus didn’t cause any damage?!?! And at past co anyway, some people didn’t have enough info on our operations to be dangerous when going elsewhere, so it wouldn’t be fair to enforce the non-competes we all had, IMO

                1. Dynamic Beige*

                  When a friend of mine was laid off, she was given a severance package that came with the stipulation that she wasn’t allowed to work for the amount of time of the package. If she had gotten a job or did some freelance during that time, the severance would have been revoked. I didn’t see how that was possible or legal but she took it off as vacation and did some casual interviews. I think the company was hoping they could turn it around and hire people back, but that’s not on to hold someone hostage like that.

        3. Artemesia*

          Virtually the entire purpose of ‘non-compete’ clauses is to suppress wages by making it hard for people to move to the competition. There are narrow bands where they make sense e.g. stealing customers — but almost always it is just about making it impossible for their serfs to move.

    2. A Cita*

      That is what I was thinking as well.

      I had a friend who worked in an industry where non-competes are NOT common (really no reason for one) and she unfortunately signed a 2 yr one. Place was toxic. When she gave notice, her boss flipped and called the lawyer and told my friend that she was to provide all the details of her new job and the boss and lawyer would decide next steps. Crazy. So my friend walked out. Afterward, the old boss stalked her, even called around random offices looking for her, and by shear statistics called her new employer.

      1. Ad Astra*

        IANAL, and I’m not sure about the legality of this particular situation, but many noncompetes are either illegal or unenforceable. They’re very common in broadcast journalism, and I’ve heard of it coming up at least once with a reporter who was let go and found work at a different station in the same market. The company tried to enforce the noncompete but was out of luck because it’s ridiculous to fire someone and then legally require them to relocate in order to find a new job in their field.

        1. A Cita*

          The law really varies by state. Because my friend was in a panic, we researched it (and have a ton of lawyer friends who helped us) and while it’s pretty much illegal in, you guessed it, California, in NY where she was, it is commonly enforced. She was pretty freaked out. She called me while it was happening (while waiting for the lawyer to arrive) and I said, walk out. Walk out now. You do not want to get into a convo with this crazy person and her lawyer unprepared. Forget the 2 weeks notice, this bridge is officially burned.

            1. A Cita*

              No. She told her new boss everything. New boss consulted their lawyer because if it were enforced, they would also be liable. They instructed the front desk person to be alert for anyone calling and asking for my friend. The call did come and the receptionist told them there was nobody with that name there. They stalked her LinkedIn page, but friend didn’t update it. They used other old coworkers to reach out to her as if just casually saying hello, etc. Friend ignored it all. Since they couldn’t find and prove where she worked, they eventually gave up (but it took around 6 months or so to do so). Meanwhile, friend was consulting with her own lawyer the whole time.

              1. ActCasual*

                Whew. That had to be stressful. Glad the new job supported her and it had a good ending.

      2. Rater Z*

        I had to sign one in 1978 when I started a job doing post-audit of freight bills. They explained to me that they had a former employee start up a business in direct competition to them. The non-complete area was limited to a specific local area and the contract explained it was the area where they were advertising in the local phone books. I worked in the Philadelphia area but dealt with freight bills all the over the country. It was great experience for me and some fascinating memories. It was at the time free-agency was starting in baseball and football, and our discussions would compare that to our non-compete contract. (My company was only three to five auditors, including the two owners.)

        When I was doing tax returns, there was also a non-compete contract that said I could not do taxes for a person who had used the company the previous two years. It was H&R Block and you can find out thru Google that they do enforce the contract on that.

    3. Anna*

      I think if you’ve left a year ago and your employer didn’t mention anything about non-comp and they’re just now trying to figure it out…SOL. So yeah. They’re crazy.

      1. fposte*

        There was another recent letter where an employer was trying to get an employee to sign a non-compete after she left the company. Yeah, no–nice try.

  9. Bekx*

    I’d probably just write “Return to Sender” on the envelope. They’re asking for your current address, so how do they know that you haven’t moved?

    1. Marcela*

      I’ve trying to do that with letters for the previous tenant of my house, and letters come back again and again in an endless loop. So it’s not a solution…

      1. Purple Jello*

        If there’s a barcode at the bottom of the envelope under the address, you need to cross it off so that it’s not machine-readable.

