how big of a deal is lying on a resume?

A reader writes:

I am a director of a local nonprofit with a very visible presence in our area.

Two years ago, I hired a new associate director, Gina, after she had amazing interviews and strong references. She has proven to be exceptional in her role. Eager, great sense of humor, very intelligent, poised, I could go on. She, like myself, is a single mother and I cleared a path through our company for her to return to school and get an MBA. Within the past two years our company has really blossomed, and part of that is directly related to Gina’s hard work.

But a week ago, I was at a work conference. While speaking to one of the event coordinators, Gina’s name came up. He stated that he worked with her briefly at her previous job and disclosed to me that she was fired. I was shocked. I distinctly remember from her interview that when I asked why she wanted to leave her current position, she stated that she wanted to return to the nonprofit field. The man delivered this information to me in an “Oh, I’m glad she got something she likes, but I assume you knew she was fired” kind of way, so it wasn’t as though he was trying to toss her under the bus.

When I returned to work, I checked her personnel file, and her resume clearly listed her previous job as still ongoing when she applied with me. I haven’t told anyone, and no one would know. Do I speak with her? Do I terminate her? Neither of these things feels right to me. She made a mistake, but there is nothing in her two-year performance that suggests anything other than a highly qualified and committed individual who has gone above and beyond in her role. I’m torn over this, and to be honest, I wish I never knew this information.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 242 comments… read them below }

  1. RC Rascal*

    I’m going to add in another possibility. How do you know the guy at the conference was being truthful ? Maybe he is unhappy over something that happened at the job. He could also be a boss being vindictive over her departure.

    I’ve seen end things in a 20 year career to trust my experience and judgement over the words of a random stranger.

    1. OhNo*

      It’s also possible that the guy doesn’t know the full story! Unless he was the person who actually fired her, it’s equally possible that he heard it through the grapevine, and we all know how that can distort things. “Fired” could really be “left on bad terms with her boss” or even “we were told she was pursuing other opportunities and I assumed the worst”.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        What you say is true about him not knowing, but I’ll add that many people can know with accuracy if someone was fired. In some cases, the whole organization because they are told this by management.

        I can think of two cases at my org recently (one was actually a contract not renewed because of bad behavior, and another a regular firing) and multiple people were informed by HR or the person’s manager.

        1. InfoSec SemiPro*

          “The whole org knows because management said” is still not something I’d read as perfect transmission of truth. “You can’t quit, you’re fired.” is absolutely something that vindictive bosses have done, and announced to the whole organization specifically in order to cement their preferred story into the world.

          And, even if someone was fired from a role that was a bad fit for them, if they’ve got multiple years of stellar work for you… go with the work they’ve given you. Your role obviously fits them fine.

          1. This is She*

            Yup. Happened to me.
            “[I quit.]”
            “What?? Well, fine then, I was going to fire you anyway!”
            Not true, btw, they were pretty steamed that I was unhappy and left, and guess what the narrative was going forward….

            1. Tilly*

              Yes yes, this. The fact that this person was so bizarrely eager years later to declare that she was “fired” – seems emotional, and perhaps not the truth.

          2. pleaset cheap rolls*

            ““You can’t quit, you’re fired.” is absolutely something that vindictive bosses have done”

            Not where I work. Not in well-managed organizations. But I believe it happens.

            @lisa who wrote “I’ve seen this countless times.”

            You’re working at dysfunctional places if you see this countless times. Yes, I know it happens, but that’s a sign of major dysfunction if it’s in anyway common.

            And to get specific – where I work in one of the cases the person being fired was called into an office with HR while the rest of us were similarly called into a meeting with our mutual manager. They came out looking the same way people look when they’ve been laid off – surprised and upset.

            And in the other case I was involved in info security details as the person was let go.

            So yes, sure there are some or even many cases where management may lie. Agreed. But there are also cases where management tells the truth – and we know it from history with them.

            Both exist. Stories of someone being fired can be real. Can – not always, but can be. We can argue over whether it is typical, but it happens.

            “even if someone was fired from a role that was a bad fit for them, if they’ve got multiple years of stellar work for you… go with the work they’ve given you.”
            I don’t see how this is relevant to my comment, but sure – I agree.

            1. Mr Jingles*

              On the other side, a very dwcent organization wouldn’t neccessarily broadcast reasons why someone quit or even disclose quitting/firing at all if unneccessary for work.
              So the person might as well have misunderstood and is broadcasting something that isn’t true but they don’t know better. In my lastjob my colleagues thought I was fired, but I quit and used up my accrued PTO as it was company policy. All they saw was me leaving rather fast and it seed very unusual with them so rumour run wild and some people enjoyed their rumour-mongering too much to believe me or the company. We don’t know that person LW has met. So a healthy dose of scepticism is appropriate.
              He could have simply mixed up the dates or remembered wrong or even thinking about the wrong person. Lots of time has passed after all.

        2. Lisa*

          Agree wholly with InfoSec SemiPro. I’ve seen this countless times. People can easily rewrite the narrative to suit their agenda, especially when an employee has left and can’t defend themselves.

          I’ve even experienced it myself, having quit and having a Record of Employment (a required Canadian legal document registered with the federal government that shows I quit), but hearing from former colleagues that they were told I was fired. Desperate egos left behind, nothing else.

        3. caradom*

          Not in my case, we were told she retired. A manager who literally lives for gossip told me the truth.

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          My boss told me he fired a colleague, but I knew that the colleague had been looking for another job for a while, because I helped him translate his CV, and knew from what he’d told me and from LinkedIn that he was already working elsewhere.
          Another time, my manager told me a colleague in an office abroad had left of his own accord, forgetting that he’d asked me to translate the letter summoning him to the meeting where he would be fired!
          So I don’t believe what managers say about employees leaving. I always had excellent working relations with my colleagues (one exception, a so-called friend of the boss who ended up taking the boss to court and was hated by everyone in the company) so I’m pretty sure they can tell me honestly why they are leaving.

      2. Firecat*

        Fun story related to this very thing!

        I had a coworker, I’ll call him Dan, who loved to make my work life miserable. Well I got promoted from that department and was working across the hall. Dan purposefully excluded my promotion announcement from the news letter and spread the rumour I was fired.

        I was promoted. I was working 20 ft away in the same company and to this day there are people who believe I was fired.

        1. caradom*

          I have no idea what the sicko who bullied me says. (I have a few based on early reports). He was angry when I stood up for myself so forcefully he begged me stop.

          He moved on from the job and now I feel sorry for his new workplace.

      3. Arvolin*

        I don’t think I was ever told that “X was fired”, except for one director (who was told that, if he didn’t submit his resignation, the Board would ask for it). I’ve been told “X does not work here anymore,” and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a reason from management. It’s unsettling sometimes – as far as I know everything’s fine, and suddenly X is gone for no explained reason.

    2. BRR*

      And he may not even know that he’s not being truthful. It could have been something he heard about but he wasn’t privy to the details.

      1. Hil*

        This was my thought too. This year I was semi laid off, semi fired, semi quit. It was a weird combination of stuff happening and really only me and boss have the full story (my grandboss just wasn’t that interested in the details, but we have a good relationship still).

        I started sending resumes out like a mad women right before I knew it was going to happen so that I could list -present as my employment period. I never, ever lied. If asked why I was leaving in that period I did talk about the new industry I wanted to transition too. I can easily see even people I worked with fairly closely saying what this man said about me.

        1. GS*

          I had a similar exit from a truly awful position – I had already cleaned out my entire desk and was in final rounds for a new job. They told me that Friday was my last day – I asked for another week and to call it a mutual separation, they said fine. Trained my replacement and was off to my current company which is so, so much better.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Too true. My team and I were sometimes told in a staff meeting that someone was fired, when I know for certain they resigned – I was present when they did it – but our division head was being vindictive.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      In that case it’s still worth having a conversation with her, even if it is “fyi, this person said this about you, what’s your take on that?” as, presumably, he could also be saying this (if it isn’t true) to others.

    4. Karo*

      Beyond intentionally lying – how do we know that this guy has any insight into what happened? Maybe she said “I’m scared I’m going to be fired” and then was gone shortly thereafter and he assumed. Maybe he knew she was on a PIP and assumed. Maybe he disliked her work and when she was gone he assumed that everyone else saw how “awful” she was and had been fired. Unless OP got a full and detailed description on the firing, it’s impossible to know.

      1. KateM*

        Or maybe she said “I’m scared I’m going to be fired because my boss found out I’m interviewing”.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        All of this. Unless this guy was her direct manager or HR there are so many ways he could have bad information. There is no reason to jump to “he’s lying” when the rumor mill in offices are so often the source of information and very often things are wrong or exaggerated. She could have resigned when it was clear the axe was dropping, so while it may look from the outside like she was fired she actually resigned. Or he could have heard a rumor that wasn’t quite accurate.

        It is also very likely that Gina saw the writing on the wall and started applying for jobs before the job ended. She may have even started the interview process before her end date, it’s hard to know. So, as with most office issues the solution is, talk to Gina and hear what she has to say. The most likely answer is the previous job was a bad fit, so she started looking for something new knowing it wasn’t going well.

      1. FunTimes*

        This. I think it’s much more likely he was misremembering than that he’s vindictive and out to get Gina two years later via bumping into her boss at a conference. LW should verify before jumping to any conclusions.

        1. caradom*

          Why would you say someone was fired to their new workplace if no malice is involved? It’s a pretty shitty thing to do to a person…..

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yeah, then again, there are some pretty shitty people out there. He may have tried it on with her and got brushed off, for example.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        That was my initial thought. My friend was once surprised to be told that “Fergus said you were fired” – at the time, there had been disciplinary action against a different employee, both employees were “Hermione G.” and Fergus named the wrong one.

