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I may be facing the situation that I may be unemployed due to a lawsuit being filed against my current employer. The lawsuit will involve a whole lot of legal issues, from treatment of employees to tax evasion.

I am therefore currently searching for a new position, and the matter of why I leave can easily be handled for now: I wish to change companies, seeking new opportunities, while I do not mention the looming legal issues and the fact that it may bring down my current employer.

But in case the search takes longer than expected, and I have to explain how I lost my previous job: how do I handle the fact that the reason is an ongoing lawsuit? Will it be a case of "financial issues at old company"? Should I be prepared to go into any detail at all?

Edit: the fallout from the lawsuit may actually be the whole company going down due to financial and possible legal reasons. It's quite a deep hole the owner of the company dug for himself, and it's a former employee suing for damages to himself, as well as having dug up a whole lot of other stuff, including tax-evasion, breaking minimum wage law, and others.

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    I'm not familiar with German law. At what point, if at all, can a lawsuit be considered public knowledge? – rath Dec 11 '17 at 9:09
  • I wish I knew... I really only know the rule about not "discussing ongoing lawsuits". The whole mess is further complicated that I may be asked to act as witness, which involves me more than just "well, it happened". – Anon Dec 11 '17 at 9:13
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    Can you clarify why the lawsuite would make you lose your job? I can't recall of an employer ever having to fire people due to open litigation. Do you just mean that they won't have the cash flow to continue paying people because they're losing clients or their legal defence is too expensive? – Lilienthal Dec 11 '17 at 9:29
  • Their business failed and this happens often. Sometimes this can be a benefit. I for example like working for early startups. The fact that I've work for 5 businesses that have completely tanked is strangely appealing to interviewers. They can relate to the challenges, and like candidates who don't go running for the door screaming "I want job security!". I know this doesn't help you, but I'm just saying maybe it's not a bad thing. – user7360 Dec 11 '17 at 17:06
  • I love how the Germans are unforgiving with businesses breaking employment laws. I wish it was the same here. Are you positive you will lose your job if the case goes on? As far as I know (it was a restaurant) in many cases the business gets confiscated and re-sold by the state to someone that wants to run it. – Caterpillaraoz Dec 12 '17 at 18:13
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I'd say to keep your answers the same as what you are already planning - suitably vague about your previous employer and focused on you making positive moves for your career.

If the lawsuit has somehow come to the interviewer's attention through other means and they bring it up you can just respond that you are unable to discuss the legal case as it is still on-going.

This is called "Unlawful disclosure of facts subjudice" in German law and technically it only applies to verbatim reproduction of "essential" parts of official documents (for certain types of hearing) or where the court has imposed a prohibition on talking about it but erring on the side of caution and not discussing it is perfectly reasonable in light of this so I doubt any reasonable interviewer would press the issue.

Then you can bring it back around to "you"-centric reasons as to why you feel a role at the company you are interviewing with would be good for both yourself and them.

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The matter of why I leave can easily be handled for now: I wish to change companies, seeking new opportunities, while I do not mention the looming legal issues and the fact that it may bring down my current employer.

Don't do that. Good interviewers will either assume that there are things you're not telling them that reflect badly on you or they'll just ask you about details which you can't provide and you'll look evasive. You have a legitimate and understandable reason for moving on: "My current employer is struggling (financially) and my position there is unstable / at risk."

But in case the search takes longer than expected, and I have to explain how I lost my previous job: how do I handle the fact that the reason is an ongoing lawsuit?

There's no reason to mention that at all. "Financial difficulties" is a general and a common reason why people are job searching. Most interviewers won't ask further. Any that do can be shut down by saying something like "I'm afraid I can't discuss the details but they had to lay X people off / shut down my entire department." Replace for whatever happened in your case. Ideally you can point to them letting a lot of people go or that you were the most recent joiner on the team, otherwise interviewers might assume that you were chose due to performance reasons.

Presumably once a lawsuit becomes public record you should be able to say something about "legal difficulties" as well but German laws are notoriously contrived when it comes to who can say what about whom and I'm not intimately familiar with them so I'd avoid mentioning anything at all.