        1. Marcela*

          I’ll try that. At this point I am becoming very annoyed/desperate. Today, a package I returned personally to the post office (because I’m not home when the mailman comes, so I can’t refuse letters o packages), explaining them it was sent to somebody who doesn’t live at my address anymore, came back. Grrr.

      2. Meadowsweet*

        I’ve had luck with ‘MOVED’, but it probably depends on the sender (and the post office)

      3. Aunt Vixen*

        Yeah – “NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS” has worked for us. “PLEASE FORWARD” also stops them coming back.

        1. Marcela*

          I’ve tried with “not longer at this address”, “moved”, “return to sender”, nothing works. I even tried to take the letter directly to the post office, and the guy there told me I needed to put my name inside my mailbox (something I don’t want to do! Nobody should know our names just peeping inside our mailbox: it would be the equivalent of leaving a key under the doormat). I asked him to take the letters and he refused. Told me to talk to my mailman, but as I work, how am I supposed to talk to him? So now I have a box of letters I can’t dispose of. It is very annoying.

            1. Marcela*

              Because we are not Smith or Doe. Our last names are Spanish two words hyphenated last names, which I feel identify us too much. It doesn’t help that normal usage here is different, so nobody would understand if we put just one word of our last names in the mailbox. Indeed, I was doing an immigration procedure the other day and they saw my signature and added it as an alias to my form, just because of the 4 words that compose my name, my signature only contains two. But no, that thing is not an alias, I do not use it as my name: I just can’t sign with a long 4 words name!

  10. knitchic79*

    Umm, yeah that’s going straight into the round file. Though I would probably call just to get some insight into what in the heck they are thinking. That’s so absurd that I can’t even…
    Update please! ;)

  11. LQ*

    Cackle, take a friend out to drinks, tell them the story, guffaw together, throw it away. Know that you’ll have a wtf face inducing story in the future when people are telling terrible job stories.

    (And sure they can do things, but ANYTHING they do will make them look completely and totally off the wall. None of that will reflect badly on you. It would be like your kindergarten teacher trying to hunt you down to give you a retroactive F. Sure, she could do that. But no one would take her seriously.)

  12. Petulia*

    OP should totally fill it out as if they worked for Chocolate Teapots Inc. and send it back!

    Current employer: Chocolate Teapots, Inc.
    Current position: Grand Panjandrum of Assembly Line B
    Current salary: $4,500,802
    etc .

    1. KT*

      This is an outstanding idea.

      Make sure you mention you married Wakeen Lannister too, for their records.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      If she does this, she should post it with all the answers!!!!

      What I would do is fill it out just like that and scan it and then burn it. Then I could laugh at the digital copy for years to come. I still have an assessment we had to fill out at Exjob–I did one good one and turned that in, and then did a joke one. I look at it every now and then and giggle to myself.

      1. Liane*

        Can you provide us some tidbits from the joke one for an open thread? If it’s not too much trouble to change the letterhead to Death Star and give everyone Game of Thrones names, that is.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        I did that once when my old temp agency sent me a satisfaction survey, told them exactly what I thought of them (really long story as it usually is with me). I don’t know if I would have ever dared send it, I lost it in the end but found it again by chance about a year later and had a good laugh at it.

  13. Katie Pi*

    Based on the use of the word “post” instead of “mail”, I’d guess LW is in the UK, not the US. Nonetheless, I can’t imagine you’d have any obligation in the UK to respond either. Chuck it in the bin :-)

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      This is really odd for the UK, there’s no reason at all the company should be asking for this information.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          I get that’s its Lunacy all round, I was just confirming Katie’s assumption there’s no special reason to comply with the request if the op is from the UK.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Agree, Apollo! I had one ToxicJob which I left 3 years ago and even they have never pulled this one. Not normal in the UK.

        Because of the way UK references tend to work, I would be careful about burning this bridge especially as it sounds like a weird HR thing. I think I might consider emailing them with minimal information and asking why they need to know all this stuff. And at least then they definitely have my email if they really need contact.