    5. Construction Safety*

      Or, people use “fired” and “laid off” interchangeably.

      I had a worker who eventually confessed to embellishing his resume. It was a company that didn’t reference check for their level (slightly above entry level). They felt if they had told the whole truth & nothing but the truth, they wouldn’t have gotten the job. Probably correct. They did an excellent job for me & have grown & prospered in their profession.

      1. Liz*

        Yes! My first job I still contend I was fired, however, the way it was presented to me was my company had acquired a smaller, similar company. And there was me, and someone else doing the same job at smaller company, but they only needed one of us, so I was “laid off”. But given the climate etc. at my company, firing was more likely.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          The way you describe it, you were laid off.

          It’s not about your performance, but about the company’s staffing needs. Fired means you were doing a bad job at a job they need you for. Laid off means they no longer need you or they are just getting rid of people in general.

          1. Sandi*

            Well, it could have been performance related but they used the merger as a convenient excuse. Or it could have been that they were laid off but the company climate was to say that people were fired. Logically it appears to be a layoff, but not everyone is logical!

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              It’s a lay-off, but obviously if you have two Marketing Managers and only need one, you’ll keep the one that appears to be the best of the two.

              1. Bluesboy*

                Or, more likely in my experience, the cheapest. Which is usually, though not always, the one with less experience.

    6. lethersleep*

      I agree if this person was not her former boss or HR he might know if she was officially “fired”. Maybe she left and the boss painted it as if she was fired, maybe she simply gave a 2 weeks notice and was asked to leave that day and it appeared she was fired, maybe it was water cooler gossip.

      Honestly if she is good worker, I would let sleep dogs lie.

    7. Jennifer*

      I agree. Someone mentioned below that she might have been terminated because she took a job with a competitor. This guy does sound salty that she moved on to greener pastures.

      Also, the OP has great references for this employee from other people. I’m honestly a bit surprised that she considered firing her.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        To me he doesn’t sound salty at all. Letter made it seem like he was surprised but sheepish.

    8. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

      I agree! “How DO you know the guy at the conference was being truthful?”

      The practiced, casual way he delivered this information to OP got my spidey senses tingling.

    9. yup yup*

      If I ran into someone that knew a former colleague of mine, I would NEVER repeat that the colleague had been fired, unless I actively wanted to cause trouble for that colleague. So I’d assume ill intent whether the info was factual or not. Conference guy wanted to actively harm this employee. Maybe think about why before pursuing it with her.

    10. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Hell yeah! Gina’s former coworker could have been throwing her under the bus while putting on his “aw shucks” face. And to a degree it worked. Now you doubt Gina.

      Taking Alison’s reply into account, I’d ask if you’re going to let a casual remark from a stranger dirty Gina’s two years of good work for you.

    11. MsChanandlerBong*

      Agreed. I once quit a job because the company was doing unethical/illegal things. During my last two weeks, they would not let me do any of my regular work since it involved contact with clients, so they had me doing busy work. They would not even let me sit in my regular cubicle with client files in it; they made me sit at a coworker’s desk all day. While I was finishing out my notice period, one of my coworker’s purses went missing. She sat in the cubicle next to the cubicle I was working in. I swear to you on my life and with every fiber of my being that I did not steal that purse; however, when I came to pick up my last check, they sent one of my coworkers out to my car to catch me before I left and tell me that they all thought I stole it. I can totally see one of them telling a current colleague that I stole a purse one time, even though I didn’t.

    12. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Honestly, this was my first thought. I once had my boss call me into her office to say she’d been at an industry event the night before and had run into my prior boss, who had told her in a very similar “just sharing a fact you probably know” tone as described in the letter that I was a cocaine addict.

      (To be clear, I’m not and never have been. I’d resigned from that job under relatively good terms, despite a mismanaged restructuring.)

      Luckily, my boss knew me well enough, and I was good enough at my job, that she smelled the bull**** on it immediately. The only reason she told me is because she thought I deserved to know that PriorBoss was spreading rumours about me. But… a different situation, with a different boss? It could have been a real nightmare of a situation.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        whoa there that’s really not on!
        Reminds me of when I was similarly accused.

        I had been working non-stop all weekend, literally spent 36 hours at the place working to meet a Monday morning deadline. The company was going to be sued if we didn’t deliver (it was a badly managed start-up promising goods that hadn’t yet been developed).
        I finally got home after delivering. My poor cat ran out into the courtyard for a breather, and I left my door open, knowing he’d be back for food pretty soon. However I fell asleep the minute I lay down and didn’t hear him come in to then shut my door.
        My landlord came to inspect the building, saw my door open and walked in to see me fast asleep. Started shouting at me that I should be at work and was a lazy dirty foreigner (he even resembled the leader of the national front at that time). He then proceeded to tell all the other residents that I was obviously a drug addict.

  2. Still Here*

    To start with, the event coordinator sounds like a sh*t disturber. Gossiping to strangers about someone behind their back says a whole lot about this person’s integrity. So I wouldn’t put a lot of credence in what he told you. Also, the term “fired” isn’t always used the same way by everyone! Even if she was “fired” there are all sorts scenarios that could have led to it. Sometimes a new director comes on board and starts to clear house. Sometimes people get thrown under the bus. Heck, sometimes people are terminated and the company allows them resign rather than firing them.

    1. Kesnit*

      “To start with, the event coordinator sounds like a sh*t disturber. Gossiping to strangers about someone behind their back says a whole lot about this person’s integrity. ”

      This was my thought. He didn’t have to say that – especially after all this time.

      1. Antilles*

        Right? Let’s be generous and assume that he’s correct and has the full story (not the case, but let’s pretend). Even in this case, I’m still not sure what the point is in telling someone about an ex-employee being fired years after the fact. It’s just not a detail that’s worth mentioning.
        To me, this is no different than when I hear a company hired a former co-worker of mine who I didn’t think was qualified. They aren’t asking for a reference check or my detailed opinion; it’s purely a one-off mention of “oh, hey, I also know Jane!” and deserves exactly that level of breezy response “oh yeah, worked with her a few years ago, cool”.

    2. Rayray*

      I’ve heard of instances too where someone puts their notice in and is then asked to leave. So that person resigned but the company believes they fired them. It’s entirely likely this happened to Gina and she was being 100% honest.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        CurrentJob went through a period, under the management that is no longer there, where they did this to several people, all of them middle-manager level. A manager would give notice, escorted out a few days later, and we’d all get a mass email warning us not to talk to the manager should they contact us. It looked for all intents and purposes like firings, but said a lot more about the company’s leadership at the time than it did about the “fired” managers.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Happened to me in one of my first jobs. I’d taken community college classes and was working admin jobs and I applied to a state university. When I was accepted, I gave my job about 6 weeks’ notice. On that Friday afternoon, my boss called me into his office and fired me. (I was completely shocked. From this distance I honestly cannot say whether I should have seen it coming. Regardless, getting that cash during the first 6 months college was really helpful and they could have totally avoided that hit to their UI premiums.)

    3. JJJBB*

      She could have also been discovered looking for another job and got fired. There are so many different possibilities that his offhand remark should be taken with a grain of salt. You don’t know his motivations and you don’t know the circumstances. Unless there is some other giant red flag, there is nothing you should do about sheer gossip. You’ve worked with her for 2 years so, whatever problems she had at her last job didn’t get carried over to this one. Leave her alone.

    4. bottomless pit*

      “Also, the term “fired” isn’t always used the same way by everyone!”

      I agree with this. My husband is one of them. English is technically his second language, he has no accent and is 99.9% fluent…but every once in a while he has a word or phrase wrong, and this is one of them. For him fired could mean fired, laid off, asked to resign, or terminated after giving two weeks….just some action the company did.

    5. Three Flowers*

      Yeah, this was my first thought. “Oh, I assume you know she got fired, right?” is 100% an unprofessional, shit-stirring approach that ought to make this stranger at least semi-untrustworthy right off the bat.

      1. _ID_*

        100%. Why would anyone make this comment – even if it’s true?

        What if he had the hots for Gina – and she turned him down? He might have lots of reasons for bad-mouthing her. Not the least of which is that he’s an ass.

  3. Cobol*

    How long does it take you to hire? Every situation is different, but at that level she very well could have seen the writing on the wall/knew she didn’t see eye-to-eye with her managing director or board. There are so many plausible she didn’t lie scenarios I honestly wouldn’t think about it.

    1. Cobol*

      Also, what level was the event coordinator? Without direct knowledge of her actual dismissal it’s just gossip.

      It’s entirely possible she negotiated an additional time period of “employment,” where she worked limited hours not in the office on a specific project, or didn’t work, but was still considered an employee.

    2. Cobol*

      And my final thought (which could be specific to my field, and not specifically for this letter), and I know something others will disagree with. I expect applicants are putting their best foot forward. So lying is an integrity issue, but lumping in the 5 times you did one particular high profile thing, prominently in your description of your last job…… well that’s a lot like what you have to do with account management or sales.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Some of the commentators seem to have a misplaced perspective.

        They offer sound suggestions about how to mitigate the risks in hiring, but forget that the goal is NOT to check every box on the “how to hire” check list; the goal is to hire a good fit for the job.

        Maybe my perspective is the one that is skewed, but it seems to me that hiring a “stellar performer” is a successful hire, even though the check list wasn’t followed.

  4. Doctor is In*

    Wondering whether OP verified her employment history and checked references at the time of hiring (or shortly thereafter if she did not want current manager to know she was looking)?

    1. Troutwaxer*

      If not, maybe the OP should do that now. But we’ve certainly seen enough letters here about companies that “fired” someone after they announced they were going to leave.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I completely disagree with checking someone’s references two years after you’ve hired them, without an excellent reason, such as “we’re not sure this guy’s actually a fighter pilot and we need to find out before we let him climb into another cockpit”.

