Is it legal for a potential employer to ask a job candidate’s former employer the reason the candidate was fired?

UPDATED: Feb 16, 2012

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Is it legal for a potential employer to ask a job candidate’s former employer the reason the candidate was fired?

Asked on February 16, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Rhode Island


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It is absolutely legal--there is no law preventing a prospective employer from asking about the reason a job candidate was fired, or about whether (s)he had problems at work, or what kind of an employee (s)he was, etc.

If you had some sort of confidentiality or nondisparagement agreement or clause with the former employer, such as might be found in an SRA (separation and release agreement), the former employer might not be able to answer the question; but that still wouldn't stop the  potential employer from asking.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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