I just recently resigned from a position on what I thought was good terms, but I was told that no matter when or how I quit, whether I give 2 weeks notice or not, I will be considered "Fired" or "Terminated".

Is this something common? Will it affect my professional reputation?

  • 5
    True story: I once worked for a company where the president would lie to customers about the whereabouts of an employee that quit. I was "travelling" for a few weeks until he couldn't avoid it anymore, at which point I "had to be let go". At that company it was the "norm". I would not expect it to be so anywhere else. Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 14:33
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    What do you mean by "marked"? Is this what they will say if someone checks this reference? You're not collecting any unemployment benefits, so they would not be accurate and look poorly on this company.
    – user8365
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 15:57
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    What part of the world is this in?
    – NotMe
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 16:29
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    Internally the company can mark you as 'eaten by a crocodile' if they feel like it. But in most parts of the world, if they start telling other people you were fired when you weren't, there will be repurcussions. Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 18:27
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    @Liath it does matter what the company tells their own staff internally because it may damage your reputation among their staff. There's a difference between "resigned" or "quit" and "fired".
    – Adam Porad
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 5:35

8 Answers 8


It depends.

Their internal employee database might make no distinction between former employees who left on their own accord and those which were terminated on the companies initiative. Considering that the real circumstances are often much more complicated than can be expressed with such a binary distinction, this might not even be the worst approach (the "Terminated" flag in the database just means "no longer working here, see employment file for more information"). When they do not want to make that distinction, it's their business.

It is, however, important when you get a reference letter. These letters usually contain the circumstances under which the employment was terminated, and lying about such facts in a reference letter is often illegal in most parts of the world. Especially because in some parts of the world, unemployment benefits might be affected.

Where I live (Germany) you are not entitled to full unemployment benefits when you resign without stating a good reason for doing so (reference letters often say that the termination was "in mutual agreement", which doesn't look as bad as "we sacked him" but still makes the ex-employee entitled for unemployment benefits).

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    +1 for the part about reference letters / external indications being different from internal record keeping, but +0 ;) , because I don't see how they could expect to keep the external story straight without keeping the external story straight. Keeping inaccurate HR records is negligent.
    – user17777
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 14:48
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    German reference letters (Zeugnisse) are quite peculiar and much more strictly regulated than in any other place I know (well, OK, maybe not Austria). To take one example, in neighbouring countries (France, the Netherlands), your employer has to officially inform the administration of the type of termination. No letter is involved. Besides, how do you know about “most parts of the world”?
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 6:08
  • Same here in The Netherlands (re. unemployment benefits)
    – user8036
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 19:27

In the United States it is a bit dangerous from a legal point of view to disparage employees who have left the company.

That's why most companies will reveal only the dates of employment of a former employee and then only if they have written permission from the former employee to do so.


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    Written permission isn't necessary. HR departments I've contacted will state dates of employment and pay rate at time of leaving. As you said, it is extremely dangerous for a company in the US to divulge any other information than that.. so they typically don't. This includes NOT saying whether the employee is eligible for rehire.
    – NotMe
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 16:27
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    Why is it extremely dangerous? I know there is some potential liablity but I seriously doubt there are regular injuries sustained due to giving good or bad references. Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 20:35
  • In the US you can be sued for anything :) If you stick to objective facts of employment, there won't be any issue. The moment you introduce any kind of opinion, someone could complain that it is untrue and therefore defamatory (and therefore deserving of $compensation!!)
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 13:29
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    "Why is it extremely dangerous?" -- Besides the ease with which anyone can file a suit in the USA, the vast majority of Americans belong to one or more 'victim groups', who have special protections against discrimination under our tort system. If you are widget maker, don't you want to concentrate on the widget market and not get sucked into an expensive lawsuit? Even if you win the lawsuit you really lose when you consider the time, cost, and damage to the employer's reputation. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 22:00
  • Cite per request: nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/… Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 4:02

I am not a lawyer, but on basic principles, I would say: absolutely not. If you end the employment contract within the terms of the contract, then that is just normal business.

The employer has NO right to sully your reputation in any way, any more than a shopkeeper has a right to claim that you have bad credit, for paying and leaving the store as normal.

