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The question

Can a new employer ask me for a record of employment (ROE) from a previous employer? I was offered employment, then asked for an ROE. The new employer said to block out confidential info so I blocked out the reason for leaving. During the interview, I said I quit but I was terminated from my last job and I didn’t want the new employer to see that. They asked me to resend the ROE without blocking out the reason for leaving. Then they told me I lied during my interview about saying I quit instead of being terminated. So they decided to no longer continue with the hiring process. I believe it was because I was terminated and not because I lied about it. Am I wrong?

The first answer

Dina Mashayekhi, Partner, Jewitt McLuckie & Associates LLP, Ottawa

Your employment history is generally not publicly available. However, although Service Canada’s records and your ROE are not intended to be shared with prospective employers, there is nothing preventing a prospective employer from asking for a copy. Similarly, there’s no law forcing you to comply with this request.

If a candidate does not want to provide their ROE, they can inquire as to the reason for the request, propose alternate methods of confirming employment history such as providing further references, or flat out refuse to provide the prospective employer with the ROE. Keep in mind, however, that a refusal to provide the ROE may result in the employer’s refusal to hire you.

While I cannot say with certainty whether your offer was rescinded because of your termination versus your lie, dishonesty is considered to be one of the most serious forms of employee misconduct. In this case, it is possible that the prospective employer viewed the nature of the dishonesty during the hiring process as a “red flag” for the future employment relationship.

Nevertheless, although it may be tempting to conceal unfavourable information during the job search, a termination or gap in employment can sometimes easily be explained. Terminations are common, often without cause, and prospective employers would be aware of this. While I would not recommend revealing upfront that you were terminated, if asked about the reasons for leaving a position, it would be safer to have an explanation prepared than to lie about it.

The second answer

Julie Labrie, President, BlueSky Personnel Solutions, Toronto

From a recruitment perspective, this is not common practice. Legally, too, I’ve confirmed with Natalie MacDonald, a leading Toronto-based employment lawyer and founder of MacDonald & Associates, that prospective employers are not entitled to ask for ROEs, as they may contain confidential information, which is protected through privacy laws.

The back and forth requests to block and then unblock confidential information is also very strange. If you think you weren’t offered the job based on your ROE, you may have a civil or human-rights claim, so it could be worthwhile to speak to an employment lawyer.

It’s also worth dispelling two common myths here.

First, many job seekers fear that if they’ve been let go, no one will want to hire them. This is a myth. Hiring managers recognize that the fit may not have been right, or business needs could have changed. Any number of factors could have been at play. They generally won’t hold such dismissals against a jobseeker.

Second, in contrast, even tiny fibs by jobseekers are universally frowned upon and can lead to job offers being rescinded. Beyond HR protocols, remember, nothing is ever really “off the record.” You never know who your prospective employer knows. Your new boss could be old friends with colleagues from your previous job and the truth could surface in the most casual conversations.

The lesson for next time: Your best bet is to always be upfront and honest during your job search.

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