        1. Anna Karenina*

          I agree. If you didn’t do the due diligence of reference checks originally, then that is on you.
          Especially from the perspective on the references…they probably arent expected to be contacted or maybe this is a bad time for this call or…whatever.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            “If you didn’t do the due diligence of reference checks originally, then that is on you.”

            What does this mean in terms of actions for the OP moving forward?

            1. Tired of Covid-and People*

              It means go back now and do the verification that should have been done then, after an offer was extended. Education and employment on a resume should always be verified, because people, even nice competent people, indeed do lie. Lying should never be rewarded, even if the person is performing well.

              Getting fired is not necessarily a deal breaker for landing another job anyway. If it turns out that OP was given bad information, then she doesn’t have to do anything. If it turned out the firing was a fact, then it’s a conversation. OP really likes this person, so it may be difficult to be objective. But lying is a character issue, regardless of performance.

              Definitely do not take gossip as truth though. Verify.

          1. Derjungerludendorff*

            I mean, what would you actually do with that information?

            She’s been working for OP for several years and been a stellar employee. Clearly OP considers her trustworthy and more than competent for her role. A fudged detail on her resume several years ago shouldn’t really change that judgement.

        2. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Maybe not checking references, but employment verification? Definitely OK to do that. It’s sloppy hiring not to check everything during the process.

      2. HRBee*

        Very much this. At my very first professional position, I gave my two weeks notice and a week into my notice, the HR Manager (not my boss) brought me into her office, handed me a check paid through my original notice, and said “were making today your last day.” She then basically perp walked me back to my desk and stood there while I packed my things in a box. Again, I wasn’t fired, but it sure felt like it (and I’m sure looked like it to everyone around me). I was exceedingly embarrassed and sobbed in the parking lot and pretty much all the way home while my best friend tried to calm me down on the phone.

        My manager was on vacation at the time. He called me when he found out and was furious. Apparently, HR had put in a new rule that day that all resignations would be accepted immediately. I was the first of three people who’d been walked out that day.

    2. foolofgrace*

      This is my question also. They hired for a somewhat senior position like this one and didn’t vet her previous work history? I don’t understand how that happens.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Another possibility the sh*t disburber might not be aware of is that she was fired, but the company agreed to report it as a resignation or layoff when references were checked. All kinds of deals are made to avoid future grief.

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        If it was listed as her current job it would be very unusual for them to call them for a reference.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Vetting work history (basically, a work background check) is not the same as a reference check. My HR process includes confirming dates of employment and academic credentials of new hires above a certain level. This is done by an outside provider and not HR itself. Reference checks are to talk about the quality of someone’s work and their history as an employee; employment verification is to check that someone actually has the experience and degrees they claim to have.

  5. Ali G*

    Someone that “worked with her briefly” probably doesn’t have the full picture of her departure either. I am sure there are people from my last job that assume I was fired because my departure seemed “sudden” (it wasn’t) and I didn’t have anything else lined up. Also my old place of employment fired people all the time. But in reality it was a mutually crafted departure, even if I wasn’t the one that initiated it.

    1. Green Snickers*

      This exactly. I had an old boss who was most definitely on the chopping block but she left first. We all knew she would have been fired if she hadn’t left but that doesn’t mean she WAS fired. Even if she was asked to leave, that doesn’t mean she was terminated and/or needs to disclose that she was fired.

      Also- everyone knows that people negotiate circumstances surrounding their departure all the time when it. Some random guy- even if he did work closely with her- does not know anything about the HR specifics surrounding her departure.

  6. Rey is my bae*

    Just want to add another option. How do we know that this person was definitely fired? She might have been laid off or quit or other reasons. Being the VP doesn’t necessarily mean you know why someone left unless they were your report.

    Alternatively, she could’ve been fired after submitting the application and it might’ve been for reasons that literally had nothing to do with the job. Like if she was only a few months in, she might’ve been let go for reasons unrelated to her actual performance (eg they hired her for X and she was better at Y and it just wasn’t a good fit – it doesn’t mean your a crap employee but it can be hard to bring up if it literally just happened especially if it happened as interviewing for other jobs).

    Or maybe yet the job was something to do with toxic management. Maybe she hated the job and was looking for other roles and got found out and fired for that.

    1. Lay off victim*

      This. I was laid off very suddenly a couple of years ago, for no apparent reason. None of my coworkers had any inkling anyone was being let go much less me because we really did have enough work to keep our 3 person team quite busy. Because I had very high level access to some things I was escorted around by HR to collect my things and to the door (that was hilarious because HR didn’t have access to my department so they had to use my just turned in badge to get to my office).
      From speaking to my former coworkers the impression was definitely that I was fired for cause and unfortunately the terms of my severance didn’t really permit me to tell them much of anything. (I did have a thought that they might try to get rid of me because I was being rather vocal about some issues with middle management, including falsifying time sheets, at the time and had just successfully lobbied for a substantial raise so I felt like I had a target on my back)

    2. Antilles*

      Agreed. It doesn’t sound like she was his direct report or subordinate, so it’s very likely he doesn’t have the full story.
      In my experience, it’s common for unrelated people at the company to get just a very brief description of what happened – often as simple as a one-sentence “Jane is no longer with us” with zero additional details, so it could be anywhere along the line.

  7. JohannaCabal*

    I have sympathy for Gina if she did lie about being fired.

    In 2009 I was fired from a bad fit job after three months. I’d been a strong student in college and excelled at my previous job. Being fired was such a shock and I didn’t know what to do so I will freely admit I lied on a few apps.

    I realize I was wrong and wish I had used this site more back then.

    1. starsaphire*

      I was also fired from a job I thought I was excelling at after about four months. It was a food service job and it was very early in my career. It was a huge shock to me and the owners gave me no reason, just a phone call instructing me that last X had been my last day and to come by for my check.

      While I worked there, there was another girl who used to come in now and again with a brand-new baby (like, days/weeks old) who the other staff would flock over and coo at. I was told she was “a friend” of the owners and the other staff.

      Guess who was working behind the counter on the day I went back in to drop off my uniform and pick up my last check? Yep. I was “fired” because her maternity leave was over.

      I suddenly decided that I’d rather have a resume gap than put that job on my resume. I was still relieved when the place went under, though.

      1. Rainy*

        Food service is notorious for this kind of thing. When I was in my very early 20s I had a restaurant job where the manager (the owners’ son-in-law) about once a month would get coked out of his gourd and fire someone to calm himself down. One day, my number came up.

        I’m sure it was coincidental that I was approaching the date when I’d been promised a pretty big raise, and that after I left, the weird FOH/BOH hybrid position I and a few other people occupied and were paid pretty highly for was suddenly demoted to BOH status and filled by kitchen staff who were being paid under the minimum wage.

        1. starsaphire*

          Yeah, totally a coincidence, I’m sure. *rolls eyes*

          Man, food service is its own little hellscape, isn’t it? Like, when you said “owners’ son in law” and “all coked up” I was like, wait, did we both work at… nope, food service, could have been anywhere, anywhen, Anytown USA.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I also have sympathy for Gina even if she lied. After 2 years of good work, a STRANGER’S SINGLE comment has OP questioning everything.
      If this is all it takes for our jobs to become unraveled, then we are hosed here.

      Some where along the lines we have started to lose the ability to trust our own judgement to gauge the work of other people.

      For myself in a situation like this I would tell myself that for [whatever reason] I neglected to ask the stranger to expand on his remark and that is on me. I’d let the whole thing go as gossip or gossip with an agenda (vendetta).I have seen so much of this type of thing with previous cohorts and employers

      People deserve a chance to redeem themselves. And our society is not good at giving chances. Until we get good at it, this can be what happens.

  8. K in Boston*

    If the employee had ben asked to resign instead of being outright fired, would that make a difference?

    Personally, I’ve resigned from a job before that was a few steps away from firing me. Some folks might say that means I was fired, since that’s what would have happened anyway if I’d stuck around longer.

    Also wondering what thoughts are on if you have to disclose (without prompting — obviously if you’re directly asked, that’s one thing) that you were “asked” to resigned? When I started interviewing after that, I never mentioned I had previously been on a PIP or close to being fired, though definitely outlining that there were reasons for my departure (culture fit, lack of local safety net, just not the right role for me, etc.). Looking back, not sure if folks think that’s shady or not.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      As a young and naive employee I was once invited into the CEO’s office and handed a letter of resignation to sign. It was pretty awful and felt just like being fired. I didn’t know enough to refuse (where I live, you cannot be fired without cause, and they had no substantial cause).

      1. Bluesboy*

        Where I live, it’s impossible to resign from a job except via a Government website. Apparently there were too many cases of people being forced to sign an undated resignation letter on their first day, and the company would just add the date whenever they wanted to get rid of the employee.

    2. shipjumper*

      I was too. I knew it was coming and it was bad fit for both me and the company. So I jumped ship, before they tossed me overboard. I worked with a small staff, so thankfully everyone was informed I indeed did resign.

    3. BRR*

      I was on a PIP at one job but resigned before I was fired (and I was going to be fired). Because I was able to get another job right away I have no gap in my resume. So I don’t mention anything unless the question is specifically asking if I involuntarily left. Otherwise I just mention how I was looking for a position with more responsibility at that time.

    4. Retired worker bee*

      A company that I applied to had me fill out an application. One question was “In the past ten years, did you quit a job to avoid being fired?” This shook me up very badly, and I was glad that the question was asked in the application, and not by the interviewer, because if the interviewer had asked me this, I might have gone to pieces, because I had quit a job to avoid being fired over eleven years earlier. So I managed to pull myself together, and I had no problem checking “no.” I think it’s a terrible question, but it does indicate that some people acknowledge that there is a difference between being fired and being given the chance to avoid being fired.

