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I was terminated from my job back in October 2019 because in August of that same year I did a price match from a paper sign on the sales floor on 2 expensive items that went over the price allowed for that time, in other words, it caused a financial loss to the company.

When I was called into asset protection to talk about this, I was also told that I did several "unauthorized discounts" (5, to be exact counting the main 2).

I explained how everything happened honestly and collaborated, I even offered to pay back the money that was lost because of my mistakes, but they said they wouldn't accept it. I was very nervous and crying during the whole thing, so I wasn't thinking straight. I kept asking what was going to happen next and the guy questioning me kept saying he didn't know while he "talked to his boss" on the phone and kept going back and forth from outside the room and back inside. At that point I thought he was calling the cops, so I panicked and decided to sign the papers they gave me taking full blame of the situation. It was too late when I realized I shouldn't have signed anything.

The next day after meeting with asset protection, I called human resources, and they took my story to do an investigation, called me in October 2019 to give me the news that I was terminated and assured that they wouldn't give details of my termination to other employers that called for references.

Fast-forward to July 2020, I got in interview for the position I've been interviewing several times for since I graduated from my bachelors in 2017. I passed it as well as the assessment and even got the offer! Today, however, the recruiter called me letting me know they had to rescind my offer due to the unsatisfactory background check. Several jobs I tried applying to ask for the reason why I left my previous job and even if they don't, I know that the same thing will happen.

Has anyone been in a similar or same situation? I don't know what to do at this point. Will I ever be employed again? Do I have to move to another state or what?

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    What does the whole signing paper story and details have to do with your question? Does the papers that you signed matter in some way to BG checks or anything? If not, I'd suggest you try to cut that part from your post and focus on the ones that do relate to your question.
    – DarkCygnus
    Aug 12 '20 at 3:36
  • 19
    Might be worth asking about this on Law too. I have seen a few posts on there before about laws and bad references, etc. If your ex-employee is portraying you as an untrustworthy person because of a couple of honest mistakes then you have a big problem.
    – musefan
    Aug 12 '20 at 11:04
  • 1
    @musefan The question is not about the legality of it all, so what's that going to help? I think practical advice at this time is more welcome, so it should stay here.
    – Mast
    Aug 12 '20 at 11:15
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    @Mast I didn't say it should move, I said they should look at legal options as well. I am offering advice to the person in a bad situation. Not being able to secure a new job is not a "oh well, sh** happens" situation. It's a potential career-ender and should be taken very seriously.
    – musefan
    Aug 12 '20 at 11:22
  • Do you know exact reason on what exactly they did not like on your background check? You might need to check on law.stackexchange.com or actual lawyer as well as depending on how did the company ran background check but I believe they might be required to provide you the clear reason of why they denied your employment as well as the copy of your background check. Could be something completely different that you think or if not you might find out what your previous employer say about you. If what they say is not true you might need to take legal action.
    – AlexanderM
    Aug 17 '20 at 2:52
52

Try to choose an employer that might background check differently.

I am good friends with all my past bosses, so I have been able to glean some insight into how background checking like this might work. For the bank, it was very formal process where they hired a company to go through my resume and look at the various things I had put down. My references/the companies got calls to verify my employment as well as comment on various attributes. The form was lengthy and all three requested assistance in filling it out.

That background check was very comprehensive. If any of the 5 or so people asked had given a negative answer on any of the 20 or so questions, I may not have been hired.

For my current job in government, they background checked very differently. I required a police report, a photocopy of my diploma, and for one of my provided references to return positive. They did not attempt to verify my employment with past companies beyond one positive reference and I know this because I got the offer before my other two references had time to fill out the form.

You would absolutely fail the background check process at the bank. As long as you chose references not from the retail job, you would pass the background check at the government.

Hiring practices differ dramatically at different types of organizations. You need to identify those where the hiring practices are favourable to your situation.

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42

Don't jump to conclusions.

The incident that you mentioned may not actually be what caused the potential employer to decide against you.