        Just when I think I have heard it all…

  14. Sunflower*

    Hmm my guess is they are trying to figure out why they’re losing employees. If the environment is bad like you say, they are probably losing people left and right. If they are naive, they might believe it’s because of compensation issues and not crap work environment. They probably want to know where the employees are going. Not sure why they asked for your home address- maybe just to throw a red herring in there. I would ignore the hell out of it. And if they keep contacting you, continue to ignore them.

    1. Dan*

      My former company did that. There were about 220 employees on staff, they laid off ~20 in 2013. In the last year and a half, there’s been 60 more voluntary departures. My friends that are still there say management is confused on why people are leaving.

      It’s funny… for the first few years I was working there, people would grouse that they were underpaid. If they were really underpaid, why didn’t they quit? Turnover was about 5%, which is quite reasonable. Then wham. After the layoffs, people started quitting in droves. I work with 7 of my former coworkers at a new job, we all came with substantial pay raises.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        Same is happening in my husband’s former company. They really were underpaid, but projects were being mismanaged so badly that they were losing clients, which triggered layoffs, including project managers, which increased the workload of those PMs, which lead to mismanagement of projects, and the cycle began anew. The engineers were fed up of being underpaid and the defacto on-site rep of a shitty company so they started quitting in droves. Things have apparently leveled off (he still has friends there) but they’re less than half the size they were even a year ago.

        1. Dan*

          It’s fascinating to watch the bubble burst, isn’t it? It’s one thing to claim you’re under paid, it’s another to do something about it, particularly en masse.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*


        It’s called an “aftershock” – the standard layoff shtik is as follows –
        – layoffs take place
        – at the end of layoff day, management calls a meeting
        – the meeting format is “there, there, all is well, the meanies have gone away now, let’s continue to work”

        What really happens – after a layoff, especially if it’s a “pop” layoff out of the blue, or a harum-scarum layoff (designed to scare people, not reduce costs or out of necessity) people think “I’M NEXT” — and, start looking.

        The best employees who weren’t laid off usually are the first ones to find refuge elsewhere.

        Quite often, when management lays off , say, 10 percent, they somehow have a pig-headed view “we are the best people in the world to work for. Our **** doesn’t stink.” not thinking that with the layoff, toxicity comes into a workplace atmosphere, people sniff it, and react accordingly.

    2. fposte*

      The irony is that they’re losing employees because they’re so nuts they do stuff like this.

    3. Ama*

      Yeah, that was what I suspected, too. A toxic company that knows they’re losing employees but remain in denial about *why* would be all too likely to do something like this.

      I escaped out of academia, so if my old employer did this I’d suspect they were trying to get my info for fundraising purposes. (Of course, since my last position there gave me access to the internal fundraising database I was able to confirm I was on the “Do Not Contact” list before I left.)

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Ha kind of reminds me of a good friend i used to work with where the company sold ____ that all offices use. Every time I’ve gotten a new job since, right away hes like “hey where do they buy their ____?” Hes a good friend so i just say Dude, i just barely started down boy I’ll let you know..

      2. DL*

        A lot of grants and program review processes require academic institutions to track where their former trainees are working. So there’s a legitimate reason to ask for your employment status. Alumni/fundraising offices usually don’t need to ask directly because they found your address using subscription services.

        1. Ama*

          Yeah, but I was only ever an administrator at that particular institution — I was never a student or instructor in any capacity. That didn’t stop them from badgering me (and every other non-alum employee) about contributing to the scholarship fund while I worked there, though.

  15. Case of the Mondays*

    I always like to come up with an exception here. First the non-compete issue which someone already covered. The only other thing I can think of is if you worked a professional job where you personally owe a duty of care to clients and the employer needs to reach you to discuss that. Usually lawyers, doctors, accountants etc. are required to leave a forwarding address w/ their old employer and have all up to date info on file with the bar. If you take some cases with you, mail is still going to end up at old firm and they need to get it to you. If you left cases behind they might have a question about something you did. None of that requires your new salary info for sure!

    1. Chriama*

      If there was a business need for continuity they would have handled it when she announced her departure. Also, none of the questions they asked seem to have anything to do with her time at the company, just what she’s up to now.

  16. Not So Sunny*

    I bet that email isn’t even from HR, but rather, a disgruntled coworker fishing for stalker info.