To do so should, by all rights, be a slander / libel case. If they claim that they only have the two categories of fired or terminated, then it would still be libel / slander, if "only" by willful negligence.


No, that is not normal. It is totally dishonest.

In the U.S., anyway, "fired" is normally understood to mean that the company terminated the employment relationship because of misconduct on your part. I guess that could range from the truly serious, like beat up the boss or stole thousands of dollars worth of company property, down to minor issues like being late for work.

If you make the decision to leave, that's called "resigning", not being "fired".

In the middle is "layed off", where the company lets you go, but not because of misconduct, usually because business has been bad and they have to reduce the number of employees.

As others have noted, these days fear of lawsuits often makes companies unwilling to say the circumstances of your leaving, but simply to say the dates that you worked there, period. I haven't seen a letter of recommendation in many years.

The difference is also important for unemployment benefits: In most states, I think, you can receive unemployment benefits if you were laid off, but not if you resigned or were fired.


In short, it's not common, but it's not unheard of either. Depending on your employment situation (at-will employment or contract-based), you may want to consult a lawyer regarding wrongful terminations.

I've heard of companies doing things like this, and even in right-to-work states, it is unethical of them to do so. However, given that the company doesn't pursue anything further (i.e. blackball you), it shouldn't affect your professional reputation long-term.

Your best bet is to explain to future companies why you were "fired" by saying that you tried to leave on good terms (and explain why you decided to leave to begin with), but the company didn't accept your resignation and instead decided to fire you. A good hiring manager can understand your situation, given that you don't completely throw the company under the bus.

That said, if you find out that the company is trying to blackball you, consult a lawyer immediately, as it will affect your long-term reputation if you let it.

  • 1
    When I hear that "a company decided to fire someone who tried to quit", I'm led to believe that the the employee did something wrong, argued, shouted something like "Screw you, I quit", but the employer felt that the employee was in the wrong, so should not be allowed to quit, and should instead be fired. "Fired" / "Terminated" simply have negative connotations, that are NOT justified if you leave purely by choice, according to the contract terms.
    – user17777
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 14:45
  • True, but that is really for a shrewd hiring manager to decide, especially if/when they reach out to that company for a reference.
    – panoptical
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 14:47
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    It is NOT for a hiring manager to decide. The hiring manager's job is not to see through another company's lies. If the other company tells them something, that manager can expect it to be told in good faith. If it is not, and someone's career is on the line, that's a legal case.
    – user17777
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 14:49
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    "At will" and "right to work" are not the same thing, at least in the US. (The latter has to do with whether one can be compelled to join, or negotiate through, a union.) Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 15:35
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    @Lee: but depending on the law around hiring, it might be part of a hiring manager's job not to be obviously negligent as regards accepting lies told to him by peers. Or "collaborators in an illegal blacklisting network", as it would be presented by the prosecutor. You can't allow "we fired him" to become a common lie told as a euphemism for "we blacklisted him", because hirers all accept each others' word no questions asked. Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 17:28

"Terminated" simply means are no longer employed.

"Fired" has negative connotations that, as I understand it, could put the employer in serious legal difficulties if they said so when contacted by another employer

I'm not a legal expert but have been told that most companies will not give a reason for termination of employment when contacted. As it was explained to me, this opens them up to potential libel lawsuits.

I'm not sure who is telling you that you'll be labelled as "fired", but you might want to clarify this with them. "Terminated" really doesn't have any negative meaning in the job world. I would not worry about that. "Fired" is something over which I'd put them on notice after researching the previous paragraph :-)


As long as you can provide references, you should be in good shape. You experienced a normal termination. Routine. As an NYPD cop would say: "Keep moving, folks. There's nothing to see" :) Your termination was a termination without prejudice. At the other extreme, terminations with extreme prejudice are a wholly different story :)


Note that "fired" != "termination".

"Fired" = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firing = termination of employment by an employer against the will of the employee.

"Termination" (with no modifier) = is not necessarily an employer-activated occurence - there can be "mutual termination", "termination w/out prejudice" and termination by the employee.

Before you worry about this, get a very clear wording on what the status will be when you left. Don't assume that your former employer will tell everyone you've been "fired" when what they may tell them is that your employment with them is now "terminated".

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