        1. Retired worker bee*

          ITA, and I was very happy that I didn’t have to lie. All they cared about was the previous ten years, and since I quit a job before they had a chance to fire me (what’s funny is that they asked me to stay on an extra week because they hadn’t hired my replacement yet, but I refused) more than eleven years ago, I didn’t lie at all when I checked “no.”

      1. Marillenbaum*

        The only time I’ve seen a question like that on an application was a security clearance thing when I was applying for a summer internship. I think in most businesses, if someone gets to the stage of checking previous employers, you can confirm dates of employment, eligibility for rehire, that sort of thing.

    5. yup yup*

      I don’t think it’s shady at all to not mention previous performance issues. Why on earth would you want to share something that doesn’t make you look great? I mean, if someone asks you outright, don’t lie… but I don’t think it makes any sense at all to bring up a PIP or a firing at an interview.

  9. Been There*

    So – I had an employer long ago tell people I was fired when I wasn’t. When I gave my notice, they wouldn’t accept it at first, made me think about it for a week, and then drug out my notice period when I still said I was leaving. I started my new job, and my former employer turned nasty and has said crappy and untrue things about me ever since. They even told someone I pushed a coworker down a flight of stairs – which is 1000% untrue! Thankfully people who know me knew what bs that was. I’m sharing this because former employers can turn vicious and nasty when a star employee leaves. In my case – my former employer just wanted to hurt me. The event coordinator seems like a bit of a crap disturber (like what an odd thing to share). I think it says more about him than your star employee. If I were your employee – I would want to know if someone was smearing my reputation so I could confront them.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      Whew! I’m thankful that what your former employer is saying is so obviously not you that its not even close to believable!

      Lucky for me it was just someone who was tangentially above me in the org chart at previous job who was spreading the reason for my departure as “NotQuiteAnonForThis just didn’t enjoy working on XYZ type of project, and as that’s our focus…” A few well placed “Oh there must be a mistake, I was hired by new job as an XYZ specialist” and that my biz cards show that as my title settled that issue. Bonus was that it gave people pause as to why he was lying.

    2. Usagi*

      Without sharing too many specifics, I was in a very similar situation as you. Can you share how you overcame it? When it happened to me it cause a ton of trouble for me and since I live in a relatively small community (not quite “everyone knows everyone” but maybe “everyone has a cousin that knows someone else’s cousin”) it was really tough for a few years while I had to build up my professional reputation again, along with changing industries.

      1. Anon, I Think*

        My husband is actually in a very similar situation – he gave his notice, employer refused to accept it, when he finally did accept it, he made it very difficult for my husband to leave well, despite hubby making it known he wanted to do what was best for the organization. It was disheartening after 5 years to go through that – more so because the employer was actually a church. Because this is so very recent, we have no way of knowing how it will impact him in the future – hubby has taken a job in a completely different field for now, due to burnout, but hopes to return to similar work in the future. My condolences to all who have dealt with, or are dealing with, this! I pretty much hate it!

          1. Anon, I Think*

            Oh yeah. It was so discouraging. And I totally understand that churches are made up of imperfect, flawed people, but – this seemed like such a straightforward thing that happens all the time (someone leaving a position) that it was super-disappointing and upsetting for us both. Thanks for the sympathy, I’m taking all of that I can get! :-)

        1. Usagi*

          That’s terrible, I’m so sorry. It was really stressful (I was the sole income for my family while my wife was in school) but I think what really got me through it was that while I was freaking out and falling apart, my wife wasn’t. She was supportive but also stayed “business as usual” as much as possible and that kept me semi-grounded while I searched for a job. Of course inside she definitely WAS freaking out but she knew it wouldn’t do us any good for both of us to do so.

          So I guess my point is try to stay strong for your husband? I’m not particularly religious but I do believe that overall things always work out in the end (and if it didn’t work out then just refuse to accept that it’s the end!) so I’m sending positive thoughts your way.

          1. Anon, I Think*

            Thank you for your kindness and positivity! I’m definitely trying to be strong, but I’m not sure how well I’m doing. I know we will get through this, and likely be stronger for it, but it’s crummy to be in the midst of it, as you know! Just….bleh, for now.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        I had a friend go through something similar and he called the labor board and a lawyer. You can’t defame a former employee with the goal of hurting their career. The exact definition can be slippery, which is why talking to a lawyer is important, but it is illegal. Lawyer sent a cease and desist letter to the former manager stating in no uncertain terms that if there was any shred of evidence that he tells any more lies they would sue both the company and him personally. That ended things pretty quickly. Also, since his industry was an especially gossipy one, news of the letter got around all on it’s own, which helped save his reputation a bit without much effort on his part.

        1. Usagi*

          I considered taking legal action, but there was a combination of “I was young and naive” but also the company was a very large, reputable one (but then even the “good” companies have bad managers) with what amounts to infinite resources, so presumably they have an entire army of lawyers. I was afraid that even if I took legal action, I wouldn’t be able to do much against that.

          In the end everything kind of worked out in that I’ve moved on, I never hear about it anymore, and I’m in a much better place professionally, so I guess it’s ok? I wasn’t particularly happy at that job anyway but was scared to leave so it was the kick in the butt that I needed to get out and do better things.

    3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      This! I had a former employer say I was fired when the reality was I found another job and turned in a two week notice while I was laid off. She mailed me a letter stating I was terminated but it was dated well after she received my 2 week notice. She even tried telling my new employers that I had been fired and had refused to give back company property. I had the letter showing I had been laid off temporarily with date, I had the unemployment claim granted letter, I had a copy of my mailed certified return receipt 2 week notice, and her termination letter dated after she received my 2 week notice, and receipts that showed I in fact paid for and was the owner of the property she was trying to claim was company property. My new employers laughed themselves silly as she was well known (and not in a good way) in the industry.

    4. caradom*

      ‘They even told someone I pushed a coworker down a flight of stairs’

      They got that from House of cards, Netflix!

    5. California Typewriter*

      I worked in an after-school program that did something like this (among many other shady and downright illegal things). My boss was honest and a good man so he wouldn’t pull nonsense but another site coordinator (our boss’s title) would apparently refuse to accept a resignation then tell his superior that he didn’t know what happened, the employee just stopped showing up. I could write a novel about the shady way they treated us part-timers.

  10. Rayray*

    The thing that sucks though, she could have been out of work for a long time simply over being fired. Circumstances don’t matter to ATS or hiring managers, they hear “fired” and toss the resume. This isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but maybe she had to fudge things a little. No matter what happened at her last job, she still needed another one but she would have that firing held against her. Maybe it was a performance issue or maybe just not a great fit with the company, it shouldn’t be held against her if she has proven herself as a good employee at this job.

    And like others have mentioned, you don’t know of this guy was being truthful or maybe he didn’t know the full story. If she’s a good employee, judge her only by what you know.

    1. BRR*

      We don’t even have enough information to know if she lied about something like dates of employment, which I would consider a worse offense, or if it was something like she was on a PIP and didn’t say “I’m looking for a new job because I’m probably going to be fired from this one.” If it’s the latter, I think she’s in the free and clear. You often aren’t able to say why you’re leaving a job. “My boss is a jerk” and “I want more money” aren’t acceptable answers in an interview but are reasons we pursue new jobs.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yep, this. We create the problem ourselves. People have to lie if they ever want another job. It’s common knowledge that is how things work. The person isn’t given the opportunity to explain what they learned and how they corrected course. The resume just goes in the garbage can.

    3. CR*

      Yep. I really don’t think fudging the timeline a little is a big deal. She’s doing well at her new job so let it go.

  11. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Honestly, I wouldn’t consider it a lie. Pretending to be someone else to use their LinkedIn profile, or ask your friends to pretend to give false recommendations IS lying.

    1. Esmeralda*

      It is a lie if she was fired and then stated on her resume that she was still working there.

      There’s a whole lot of possible explanations here. But if she WAS fired and she said she WAS STILL EMPLOYED, then that’s a LIE.

      I’m not saying, that’s job ending. But please don’t say it’s not a lie.

      1. caradom*

        What do people know? NEARLY everyone lies. They were too lazy and incompetent to check a reference. It’s the OP who needs to learn something here…..

  12. I think I work*

    What if the employer found out she was looking for a job and fired her. Some people take it really badly that employees are looking to leave and retaliate. In an ideal world we all know that people eventually move on, but unfortunately the world that we live in is not like that.

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      This is exactly what happened to me a couple years ago – While on vacation, I had an interview with someone who turned out knew someone at my company (though not in my department). That was a Wednesday. I went to work Thursday morning, and had termination papers in hand by noon with the explanation “it clearly isn’t working out”.

  13. lb*

    Was the person who gave you this information someone your close to, who you know to be a reliable source, or just a casual acquaintance? Were they her manager or in management above her & therefore would be privy to the details of her leaving? I think those are important things to consider as well – how good is this source? If they weren’t directly involved in her departure, I’d be circumspect about trusting them as a source; not because I think they’re lying maliciously, but because it’s really easy to assume & be wrong. I have plenty of colleagues I suspect didn’t leave jobs voluntarily, but it’s ultimately just a guess on my part because I wasn’t in management & I wasn’t in the room where it happened, so to speak.

    1. Self Employed*

      This is from the customer side of things, but one of my neighbors started talking about how she got various staff and managers at our apartment complex fired because she reported them for harassment or unethical behavior. This seemed fairly credible at first because they’d been harassing me and being unethical (and reviews on Glassdoor support this pattern of behavior, at least the ones before the management caught on and started getting people to post positive reviews). Management announced one as a promotion to the next level up (consistent with the Peter Principle, as she was useless at our building) and another as a lateral transfer to a nicer building in a nicer neighborhood…on the far side of the county. So when she didn’t look thrilled about the transfer at her farewell party, I didn’t assume she was fired, because who would want that commute? The third didn’t seem substantially more incompetent than anyone else, but he was out on sick leave for months at a time, so I’d assumed he went on disability before she told the story about him.

