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THE QUESTION

Eight years ago, I was terminated from a position. At the time, I felt it was unjustified and I appealed the termination, to no avail. Since then, I have had two jobs and am currently employed at the second. I have wrestled emotionally with the idea that this termination is on my employment record. Is there a legal way to strike this off my employment history?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Stuart Rudner Partner, Rudner MacDonald LLP, Toronto

I can understand why this would be frustrating for you. Hopefully, I can provide some reassurance by stating that there is no publicly available "employment history." Although Service Canada does keep records of employment, this information is not accessible to prospective employers or anyone else.

With respect to your former employer, it would presumably have your employee file, though if it has been eight years since you were dismissed, that may well have been destroyed. And while a company representative might respond to reference checks by mentioning the reason you were dismissed, it would seem unlikely, particularly after so much time has gone by. Their file, as well, is confidential and they would not be able to distribute it to anyone else.

Obviously, if you had pursued some sort of wrongful dismissal claim against the company, that claim, along with the related documents and the resulting decision, would be a public record. But it sounds as though you did not do this, so none of the information would be available.

I encourage you to move on, as there appears to be no viable way to strike this off your employment history, since there is no specific employment history to revise.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Eileen Dooley Vice-president, VF Career Management, Calgary office

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Termination of employment is common. As a result, prospective employers are used to seeing gaps on résumés. They generally do not reflect badly on the employee, especially if the employee can explain the gap in a tight, non-emotional way. "My position was affected during restructuring" or "Changes in leadership resulted in the fit no longer being there for me" are common reasons to give. They are fact based, direct and generally do not warrant further questions. When emotion is rolled in, questions arise, so keep emotion out of it.

You have been successful in attaining two subsequent roles, which indicates that your previous termination is not affecting you on the outside, just the inside. There really is no "employment record" other than what the federal government issues for tax and employment insurance reasons, and it is kept confidential. Employers can contact your previous employers, but all they can disclose is that you were terminated without cause, assuming this is the case. It is highly unlikely any employer will say an employee was released for cause, owing to the risk of litigation for slander. Instead, an employer would likely say it is not in a position to provide a reference.

Generally, the only time prospective employers call previous employers is when a red flag is raised in an interview (they suspect you are being dishonest, for example), or they are fact checking. And even if they do call, one job termination is likely not going to affect your chances of further employment.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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