    1. INFJ*

      I thought this too! At LastJob, the master contact list was at the front desk and any employee could walk over to it and get people’s addresses, phone numbers, etc.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      I was thinking the same! “Tell me where you work now (because I really need a lead on a new job to get out of this hellhole like you did)” Or, they’re fishing for proof that they are underpaid in their current role. What better way to have data to back you up than to go straight to the person who had the position before. “LW worked here two years ago. They are now at NewCorp where they are making $Y. I was hired at $X and now that I know what is industry standard/our competitors are paying, I believe based on my current workload I should have a raise of $Z so I’m on par.”

  17. Angela*

    This screams to me that someone at former employer got audited on exit interviews and is now desperately trying to get them up to date. But no way would I supply most of that info, even if it had been asked during a regular exit interview. Especially the salary part.

    1. The IT Manager*


      I think someone is trying to figure out why employees are leaving hence the salary, job title request. They of course don’t realize that they’re a toxic environment and the sane people just want to get out.

    2. Anamou*

      That was my thought too. I like Alison’s advice and I would ignore, ignore, ignore, their intrusive request, but not before relishing in the affirmation that yes, your former employer’s behavior is crazy.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I’m thinking more Internal Audit / compliance rather than legally necessary

        1. Angela*

          Yes, internal audit/compliance – not a legal one. My company gets audited on things that aren’t necessarily legally required, but just mandated by our parent company about once a quarter.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Angela, it could be the case. If they didn’t conduct exit interviews and company policy states they’re supposed to – someone is trying to “catch up”.

      I once terminated an exit interview – because they seemed to be more concerned with an employee on staff – and what HE might do going forward – than why I was leaving. I didn’t say much – just “if I had conversations along those lines, I’d retain them in confidence” …

  18. Brett*

    My first thought was that they are tracking people for post-employment restriction enforcement (e.g. non-compete agreements). My employer does this for the purpose of enforcing our ethics laws, but their letters are much more threatening (since they have criminal penalties to back them up) and they have you sign a 4056-T rather than just asking you.

    1. Anna*

      Do they come a year later, too? Because it seems to me that if the company isn’t that interested when you leave and then suddenly a year later wants to know, they haven’t got much of a leg to stand on.

      1. Brett*

        I think they come annually actually. It is possible the OP’s timing last year barely missed the annual letter.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        First run this to see if there are any employees who know what they are doing

        SELECT * FROM employee WHERE dbo.employee .[clue] is not null

    1. Batshua*

      Oh wow, it’s the return of Little Bobby Tables and his sister, Help, I’m trapped in a driver’s license factory!

  19. Amber Rose*


    That’s ridiculous. I did get an email from my toxic last employer a couple weeks after I left, but they just wanted to confirm where to send my last paystub and my T4. I doubt they kept any of that info after.

  20. Jeannalola*

    I’m wondering if they failed to offer COBRA or to send a W-2 and are trying somehow to cover their behinds if it comes back to them by saying the OP “failed” to give the info.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That’s not the OP’s problem, though, unless she didn’t get a W-2, and tax season is way past. If they didn’t have their ducks in a row, too bad.

  21. SaraV*

    Previous comments say to throw the letter away. I, personally, would use it as kindling for a lovely backyard fire, invite friends over for some drinks, and celebrate the “purging” of that job from your life.

  22. A Hedgehog*

    I can’t even…

    This reminds me slightly of the time when I had an interview with Sallie Mae, and didn’t get the job. A couple of weeks later, I got an email from them asking how I felt they did during the interview process. Um…

    1. AW*


      I can’t even imagine how they think rejected applicants are supposed to respond to this.

    2. Elizabeth*

      One time, I applied for a job & didn’t even get an interview. I did get a rejection letter asking me to fill out the EEO compliance form to assure that they weren’t violating any hiring regulations. I pitched the entire thing.

  23. Adam V*

    > You are also free to call them and say you’re confused about a bizarre letter you received from them and ask if perhaps a rogue intern is sending out joke correspondence.


    The only thing better would be if they admitted “no, that’s a real letter” and tried to justify it somehow.