  • Exactly, keep it.simple. I'd find it hard to believe that anyone who knew of the legal issues the company was in would hold it against a candidate during an interview. If they ask about it probably the best is just to say that you aren't involved and want to keep it that way. – NotMe Dec 11 '17 at 14:38
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You state in the comments that your concern is the lawsuit may cause your company to go out of business. If that is the case your response to why you left your previous job is "My company went out of business for reasons that were nothing to do with my job." (Assuming that is true of course. If your actions somehow contributed to the lawsuit then you are going to have to do more explanation.)

If the interviewer tries to press for more, it depends on if the lawsuit is public knowledge. Lawsuits usually are, because they have to be filed in public court. In any case, I would suggest being vague about this, state "financial and legal reasons". They can look up the details if they want, but they are really only interested in knowing if you somehow caused the company to close down.

  • Reason for downvote? – DJClayworth Dec 12 '17 at 12:46
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I may be facing the situation that I may be unemployed due to a lawsuit being filed against my current employer.

If the lawsuit is pending, then my suggestion to bail out as early as possible so whatever reason you have, it's plausible. My previous company was involved in a potential lawsuit and they asked everyone to keep emails since they didn't know the circumstances of it. I'm not sure what happened to it, but never heard about it again.

If you stayed until the bitter end, and it's found the company is unethical, or breaking laws, then questions surrounding your involvement will come into play. If you bail out early, you can at least say, "I was never involved in anything and as soon as I learned of the lawsuit, I decided to pursue other opportunities." And that would be a true statement since you were never directly or indirectly involved with anything.

So far it sounds as if it is a potential outcome. You don't know what is truly going on and ultimately nothing may happen. However, given your question about the company, I suggest leaving either way and reporting whatever to the proper people. Keep in mind though it's fairly common for disgruntled former employees to speak very badly about their former employer so don't read too much into the lawsuit.

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If you divulge information on an ongoing lawsuit your current employer might decide to sue you (e.g. if this leads to loss of business - they might then try to blame bankruptcy at you. That your grievances with your employer are factual does not necessarily help in that case).

So you don't bring it up. Either the interviewer does not know about the lawsuit, in which case there is no need to bring it up, or they do know about it, in which case they'll understand why you cannot talk about it (plus they'll probably would not want to hire somebody who is indiscreet and thus a legal risk, so it is in your best interest not to bring it up).

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Different perspective: Once the lawsuit is public knowledge, you may have some serious explaining to do. Your current employer is doing something illegal and/or unethical and every employer will likely want to know what your role in all of this was. Even being a passive bystander is morally questionable.

I know a person in Germany, that had a similar situation. He was working for employers, that ultimately ended up in jail. He didn't actively participate in anything illegal, but he knew quite well that he was working for some bad people. He was just to lazy & cowardly, to deal with the situation. I would NEVER hire that person!

One thing you can do now, is to quit right now. That allows you to say "I left because the company behavior wasn't aligned with my own moral values any more" instead "I just went along with it, since they kept paying me". If you were a hiring manager: what answer would you prefer?

Of course you could evade the question: "sorry, can't talk about legal stuff". However, if you don't give an answer, the hiring manager will just have to guess. Even if the guess is "there is a 10% chance that s/he got his/her hands dirty", they will probably pass on you. Why take the risk ?

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    If you were a hiring manager: what answer would you prefer? - when I found myself in a similar situation a while back I was more concerned about what answer my mortgage lender would prefer. Just quitting without first securing another job isn't an option for everyone. sorry, can't take about legal stuff - depending on the specifics of the case it's possible that giving an answer could land the OP in jail, it might not be a likely outcome but "Why take the risk?" – motosubatsu Dec 11 '17 at 14:21
  • @motosubatsu: your mileage may vary. Your mortgage lender may be even more unhappy if it all collapses and you can't line up another job, since no reputable company wants to talk to you. Saying something like "our value systems were misaligned" is legally quite safe and most hiring manager can decode this perfectly well. I'm not sure how easy it was for ex-Enron employees to get hired after it crashed. – Hilmar Dec 12 '17 at 0:47
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    I'm not saying the OP shouldn't be looking for a new job ASAP - just that he shouldn't leave until he has something lined up – motosubatsu Dec 12 '17 at 9:09

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