      Except my neighbor didn’t realize I am a volunteer with various affordable housing advocacy groups that attend events sponsored by the affordable housing industry. A few months later, I saw two of those employees representing the company at their events. Fired, eh? Then why are they hosting public events with company name badges on?

  14. yokozbornak*

    Why trust this guy over someone who has been a good and diligent employee for two years? He said he worked with her briefly and then set out to tarnish her reputation. I wouldn’t trust him with the truth. You mentioned that she had strong references. What did the people at that workplace say about her? I would trust them more than a guy you met at a conference.

    Please give her some grace in this situation. If you feel like you need to speak to her about it, ask her about it without being accusatory.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If I were Gina I’d be looking for my next job. It sounds like this place may have problems seeing all the good work she has done.

    2. Mr Jingles*

      I imagine the talk with Gina:
      Hey I met someone I’m loosely acquainted with at a conference and he told me my fantastic employee, you to be precise, has lied on their resumee. He told me you were fired! Nevermind I love your work, can you explain to me what someone who briefly worked with you told me about stuff that doesn’t concern him in the slightest and which was happening two years in the past?

      1. 'Tis Me*

        “Do you remember Mr Nosy from OldJob? I bumped into him at the conference and he asked how you were getting on. It’s weird, though, he seemed to think you’d been fired from there! I know some places can be total rumour mills, and people can state assumptions as fact etc but thought I had better let you know just in case this is something you need to address in any way. I was delighted to be able to tell him what a wonderful difference you have made here, and how glad we all are that we hired you, but as I don’t know why he had that impression I wasn’t able to correct him.”

        It gives the employee reassurance that OP has her back while also giving an opening for her to explain if there is anything to explain, or to be equally confused if this is bewildering news to her.

  15. PersistentCat*

    Just to provide more evidence to consider discounting the event coordinator’s casual use of the word “fired”…the VP of another department at a former employer tells our mutuals I was fired regularly. The paperwork given to me says my role was eliminated. I was never on a PIP. My director had conveyed to me that this VP didn’t like how often I worked from home and covered swing shift but…he was sales & my department supports production. So. He may have had concerns about my “performance” (attendance), but my director did not agree & the role was one of 3 eliminated for cost purposes.

    TLDR: People lie &/or don’t have the full scope of the situation. Some people even still say fired for laid off (intentionally or not) since a lot of the paperwork simply indicates “terminated” for quit, laid off, poor fit, gross misconduct, etc. Furthermore…as indicated by Alison, your employee could’ve applied before the separation date or even simply submitted their most recent application without reviewing and updating the dates of employment.
    Additionally…if you have a background check in yourself application process, dates of employment and reason for separation are pretty standard checks…

  16. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

    You have a female employee that, in your own words, has been stellar. But you automatically believed this MAN’S words.

    1. BRR*

      That seems like a huge reach and there’s no information in this letter that would support this view.

    2. Jean*

      Glad you said this because it kind of stuck out to me too. Gina has been an exemplary employee and yet OP is conflicted about this because… some guy said she was fired years ago. WOW.

      1. WellRed*

        There’s nothing to indicate the OP wouldn’t have written the same letter had the person been a woman.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Well, but if we believe the OP, it wasn’t. So the hypothetical is not really significant. We can only hypothesize on the basis of the data we have, not of data we might have had or might imagine we could have.

          1. meyer lemon*

            Sure, but all the data that we do have is that the gossiper is a man and the gossipee is a woman. There isn’t really enough there to suggest a trend.

    3. Firecat*

      A lot of people switch genders in these letters so these sorts of comments are rarely accurate or helpful.

  17. Jean*

    There’s LYING ON YOUR RESUME – i.e. making up degrees and accomplishments out of whole cloth to get a job you’re wildly unqualified for; and then there’s fudging or glossing certain things that can disadvantage you but have no real bearing on your qualifications. Applying black-and-white thinking in these sorts of situations is a mistake, and you would definitely be shooting yourself in the foot by taking any punitive action against Gina based on the unsolicited commentary of some stranger.

    1. Yet the latest in a long string of Anons*

      Agree. “Firing” isn’t always black-and-white, anyway. Not every human is going to be successful with every job, company, manager, environment combination. Ideally, that gets identified early and then an exit strategy is developed that allows everyone to safe face and move on gracefully. But that doesn’t always happen and yet people get fired from one situation and then thrive in another.

      OP….you should ask Gina but also be prepare to just let this go. Her performance in THIS job matters more than her performance in THAT job anyway.

      1. mark132*

        I personally wouldn’t ask her anything, unless her job performance is bad, perhaps not even then without a confirmation first.

    2. Rayray*

      I agree. I spent some time on unemployment this year and I would read and participate in a couple forums for support and help on my job hunt. It’s shocking what some people have gone through, or how difficult it is to overcome certain obstacles. I agree that you shouldn’t fully lie about things but sometimes you have to work around things to get past disadvantages. I don’t think OP got the full true story from this dude, but if this was the full truth, Gina was at a huge disadvantage. She didn’t say “ I wasn’t fired” but she would have been telling the truth that she wanted to work for a non-profit. This is the kind of thing many job seekers are facing right now because hiring is not in the job seekers favor at all these days. It is TOUGH. It’s competitive and there are so many hoops to jump through even if you’re fully qualified.

      If Gina has been a good employee, leave it at that. It doesn’t seem she lied about a degree or any legitimate qualification so leave her alone and toss this dude’s unsolicited comments out of your mind.

    3. Lexie*

      Especially when at will employment means you can be fired for really ridiculous reasons that have nothing to do with your job. The person that gets fired for not liking their job is going to feel awkward about how to put that on a resume and may be concerned that the interviewer will think that’s a lie. They could be worried that being fired immediately gets them taken out of consideration regardless of the reason.

    4. Esmeralda*

      How is saying you were employed when you were fired not a lie? I;m not saying that’s what happened here, maybe there is some explanation or error — but if she had been fired and then stated on her resume that she was employed, then that’s a lie.

      1. Jean*

        I never said that saying you’re still employed after you were fired isn’t a lie, first of all. Second of all, like you said, there’s absolutely no evidence that that’s what happened here. So why the straw man?

    5. londonedit*

      I agree. Gina didn’t say she had a degree when she didn’t, and she didn’t claim to have worked somewhere she’d never set foot in, or anything like that. There are plenty of reasons to fudge things on your CV that don’t really count as lying, in my book. Things like leaving off a terrible job that you had for two months before you quit, or whatever. I had a whole period in 2008 (fun times) where I was made redundant, did some freelancing work, had a three-month contract job and then went back to the company that had made me redundant. Is any of that on my CV now? No, because it was 13 years ago and no-one cares about six months in 2008 in the grand scheme of my work experience and skills.

    6. SnappinTerrapin*

      Some of the “absolutists” on the topic of “integrity” might benefit from reading Mark Twain’s short story “Was It Heaven? Or Hell?”

  18. New Mom*

    I would not give much weight to that guy’s comment. I say that because at my nonprofit, there has been a lot of misinformation about people leaving over the past eight years, and I actually incorrectly thought a former boss of mine had been fired. It was definitely going in that direction, but ultimately he gave notice but I had not been privy to that info and was SURE he had been fired for years.

    Other people left on good terms with some and bad terms with others, so depending on who you spoke to, you’d get a different answer.

    1. PT*

      I too have seen all sorts of misinformation regarding people leaving. People who were fired for cause had a cover rumor about moving on for better jobs or personal fulfillment. People who were let go due to blatant discrimination had a cover rumor of how they were let go due to incompetence. In one case I had a coworker who retired then face rumors after her departure that she’d been forced to retire because she was going senile (not remotely true, she ended up back temping for us and heads rolled over this rumor when they found out who started it.) In another case, someone I worked with was called in on a Sunday with 30 minutes notice when she had no one to watch her small children, they fired her and told everyone that she’d abandoned her job by not coming in.

      I would not take stock in what this dude is saying at all.

    2. CR*

      Yes, after years in the nonprofit industry I’ve seen all sorts of shenanigans. I know someone who I thought had been fired as well but it turns out she had resigned (but the higher ups didn’t like her, so it was sort of put around that she was fired). Nonprofits have high turnover, so there’s always someone coming and going.

  19. CRM*

    Was the person that OP spoke with Gina’s former boss? If not, I would take this with a HUGE grain of salt. From personal experience, I can say there’s a really good chance that there is more to this story (even if the person at the conference was being truthful or had the correct information, which may not be the case).

    Please, please, if you are going to do something punitive, talk to Gina first and hear her side of the story.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      And more to the point, if you go the route of talking to Gina, the first thing to do is to mention this guy’s name and ask Gina if she knows him, what work she did with him and what kind of a reference she would give him before getting to what it was that he said.
      This will give you more info to help you determine how to proceed from there. But mostly I hope that you will rethink your need to do anything based on the strong references you received at the time of hiring and her stellar work for you so far.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        And the writer has no sound reason for trusting this rumor monger over her own observation of her employee’s character and performance.

        He didn’t offer any reason to believe he even knew what he was talking about.

  20. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    I’m not from the US and where I live, workers have a lot of protection and can’t (in theory) just be fired. So firing is rare, a big deal and a reputational risk.

    From what I’ve read here, it seems like you can get fired in the US for almost nothing. Or actually, nothing. Because your owner doesn’t like your shoes or because they decided to hire their nephew instead.

    Is this an accurate perception? If so, why would firing be something that reflects badly on the ex-employee? It doesn’t necessarily indicate a performance issue.