  24. Laurel Gray*

    The demand for this information reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine was dating her therapist. When she tried to break up with him she lied and said she had a new boyfriend and he demanded to know his name and then meet him – which he did!

  25. justcourt*

    Current employer: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
    Current position: Defense Against the Dark Arts professor
    Current salary: 20,000 galleons/yr and unlimited Butterbeer
    Current address: unplottable

    1. Kelly L.*

      So if you’re the DADA professor, does it count as job-hopping when you’re inevitably gone in a year?

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Well, the person in the Defence Against the Dark Arts job at my place is looking to leave after six months. Voldemort also seems to have been turned down by my Exjob as there’s been lots of quitting there. So I think it still applies!

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        Exit interviewer: Why are you leaving this position?

        Employee: My body was being used as a host by a man who Cannot be Named.

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          I wonder if being a werewolf is protected by ADA? Or intermittent FMLA? “Mr. Dumbledore, I’m going to need some accommodations for a few days a month…”

  26. I'm Not Phyllis*

    My last work place asked for my new salary when I was leaving and my only response to them was “money is not the reason I’m leaving.” My boss had a history of making excuses for why people were leaving – such as saying they got an offer they couldn’t refuse, or they got a better title, etc. Nope, for me it was because of a terrible work environment – I left for the exact same title and only a slight increase in pay. I couldn’t wait.

    Over a year later? Nope, you’re not obligated to give them any kind of response at all.

  27. Chriama*

    Can we start a master list of possible reasons why OP would even receive such an insane letter? I’ll go first:

    1) a single nosy employee is trying to get this info, either to sabotage OP or just because they also want to leave this crappy employer and want to figure out how she did it

    2) employer is being sued for something and they’re trying to contact OP before the other side does (either to intimidate/bribe her into silence, or just to know how to prepare their defence)

    3) trying to enforce a non-compete agreement retroactively

    4) these questions were always part of the exit interview process, and someone forgot to dot their I’s and cross their T’s, so they’re scrambling to gather all this info before they get in trouble (either by upper management, or some auditing body) [I think this is the most likely scenario, given that they form letter mentions an ‘incomplete database’]

    5) company is trying to figure out why they have such high turnover rates, but the culture is so bad that they’re abrasive even when asking for a favour

    6) somebody else please continue…

    1. Kelly L.*

      I think it’s probably 4 or something similar. They’re taking a fresh look at the personnel files, somebody got the brilliant idea to beef up the files on former employees, and then whoever wrote the letter is a really tone-deaf writer.

    2. Adam V*

      6) Old boss is starting a new business, and he wants to recruit some of his former employees, and is trying to figure out whether he can afford to lure any of them away.

      7) A couple of HR employees made it up, and placed bets on what percentage of former employees would fill the form out and return it with obviously faked data.

      8) HR VP says “no, *this* is how you make sure former employees stop applying to return to the company.” *hits Send*

      1. Chriama*

        9) Company is applying for security clearance and needs to provide references for the past 10 years of it’s life

        10) Company’s systems have been hacked and this is actually a phishing attempt from identity thieves.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Wow, #10 could be spot on.

          Given the recent rash of identify thefts and hacked data (including mine, sigh), maybe a quick call to ExJob HR is advisable, just to rule this out.

    3. CAA*

      9) They’re trying to claim a state or local tax credit for hiring in an enterprise zone.

      10) Something to do with workers compensation insurance claims or premiums.

      11) Something related to back wages, other employees filing labor claims with the state DoL, etc.

      1. Alma*

        12) The Crown Prince in Exile of a Foreign Company (that will remain nameless here) has need of your updated information – especially the new salary info – so they can appeal to you to assist in gaining access to their bazillion dollars of foreign bank accounts, currently frozen….

  28. happymeal*

    To everyone saying she should send back her address … how did she get the letter in the first place if they don’t have her current address?

    1. K*

      Sounds like they do have her address, but they don’t know whether or not the letter got sent directly to that current address or was forwarded by the post office.

  29. Cath in Canada*


    At my workplace (academic research) we do try to keep track of departing students, postdocs and other trainees. Some CV formats, e.g. for grant applications, ask for former trainees’ next job titles so they can assess the quality of the training provided by the professor (e.g. it looks better for the prof if some of her postdocs become assistant professors, or at least stay in a science-related field). However, a) it’s voluntary (the CVs have an “unknown” option), and b) we most certainly do not ask for salary information. That’s just wrong!