Step one is to inform yourself. When a negative decision about you is made because of a background check or credit check, they're required to provide the name of the company that performed the check. You have the right to a free copy of that report from the company that prepared it. Always take advantage of this. You can't improve your situation unless you know exactly what information that the employer was using.

Make sure that all of the information on the report is accurate. Inaccurate information can end up in these reports for reasons ranging from clerical errors to a former coworker misremembering details to outright identity theft. I had some negative entries in an old personnel file because a coworker got me mixed up with another guy who looks a lot like me. I knew a guy who discovered that he was erroneously placed on some sort of watch list because he shared a name and birthday with a murder suspect who was trying to flee the country. Incorrect information is more common than you might think, and employers rarely double-check the accuracy of the information in the report.

Some background checking companies may have their own processes for correcting incorrect information, but a lot of times you'll likely have to go to the source. In the event that you find erroneous data, warn future interviewers before they start the background check and give them the details up front. If your former employer provided information that is factually untrue, you may have cause for legal action against them.

Also, there are a lot of rules about what can and cannot be included in a background check. Make sure that your report doesn't include anything that is currently protected by law. Most of the areas that are allowed/restricted are defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Some states have additional restrictions; for example in California, an employer can't include your arrest record in a background check.

Before your next job interview, do your own research and see what an employer might uncover during a background check. A background check performed by one company might cover a different set of data points than a check from another company. Look for anything they could possibly find about you and make sure that it's accurate and truthful. In cases like social media where you have control of what content is accessible, remove unflattering content or make it only visible to select people. Social media is a good way to reveal all sorts of information to a potential employer that would be illegal for them to use during the hiring process (marital status, political/religious affiliation, national origin, etc. etc.). Don't give them the information they need to discriminate, intentionally or otherwise. Remove anything regarding a legally-protected status from social media or limit access by the public.

Potentially helpful links:

  • Privacy Rights Clearinghouse - lots of information about what can and cannot be included in background checks, plus your rights to access, dispute, and correct that information.
  • FTC Complaint Assistant - File an official complaint regarding any employer or background check agency who violated your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act or other federal rules.

If you learn that the incident that you mentioned really was the only reason that you weren't hired, then this should be something that you talk to the employer about before the background check. A background check only gives them one side of the story. Make sure you have an opportunity to tell yours as well. It's hard to change their mind after they've made a decision, so it's best to talk to them about it up front.

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    +1 for obtaining a copy of the background check report. The OP needs to understand why the check failed in order to prevent it from failing in the future.
    – asgallant
    Aug 13 '20 at 19:50
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    @JoeStrazzere That part was indeed worded confusingly, updated with clarifications, thanks
    – bta
    Aug 14 '20 at 1:56
  • If one was to ask for a copy of the report, as you suggested, would that be reflected in future background checks done by the same company? Aug 14 '20 at 7:42
  • @I'mwithMonica - I don't think so. Even if it was, I can't imagine that it would be detrimental in any way since you have a legal right to that information (similar to how credit reports work).
    – bta
    Aug 15 '20 at 2:02
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Since the background check situation appears to be set with little hope, your strategy would be to pick a job where the check is unlikely to become an obstacle:

  1. You may want to shift your focus to smaller companies, for example startups. Background checks are more frequent in large corporations, where they have the resources to do it.

  2. Depending on your skill set, you may also consider looking into other industries. With a bachelor, there should be plenty of choices.

  3. Look at what you will be responsible for when getting the job. If you will be holding key responsibilities, then it make sense that the hiring company will be spending more resources to verify your background.

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    The smaller companies thing carries some risk too. It is not unheard of that when smaller companies get bought up or join a larger organization that the new owners conduct background checks on current staff and terminate any with unsatisfactory results.
    – magisch
    Aug 13 '20 at 9:35
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Has anyone been in a similar or same situation? I don't know what to do at this point. Will I ever be employed again?