    (Obviously there are justified firings as well, I get that.)

    1. RC Rascal*

      You are correct. Most people in the US are employed at will and can be fired for anything. (Non union , non contract based employees. )

      Yet, a stigma remains so people find ways to talk around it. To openly admit you were fired for cause pretty much guarantees you won’t find a new position.

      And no, objectively the logic doesn’t make sense.

      1. Jennifer*

        We all know people make mistakes and that there are many people who have been fired. Yet, we aren’t allowed to talk about it during the interview process. There’s no way to get a job to support yourself and pay your bills unless you stay quiet about it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is very important. When we paint a person into a corner they are going to do what they have to do to get out of that corner.

    2. Rayray*

      Yeah, this is basically true. It’s called at-will employment. I agree with your point that firing shouldn’t be such a stigma when these kinds of things happen all the time. It’s just how it is. You can say you were fired, but it’s hard to get that chance to explain that it’s because the boss’s nephew wanted a job or that you butted heads with your supervisor. If you put “fired” in an application online, your application will automatically be zapped out of the system sometimes.

    3. Sasha "Potato Girl" Blause*

      Yep, that’s about right. It reflects badly on the ex-employee because employers only want the very best… and if you were the very best, your boss wouldn’t have been able to fire you for ugly shoes or not being their nephew. It’s BS and I think it’s wrong, but that’s how it is.

    4. Rainy*

      I have told this story before, and mentioned it above, but I was fired from a restaurant job in my early 20s because the manager would periodically get too coked up and fire someone to settle himself down. It happened about once a month. I was there for nearly a year before my number came up, and we all knew it was a possibility at any time.

      Illegal? No, not at all, as we lived in an at-will employment state, as do most people in the US. You can be fired for anything at any time, pretty much.

    5. hbc*

      It’s not that you think all people who have been fired are unhirable and all people who have managed not to be fired are stellar. It’s just…there’s a statistical correlation between firing and not being a great employee, and all things being equal*, your best bet is going with a person who hasn’t been fired.

      I mean, most people make the same calculation when dealing with their personal finances. Are you hiring the babysitter who says, “Yeah, I’m looking for work because I got fired from my last gig” or the one who says, “The kids I sit for are aging out of needing a babysitter”?

      *All things are very rarely equal, and you don’t get this information in a vacuum, so you’re never really faced with a strict choice like this. I’ve certainly hired people who have been fired.

  21. Here we go again*

    1. She could have applied and turned in her resume when she knew things weren’t looking good at her former employer, and was still working there while she was interviewing with you. After the interview she was let go at her former employer. (This just happened to me I applied at a job and interviewed with my new employer on the 6th then the company I worked for went bankrupt, the next day after the bankruptcy announcement I got my offer from my new employer, was given a start date of 25th but was terminated from old job on the 15th.)
    2. They could have fired her instead of letting her give two week notice. (It happens when you leave for a competitor)
    3. Somebody could be lying.

  22. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    I see a few options here.

    A. Ignore it. The information is unreliable and isn’t supported by what you know of Gina.

    B. Fire Gina for lying. This is a terrible idea because, see A.

    C. Ask Gina about it. She’ll possibly resign, because either it’s true and she’s mortified, or it’s not and she’s furious. So you risk losing a highly valued employee because… someone you met casually made an offhand comment that you can’t verify reliably.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I agree. If she’s doing a good job now, you might have a hard time finding someone else who can do a good job. Better to just file it away

      1. Jennifer*

        Agreed. Is this really worth starting another search that could last months, then spend even more time and money training a new hire?

    2. Sparrow*

      If OP goes in and accuses Gina of lying or otherwise implies she thinks Gina definitely did something wrong and it all turns out to be a misunderstanding, sure, she might be mad about it and leave. But if OP asks Gina about this in a curious, non-accusatory way, I don’t see why Gina would resign. That’s quite a leap. In that position, I can imagine being mad at the ex-coworker for sharing misinformation, but as long as my boss took the approach of, “I heard a weird thing that didn’t sound right to me,” I wouldn’t be upset about her asking and would be glad to know what was being said.

      1. Double A*

        I also think you could ask Gina about it in a concerned way, like, “Someone said something surprising and I wanted to let you know. Do you have any insight into why he might have said that?” If I were Gina I would want to know if someone was spreading incorrect information about my past performance.

  23. Jennifer*

    Wow, I really don’t like Conference Guy. “No, honey, she was definitely fiiiiiiiiiiiired.” I find that information really suspect. What could he possibly have to gain by telling someone that? There was no reason to bring it up. And even if she was fired, there’s no evidence that she actually lied on her resume, as Alison stated, and even if she was fired, she didn’t lie in the interview. She DID want to get back into non-profit work. You don’t have to volunteer negative information about yourself. Trust what you know of the person that has been your employee for two years over a rando you met once at a conference.

  24. Former Retail Lifer*

    I was fired from a job a decade ago. It’s a long and convoluted story, but the quick version is that there was an HR investigation into some things, I answered HR’s questions honestly, HR reported everything I said to my boss, and he fired me because the questions were about him and he looked bad. I went into my first few interviews being totally honest about being fired, and the look on my interviewers’ faces was always of shock and horror. I didn’t get hired again until I said I quit. I don’t know how many jobs I would have lost out on if I continued to be honest about why I was no longer working there. Now that it’s been 10 years and I’ve had a few jobs since then, I’ll freely admit that I was fired.

    On a bright note, the guy that fired me got fired a few months later.

    1. JohannaCabal*

      I feel like if the guy that fired you got fired himself months later, that’s reason enough to consider it a layoff or mutual quitting…

      Just before my first job started layoffs some employees were fired. I found out through some of my coworkers (I was the lucky first one laid off), that the fired employees had an easier time getting new jobs because other employers just assumed they were part of the layoffs.

  25. Esmeralda*

    OP, did you check her references? Did you call her employer at all before hiring her?

    I would bring it up with Gina, because (1) you won’t be able to put it behind you if you don’t know, and it will color how you see her — possibly unfairly and (2) because, I’m sorry Alison, it’s a serious integrity problem if it’s true, and OP does need to know. Maybe there is a good explanation — maybe this guy was lying or mistaken, maybe there’s a timing issue or one of the other possibilities Alison lists. But you will not know if you don’t ask.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Let’s pretend it’s true, she did indeed get fired. Following along with the idea that this serious integrity problem the next step in logic is to only hire people who have never, ever made a single mistake.

      I seriously believe that if we asked for a show of hands here for everyone who has been fired at some point then better than 50% of us would raise our hands.

      I was fired from my first job. Since they were at the end of the season anyway it looked like a layoff. I never said I was fired because they tried to hire me back the next year. This is how this place operated. The boss who fired me and then tried to rehire me was flighty, really flighty.

      1. Esmeralda*

        I’m not saying to fire Gina (if you read my comment, you will see that I don’t say ANYTHING about firing) . I’m saying, find out the truth. Because right now OP doesn’t know and is seeing Gina in a negative light, possibly unfairly.

        Or maybe it’s correct, and that’s a useful piece of information about Gina. OP doesn’t have to fire her.

        I’ve been fired for shit reasons = #MeToo. We don’t know that’s the case here, which is my point. Find out what the truth is.

      2. I take tea*

        *Raises hand.* I worked a job where the boss tended to fire people for small mistakes and misunderstandings. Then you had to grovel a bit, and he’d make a show of forgiveness and give you another chance. I really needed that job, so I groveled.

        We actually parted on good terms (seasonal job), but there are plenty of places like that. There shouldn’t be such a stigma to be fired, especially as Pickled Pepper says, it’s really easy to fire people in the US.

    2. Elenna*

      Don’t employees often not check references at the current job? Since (Gina said) she was still working at that job, I can understand why OP didn’t check at the time.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*

      The writer didn’t ask for retroactive advice about how she should have handled the hiring a couple of years ago.

      She asked how to handle an unsubstantiated and vague allegation about her stellar employee.

  26. DrMouse*

    There are so many uncertainties in this whole interaction that I’m about as confident in this conference guy as I would be in someone selected off the street at random. I would actually argue that he most certainly WAS trying to throw Gina under the bus- what possible motivation could he have had other than to damage her reputation? It’s not helpful information. Let it go- Gina has “proven to be exceptional in her role”, which sounds to me like you have no other reason not to trust her!

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    The fact that the guy mentioned this at all would make me question his judgment, and therefore his facts.. Personally, even if it’s 100% true, after two years of great work I would ignore this.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I wonder if he’s even remembering the right person! Unless Gina has a *really* unique name, he could easily be wrong.

  28. Eliza*

    You’ve worked with her for two years and sound very satisfied with her performance. What does it matter at this point why or how she left her former job?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Adding why does a stranger’s comment/opinion weigh heavier than what you have seen with your own eyes?

  29. I should really pick a name*

    “Oh, I’m glad she got something she likes, but I assume you knew she was fired” kind of way, so it wasn’t as though he was trying to toss her under the bus.”

    Actually, to me that sounds just like he’s trying to toss her under the bus.
    “I assume you know” is a pretty common way to “accidentally” share information about someone while pretending you aren’t gossiping.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The “I assume you know” can be a put down. It can be away of get an ambiguous shot at the listener all the while talking about something or someone else.

    2. goducks*

      Yes, this exactly.
      Unless the sentence was something like, “I assume you knew she was fired because she tried to murder her co-workers” or something similarly heinous, all this dude is doing is stirring the pot. It’s ugly, and the OP should ignore it and focus on what she does know about this employee, mainly her exceptional work at her organization.

  30. TiredMama*

    You have no idea if she was looking for a new job because she knew it was the wrong fit and likely to get fired if she did not leave. If she is killing it at this job, let it go.