    1. DL*

      Yes, indeed! Tracking next career step is often required by funding agencies and/or formal program review processes.

      Also, the NSF surveys and some institutional alumni surveys do ask about salary range, but those are subject to IRB approvals that require personally identifying information to be protected.

  30. LCL*

    My guess is this is a sleazy attempt to gather clients for someone who wants to start their own employee placement/recruitment business.

    1. Kristine*

      My guess is this is a sleazy attempt to retrofit some kind of “noncompete agreement” claim by what was described as an undesirable employer that created a horrible workplace environment. Never ascribe to evil that can be explained by incompetence. ;)

  31. T*

    I had a friend during the recession that was laid off, given no severance or anything special (just two weeks notice) and THEN asked to sign a non-compete agreement. Obviously she just laughed.

  32. Rivakonneva*

    If they included a postage-paid envelope, have fun with this!

    –Answer in binary code.
    –Answer in Minionese.
    –With a big black Sharpie write “WHY?” over the page and send it back.
    –Send back an empty envelope, or fill it with scratch paper.

    If you’d have to pay postage, then drop it in the shredder and enjoy knowing you’ll never have to go back there again. :)

    1. Dutch Thunder*

      I’d keep it. If you ever need proof that any references from this place shouldn’t be taken too seriously, you’ll have it.

  33. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I’ve had weird correspondence from former employers – not unlike this.

    I did have some (legit) mailings reminding me of confidentiality agreements, but those were cordial.

    What I would do is telephone them – indicate that this is ODD – perhaps a joke – but they should know what is actually happening.

    If it IS from them, and was an authorized mailing – ask WHY they need this, and what business of it is theirs? Is there some need to know what former employees are making at their new positions? Why do they need this information?

  34. Student*

    I’m thinking it’s an attempt at a scam, because this information is basically what you’d want to pull that off.

    I’m thinking that if the OP responded, they’d probably reach out for more personal, inappropriate information, like the SSN or a bank account number to “rectify an accounting error at his former job” or demand a check to cover some business cost. Might be a tax refund scam (salary info tells you about how much you could try to get back), or some other phishing scam.

    1. JoAnna*

      Good point. If the OP is in the U.S., maybe s/he should report the letter to her state AG as possible fraud.

    2. AW*

      Kind of like how e-mail scammers will first send an e-mail with an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom, hoping you’ll click on it and confirm that your e-mail address works.

  35. Ad Astra*

    I kind of want the OP to call and ask about it (and then post here with more information) just to satisfy my own curiosity.

  36. Techfool*

    Demand to know their turnover, profit, and salary of every employee for your own database.

  37. Sally*

    Is OP from outside the States? He/She used the term “post”… Typically Americans say “mail”

  38. Chris*

    While it’s funny to think of great responses… don’t respond. No sense in having a (justifiably) rude document with your name on it somewhere…

  39. Middle Name Jane*

    As tempting as it would be to send the letter back with something snarky written on it, I think the safest thing would be to just ignore it. The OP could always claim later that he or she never received the letter.

  40. Erin*

    This is insanely outrageous. I can’t believe they were stupid enough to document it in a formal letter.

    You can ignore it, sure. I myself would be very, very tempted to respond in some way. Like maybe printing out this entire post, comments included, and mailing it to them along with a copy of the letter with a “Politely declining your request,” smiley face, written across it.

    However, this is a former employer and you want to remain on as good of terms as possible. You could approach it assuming it was a mistake on their part in some way, although obviously that’s hard to fathom.

    If they reach out to you a second time you could say, “I’m sorry, I disregarded the first letter because I assumed it was in error. I’ve never heard of employers requesting information about former employees who left the company over a year ago. I never had an exit interview or was otherwise required by HR to provide any such information when I left. At this juncture, I’m very uncomfortable providing such personal information to you and am frankly confused as to why you’re asking for it.”

  41. Curious*

    Could this be a scam not even related to the company? It sounds like some of the information that might be needed to request a credit card in your name.

Comments are closed.