Yes you will be employed again. Even people who are convicted of crimes find jobs, though in their case they may be eligible for government assistance in finding a job.

You need to use people you know to help you find a job. They may be able to explain to their company why you are a good risk.

If you are unemployed/underemployed, use all the resources you are entitled too. The state or local government may have programs to match people with flexible companies. Churches sometimes have job assistance programs. Since you graduated a few years ago maybe even your school can help.

Do I have to move to another state or what?

Moving to another state, or changing your name doesn't help. Every application/background check form asks for the places you have lived and the other names you have used. They always ask if you ever have been fired.

If you lie on the forms and are caught, you have to assume they won't hire you. In fact there are cases of people fired years later when they are caught in a lie. These tend to be about degrees held, but a name change might make them wonder what else you were running from.

Today, however, the recruiter called me letting me know they had to rescind my offer due to the unsatisfactory background check.

As you know, they always ask the reason for leaving. It is possible that the old company isn't giving the details, but they may be obligated to say you were fired.

Don't let it get that far. Tell the new company before they get to the background check. They don't want surprises. When you haven't told them about being fired, and the report says you were fired, they expect you are hiding other things.

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    "Yes you will be employed again. Even people who are convicted of crimes find jobs, though in their case they may be eligible for government assistance in finding a job." So, become a criminal? Or just a politician?
    – Rich
    Aug 12 '20 at 23:47
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Unfortunately you may need to see a lawyer. Normally if you are fired then a previous employer won't do more than confirm you worked there, but it sounds like the fact that you signed something is allowing them to say more.

Obviously signing under duress invalidates the signature, but you may need a lawyer to help you get it straightened out.

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    @JoeStrazzere: That is making a massive assumption that they are actually being honest though. Besides there could be plenty of grounds for unfair dismissal too. If this is a problem effecting future employment, then legal advice may be exactly what is needed. Even if the result is to clarify "there is nothing you can do".
    – musefan
    Aug 12 '20 at 11:08
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    @JoeStrazzere: All I am saying is legal action may be a perfectly valid option depending on the exact situation (which we don't really know for sure). And a suggestion of doing so (as per this answer) shouldn't be discarded so easily. If your ex-employee is telling people you were fired for gross misconduct, then while that may be an honest statement, it doesn't mean that they actually had a legal right to do so in the first place. If you can prove otherwise, then they would need to change their reasons for you leaving, and that would already solve a big part of the bad reference.
    – musefan
    Aug 12 '20 at 11:39
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    States offer varying level of immunity against lawsuits by former employees regarding what an employer can say / write about former employees. Here's a summary of what can be said in various states. Aug 12 '20 at 12:14
  • Unless the OP has five thousand dollars lying around that she doesn't need, I doubt that this advise would be useful. Also, the USA doesn't have any "loser pays" laws, so the OP would likely be out that money, with nearly no chance of recovery. Aug 12 '20 at 17:00
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    In general, a company will answer two questions regarding a former employee: 1) confirming the dates of employment, and 2) "Is the employee eligible for re-hiring?". The second is universally understood to be a way of asking if the employee was fired for cause/quit before they could be fired, without running afoul of any defamation or employment laws.
    – Mark
    Aug 12 '20 at 21:20
2

Ask an employment law lawyer to see if you can expunge the record. They will know the details about what you can do, and cleared records will not show up on a normal background check. If not, be honest and explain the situation to the employer. People make mistakes, and showing them that you have learned from your past mistakes and that you have changed is important.

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Background checks are performed with a valid reason so one should focus to become eligible/pass instead of any other remedies.

To overcome an unsatisfactory background check...

  1. HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY - means you shall be honest during an interview and make them aware of your this past experience. You can ask the interviewer to explain their policies to such matters (of fraud detection or investigations) so that you can assure confidently (to employer and yourself) that you can do this job and will be extra careful when the scenario of such incident forms.