  31. Quickbeam*

    I once heard at a conference that I had been fired from job X years ago. It had been a high profile national job with a lot of media attention. I was pretty steamed when I heard that because the job had been eliminated by a new administration. However if someone heard that and didn’t know the facts……

    I don’t think much of Conference Guy.

  32. goducks*

    I’ve fired several people who just weren’t the right fit for the role or the company. Which doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be absolute rock stars in another role in another company. This notion that she’s somehow tainted because she was fired (presuming that it’s true, even), is weird and wrong-headed of the LW.
    And re-thinking a great employee after two years based on the gossip of a person who’s credibility is unknown is really unfair to the employee, who it’s not clear even lied, at all.

  33. JMR*

    If she was fired, wouldn’t this have come up in a background check? I know a lot of companies won’t tell a reference-checker outright that a person was fired, but they will verify the dates of employment. If the OP or her company never bothered to call her previous company to verify her employment history, I say that’s on them.

    1. JMR*

      To clarify, I didn’t mean a criminal background check, but I’m not sure of the appropriate term. When I was hired at my current position, they verified my employment history and that I received the degrees I said I did at the time I said I received them, etc., in addition to talking one-on-one with references. References might not know if she was fired, laid off, left of her own accord under suspicions circumstances, etc., but the employment dates would show whether she was currently employed with her prior company at the time she submitted the resume.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I’ve never had a prospective employer contact my current employer, so it wouldn’t have come up.

  34. Law firms*

    In the world of large law firms, it is common that the firm will tell an underperforming attorney that they have a few months to find a different job. During that time, the attorney is still employed, is still being paid, and would still truthfully report that they are currently employed on their resume and in interviews. It is possible that something similar happened to Gina. So, there is no proof that she lied on her resume.

  35. Elspeth*

    I know of two people at different companies who were fired due to low performance/bad fit but were basically stripped of any real responsibility and were told they had the next 2-3 months to try to find new employment (in one case, this time period also allowed vesting in the stock ownership plan). Maybe not the case here but a possibility. She’s a good employee – file this away and don’t take any action at this point.

  36. Watermelon lip gloss*

    For me if this is true this is a lie I would overlook like if you changed your title from Fine Glitter Consultant to Consultant. If your informant can be trusted it sounds like she was fired for something insignificant or your informant would have spilled the beans and not been happy she got another position.

  37. Paris Geller*

    I thought this was going to be much more egregious, like someone lying about a degree or an entire job they never had.
    I’m not going to say it’s OK if she did lie on her resume, but really, there’s not hard proof of that, and it seems a little silly to dig into it now after she’s been such a stellar employee. She could have been fired after she applied, or fired after she submitted her notice, the guy might truly think she was fired but she just left quickly. . . there’s a lot of possibilities , and not all of them involve deception.

  38. Rachel*

    My husband was once let go from a job where the supervisor who hired him left and a new supervisor came on. My husband and the new supervisor did not get along philosophically at all. The supervisor called my husband in several times to tell him to do things differently, and my husband attempted to make minor changes to placate the supervisor but never fully came around to the supervisor’s way of of thinking. About a year later, the employer faced a financial difficulty and told my husband that “today is your last day,” so that his salary could be used for something else. The employer ended up hiring a contractor to complete my husband’s essential tasks at a minimal fee and just stopped offering some of the other services my husband used to provide. He was gone immediately without any explanation to his coworkers or clients. Though my husband was told that it was for financial reasons, no one else was told that.

    A couple of months later, my husband was applying for a new job. The old supervisor gave him an acceptable reference – this fact was confirmed by the new employer – and my husband got the job. Because the old employer gave my husband a reference and did not refer to his termination as a “firing” to the new employer, my husband does not view it that way. However, it is very likely that his former coworkers and clients view it that way, as he was “here today, gone tomorrow” without any explanation. Sometimes the line between firing, resigning, and being laid off is very fine, and I can see how someone might have been confused. That is why it is probably best practice not to comment on someone’s employment history unless they choose to use you as a reference.

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      Reminds me of the first time I was fired from a car dealership.

      At my next interview, the hiring manager called the general sales manager of the other dealership, who explained that, during his vacation, his subordinate manager fired me and hired a friend.

      I heard the conversation, and I got the job.

      But car sales is a weird industry. Looking for a job will get you fired faster than anything in that business.

  39. Totes Ma Goats*

    I put in my resignation for a position and the PM told mutual acquaintances that it was a “quit or be fired” conversation. It 100% was not that at all, I had found a new job and just wanted to move on. They just twisted the story to suit their own deranged toxic narrative. Wonder why I was quitting that place?

    Ignore the person who told you this – you don’t know what their source is, motive is, or even their truthfulness. If the work Gina has been providing is above board and you’re happy with her, that’s all you need to know.

    1. RC Rascal*

      Eh, even when people are fired the reason for it typically isn’t made public, at least at well managed companies. They only time I have even seen the reason for firing made public was when a co-worker of mine was arrested for making child porn. Since it was in the news, our company did address it directly with employees. (Co-w0rker did plead guilty).

      Frequently the office rumor mill isn’t 100% accurate anyway. I can think of several instances where I later learned the real reason behind the termination, and it did not match the rumor mill. (For example, in one situation the manager who fired the employee used me as a reference in a subsequent job search, and confided the rest of the story to me in that context).

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        And the writer has no sound reason for trusting this rumor monger over her own observation of her employee’s character and performance.

        He didn’t offer any reason to believe he even knew what he was talking about.

  40. PersephoneUnderground*

    It wasn’t really addressed, since the resume part of the question was more concrete, but I wanted to point out that *if* she was fired, her answer in the interview about why she was leaving still wasn’t actually a lie. At worst, it was a lie by omission. She didn’t proactively say she was fired, but she actually didn’t say exactly how she left at all- she just gave an additional, likely perfectly true, reason she wanted to leave. It’s a sidestep, kind of like not disclosing your boss was a loon when asked about them and just saying you think you didn’t fit into the company culture (of being a loon).

  41. I'm just here for the cats*

    I say leave it alone. There is so much stuff we don’t know and can only speculate.

    How does the guy know that she was fired? He says that he worked with her briefly. I can see some places saying someone is fired but they left on their own terms. Or maybe she gave her 2 weeks notice and management had her leave immediately (which happens with good employees all the time, sometimes it’s just part of the job). Or maybe she gave her 2 weeks notice and negotiated the last time for PTO. Maybe management is really bad at communicating and saying “Gina no longer works here and Zack is taking over her tasks.” And now the gossip mongers got talking and now everyone thinks she was fired.
    This really doesn’t say anything about Gina, but I think it does say something about the other guy, that he would be willing to gossip about a coworker he barley worked with 2 years ago.
    Maybe it was a layoff, not an actual firing but this guy didn’t understand that.

    1. Retired worker bee*

      Although it’s recommended when applying for a job to ask “Why did my predecessor leave?” I have never done so, because I figured that the interviewer might lie when giving the answer. At one interview, the owner of a five-person company volunteered the information that Sasha, my predecessor, left because she wanted to work for a big company. After I started working there, the owner told me that she had fired Sasha because Sasha was lazy.

      Eventually, a co-worker told me that Sasha had been job-hunting, and one day she came back from lunch, having just accepted a new job and intending to give two weeks notice. And then Sasha learned that the owner had left and would be out for several days. The co-worker told me that he urged Sasha to email the owner and give two weeks notice, but Sasha refused, saying that she wanted to wait for the owner to return so that she could give notice in person, even though by then it would be for less than two weeks. So she wound up giving the owner less than two weeks notice, and the owner got angry and kicked her out then and there. According to the co-worker, the owner has no problem saying that she fired Sasha, because she kicked her out and terminated her employment on the spot, something Sasha was not expecting.

  42. NixNax*

    I know other commenters have touched on this but I just want to reiterate – you said his comment wasn’t throwing her under the bus, but what else could it be?
    There was no reason for him to bring that up. That is not a polite casual conversation subject and you didn’t ask. By giving this any weight, you’re participating in a piece of nasty gossip about someone whose work you claim to respect.

  43. agnes*

    I like Alison’s answer and the other comments here. There is a lot of context missing here and I don’t think it’s worth trying to ferret it out. She’s done a good job for you for two years. That in my opinion is enough for you to know what kind of employee she is.

  44. Reluctant Manager*

    I left a job that was (depending whom you asked) by mutual agreement, layoff, or firing; I usually say it was a good idea, just not my idea. But they gave me 7 weeks’ notice, and they didn’t tell anyone for 4 weeks. I applied for and got another position during that time, so you could say I was fired and also I was still at that job.

  45. LegalBeagle*

    The one time I was fired, the firm offered to keep me on the website for 30 days while I looked for work and explicitly gave me permission to state I was still employed their. Anecdotally not uncommon in my industry.

    It could also be something like that.

  46. Kevin Sours*

    I’m reminded of the old saw that to make a decision that you’re on the fence about you should flip a coin. And whichever way you are hoping the coin comes up, go with. Don’t look at the coin. I think the last sentence of the letter says everything we need to know about how this should play out.

    1. 'Tis Me*

      Oh I really like that and hadn’t heard it before! So you basically use your coin toss as a way to establish your gut instinct and go with that?

  47. Sleepy*

    Once my husband was…angrily laid off, let’s say. His employer told him his position would be terminated due to funding, but everyone knew it was actually because they weren’t getting along. However, his boss was very clear that it was going down on paper as a layoff, not a firing. Did it feel like he was fired? Yes. Did he tell prospective employers that? Hell no.

    Just saying…a ‘firing’ isn’t always someone being marched out the door by security. There’s a lot more gray area than you’d expect.

  48. caradom*

    Be very very careful, if you read this paper you know how many sickos try to get people into trouble. To be honest the proof is in the pudding: she’s amazing at her job and has advanced the company. Forget about it. If you read this paper you will find her replacement could be an absolute nightmare! Just don’t tell anyone you know (so it can’t come back at you).

  49. caradom*

    You have no idea about the circumstances. My friend went into a new job and the manager was horrific (like the stories you see on here). 3 days into the job the friend comes into work and the bitch says ‘what is the point of your existence’?

  50. SnappinTerrapin*

    Her resume shows she was employed when she applied. Some random stranger alleged she was fired from the previous job at an unspecified time for unknown reasons. She is performing at a “stellar” level, per the manager.

    I’m sorry: What is the question here?

  51. Bob*

    This is a can of worms.

    If she is lying thats one thing, if there is a mistake or vendetta by the person you talked to and then you accuse Gina of lying when she didn’t then you are causing a problem where none exists.
    In a sense this is about what you think is best for the business. If she did lie is she in a position that similar lying could cause existential damage? If yes then you might want to investigate further. If no then let it go.
    Were references checked when she was hired? Is there a record of that? If there is and she was employed when she submitted it then got fired then she did nothing wrong even though the person you spoke with was telling the truth. If she did make a white lie then its worth talking to her about it, but if this guy was s*** disturbing then Gina is going to lose trust in you for screwing with her. Also she could have been fired by a terrible or abusive boss she was desperate to get away from. There are countless accounts of terrible and even horrifying workplaces on AAM.

    If you decide to pursue this and it turns out she was fired (and for cause and not from a dysfunctional workplace) but lied what then? She has a track record at your company that is very good by your own admission. One could argue that looks a lot like redemption if there is a lie involved.

    So do you want to fire a good employee or not?

  52. BC*

    I was once fired from a workplace that had a culture which was all kinds of toxic and not normal, as years now of experience in workplaces with appropriate professional boundaries have shown me. Abusive boss, abusive management, a cult-like culture that encouraged hazing and bullying behaviors toward new and junior employees. I was young and trusting enough I bent over backwards trying to “stick it out,” and was fired specifically because it broke me down. That job destroyed my mental health for years. I listed what I did there as relevant experience for the first few jobs that followed, but never listed anyone from there as a reference (had plenty of glowing ones from elsewhere in my life) – out of curiosity, what IS one supposed to say in an interview for situations like that? I certainly gave non-answers to “why did you leave your most recent job?” like “the culture wasn’t the right fit; what I’m looking for at this stage of my career is more X, Y, Z (to return to the nonprofit field, etc.)” like Gina did in this letter. If there’s a professional way to indicate you were fired because your previous employer behaved in ways that were all kinds of not normal without sounding disgruntled or immature, I personally haven’t found it.

    “Why are you leaving your current position?” -> As an additional note, I would interpret this as “Tell me why you’re interested in working in this type of position for us” in an interview context, not “Tell me the *circumstances* of how you left / are leaving your current / most recent position” and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was also the case for other people. It doesn’t sound like the case is that you asked her, “Have you ever been fired?” and she said no. If you find the questions you’re asking during interviews are not yielding the answers you’re trying to probe at indirectly, it may be worthwhile to rethink the questions.

  53. L6orac6*

    I’m being pedantic, but you just put you worked from this date to that date or that you are currently still working with an employer on a resume. You could assume either way, resigned or sacked. You didn’t ask why she was sacked, it could be as simple that had started to look for a new job and someone found out and then was given the sack, this guy was stirring the pot. Occasionally online applications will ask for a reason. You found out afterwards. She’s been working with you for 2 years with no problem, if u really need to know, ask.

  54. LizM*

    I’ve had to fire people, and I would never share that info causally with an acquaintance. Doubly so if it wasn’t a firing I was directly involved in and had only heard about through the grapevine. People get fired for a lot of reasons, and deserve privacy and the chance to move on with their lives.

    So all that is to say, I seriously question the judgment of Conference Guy and wouldn’t give any weight to what he said.

    OP, you say you did a reference check when you hired Gina. If nothing came up then, I wouldn’t spend any more time on this.

  55. pcake*

    Seems like most people have already said what I came to say, and I hope the OP reads the comments. I had an experience with someone lying and spreading the word I was fired when I wasn’t.

    Many years ago, I had a severe health problem. The owner of the company I worked for told me to take as much time off as I needed to, which turned out to be several months. I came back to visit, and people were gobsmacked. Several had heard I was fired and had been very upset, two had heard I had died. Turned out a jealous assistant manager had spread the word I was fired (I got the promotion he had been after), making up a variety of causes, and even told a work friend that I was dead.

    Btw, in an interesting ending, the guy who for months told everyone – our vendors, porters, maintenance, servers, serurity guards, the AC repair guy – that I was fired ending up stealing a $25,000 bank deposit and disappearing into the sunset.

  56. Reluctant Manager*

    I don’t care if someone was fired unless I know what they were fired for. There’s no independent arbiter of whether someone is fired for a good or bad reason. What was the reason for the firing, was it accurate, and do you care about the offense?

  57. Judy*

    Or just a resume fluke? With the last several hiring processes I’ve been involved with I’ve been surprised how many resumes will say their last job was from “x to present…” when they’ve clearly been gone from that job for months. When I’ve pointed it out to the hiring managers as maybe a little misleading (?) they haven’t cared at all. They attributed it to the applicant just not updating their resume which they have no issue with.

  58. It's the little things*

    I’m also guessing that you would have found this out for yourself if you had done a reference check, the fact this was new news tells me your business didn’t do its due diligence so, with her great work up to now, I wouldn’t be trying to work backwards to cover something the business really should have done up front

  59. MG*

    15 years ago when I was in my first job out of college, I went to HR to tell them that my team lead had been sexually harassing and borderline stalking me for months. I was young and naive and really believed they would do the right thing. I even told them I didn’t want him to get in trouble, I just wanted to be moved to another team, which in hindsight was not ideal. I had recently gotten a raise, bonus, and excellent performance review but within days I found myself on an impossible PIP and was fired two weeks later. The team lead was promoted. Some of the toxic, vindictive people still work there and I have no doubt they would gladly tell people I was fired, but leave off all of the other details that would completely change the message.

    If her work is meeting your standards, I wouldn’t give it another thought.

  60. Alex*

    People can be fired or laid off for all sort of reasons (including discrimination, conflicts..) . In theory, you should say the truth and explain why you have been terminated, but it’s far too risky if you need a job in a competitive job market. This stigma is the reason why I think lying on this is perfectly normal and I would do the same.

  61. autumnal*

    I worked for a very (very, very) toxic employer. People would be there in the morning and then gone after lunch. I was in upper management and all we ever received is an email saying “they no longer work here.” In some cases, the person quit and was frog marched out the door. Sometimes they were fired. We had no actual knowledge but everyone assumed they were fired, regardless. It was BS.

    In either case, I would NEVER casually mention someone being fired to anyone, even if I knew for certain. Damned low thing to do and frankly, none of Mr. Gabby’s business. Consider the source.

  62. boop the first*

    Or she sent the application before she was fired.

    What has changed since the new information?

    Instead of letting imagination soar, perhaps you could just ask her.

  63. Greg*

    Am I the only one who thinks that, as resume lies go, this one is pretty benign? When I saw the headline I assumed a made-up degree or massively inflated job title. As has been discussed throughout the comment thread, there are a million potential permutations to this story that could make it better/worse, but let’s assume that what happened is that she was let go shortly before she applied and didn’t disclose that during the interview process. I agree with Alison that would be misguided, and that both for ethical and practical reasons one should never lie to a potential employer about a clearly checkable fact. But I still maintain it’s not the biggest deal in the world, and doesn’t necessarily reflect on her overall integrity. I was once told after a layoff that I could list my employment date through the end of my severance; again, not saying I would recommend doing that, just that it’s fairly common advice people get.

    Point is, balancing the relative severity of the sin against the fact that she’s clearly demonstrated her value as an employee over the past two years *and* adding in all of the unknowns around what her former coworker said, how much he actually knew, and what his motivations might have been, I think it’s a no-brainer to let this drop.

  64. sange*

    It’s very rare that I disagree with Allison. But there is absolutely nothing of value to be gained by pursuing this line of questioning. You have an excellent employee who performs her job admirably. A stranger gave you random unsolicited information. You have absolutely no reason to trust him, but you have every reason to trust the integrity of someone you deeply respect and have worked with for two years. And honestly – so what. So what if she was fired? It makes no difference. The world is a mess, you have a great employee, it doesn’t matter that you are at a visible organization. Don’t privilege the random offhand comment of a stranger over what you know to be true – and you know this person is excellent at their job.

  65. Minocho*

    This could have been said about me two years after starting my current job. I was searching – the department was being downsized (3 women were being transferred or put on PIPs and fired over the course of acouple of months – no men) and I had already been asked by my supervisor to lie about the only other woman left on the team except for myself in order to start a PIP process for her. My reviews had suddenly turned on a dim from positive to very negative) and I could see the writing on the wall VERY clearly.

    I had been interviewing for a while and was well on my way through multiple interview processes by the time I was fired for not completing a (male) coworker’s tasks. He retained his employment.

    I was hired about a week and a half after I was hired, after turning down another offer I received (also after I was fired). A former coworker who was unaquainted with the exact timeline could have told my coworker the exact same story, not be lying, and also leaving the impression I was dishonest.

    If they have given you no cause, over two years of employment, to doubt their integrity or capability, this seems like it shouldn’t be an issue to me.

  66. Karak*

    This may not be popular but I have no issue with people lying about being fired. The only reason companies ask is to deny you a job opportunity. What’s the reason to be honest about it?

    So, OP. A random stranger told you a rumor about a woman you’ve known and worked with for two years. Why do you care? What does it affect? Best to let it go.

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