  2. If you cannot find a job earliest (due to this background check reason), maybe you should secure few jobs in other fields for a while (which helps you clean the slate by writing new history) and then consider back to your desired field (you will have buries your past with new recent history - this will help but will not be 100% clean history). Changing jobs frequently may have own disadvantages depending on your field & country.

  3. DIFFICULT choice - If you want to give a challenge yourself, you can meet the manager or boss of your ex-organization and explain to them that you were forced/made to sign that document taking full blame during that cloudy situation. You can ask them to observe and confirm if the fraud/discount incidents stopped after you left the organization or not. If they understand that such incidents have not stopped after you then they may consider offering clean testimonial or job back to you. But this path will not be easy and you will have to face yourself first on every step.

  4. EASY choice - BE YOUR OWN BOSS - means start your own (small) business by alone or take some help with friends or other people like you. Synergising your ability/skills will definitely help you grow. In future, you will see yourself that you don't need a job and will need not go through a background check.

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  • @GrumpyCrouton it's easy to choose, not necessarily easy to perform I would say
    – bracco23
    Aug 12 '20 at 14:31
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    Blind honesty can backfire. He currently has no idea what in the background check(s) is getting his application quashed. Volunteering additional negative info seems like a surefire way to torpedo himself.
    – iheanyi
    Aug 12 '20 at 14:59
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    "Background checks are performed with a valid reason"--in a substantial minority to (I would argue) a majority of cases, this is simply incorrect. Background checks are frequently misleading, often discriminatory, and (if performed without giving the subject a chance to dispute the check or explain the situation) serve only to prevent otherwise-qualified people from being hired. The most positive spin one can take is that they're a CYA measure.
    – Tiercelet
    Aug 12 '20 at 16:03
  • @GrumpyCrouton Yeh, it's easy nowadays to start own business and gain finance+time control over life. Every business does not need huge funds & manpower & machinery to start with. Sales skills are essential skills which Aimee already has. On top of that, Aimee will be able to make own rule-sets and will have a better chance to understand employer & employee terms and why was the background check process invented. Little struggle in everything is an essential part of life and considering Aimee has already some struggle now.
    – JPI
    Aug 13 '20 at 3:34
  • @JPI For sales skills to be relevant, you have to have something you can sell and a place to sell it. That's hard to come by, especially during a job search while jobless. Aug 13 '20 at 11:35
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A background check should be checking court records, arrest records (which is illegal in New York and San Francisco), and other things that are in publicly available databases.

If a "background check" was done in which they found the # of your old boss, called them, got them to reveal all this defaming information about you, then your old boss has defamed you (during the background check).

What I would do is get a lawyer with very, very fancy letterhead and send them a letter threatening to sue them to hell & high-water if they ever even some much as speak your name out loud or even think about speaking your name out loud.

Tell them you have evidence (even if you don't) and BE REALLY AGGRESSIVE. Like crazy aggressive. And then move on. Just let it go and pretend it never happened.

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  • oh and the paper you signed was obviously signed under duress so that's bupkiss, just tell them that you wipe your ass with that contract because clearly there was not a meeting of the minds on equal footing when you signed it so it can be considered null & void.
    – Jason FB
    Aug 15 '20 at 1:55
  • In the US, truth is a solid defense against defamation, and statements signed by the person are the best kind of evidence that they are true. So this would be an uphill fight legally. Aug 15 '20 at 7:47
  • if someone takes a gun to your head— literally or metaphorically— and says "sign these papers OR ELSE" then there is no "meeting of the minds" and there is no "equal footing" on which two parties can negotiate. Contract null & void, boom.
    – Jason FB
    Aug 19 '20 at 12:56
  • DON'T ASSUME THE LAW EXISTS TO PROTECT THE RICH BIG GUYS.
    – Jason FB
    Aug 19 '20 at 12:57
  • it exists to protect the little guy just as much. Don't listen to the corporate SIMPS trying to keep you down. Know your rights. Fight. Do not accept what they tell you as blind faith.
    – Jason FB
    Aug 19 '20 at 12:58

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