11

At my last job, which I loved for the first several years, the company I worked for started to have financial issues. As a result, they decided that cutting corners by committing fraud was the way to go. (My attorney confirmed it was illegal and that I should stay out of such practices.) I did not participate, but I was being pressured to do so. The final push came when they were forcing us to sign a document stating that we were to report any regulations or laws broken immediately to management. I felt they were setting their employees up. If the company was caught doing this fraud then management could say it was the employees' fault and that the employees had been warned.

I felt I had no option but to quit. I could not be part of a company that was committing illegal acts. Now I have a gap on my resume and after 3 months I don't have a new job yet. Two questions. How do I cover this gap on my resume? How do I explain quitting my last job? I don't want to get into the details obviously, but I don't want to be part of the long-term unemployed because I did the right thing at my last job. I feel like the whole system is rigged against me when I'm not the one who did anything wrong.

  • 2
    Not a duplicate at all. For starters, he's been there for several years. The issues when quitting after years versus a few months are completely different. – Chris E Oct 28 '14 at 20:02
  • Quick question, was there a regulatory system in place to blow the whistle to? – kleineg May 19 '15 at 20:29
12

I would state it just as you have "They were engaging in activities that were not just unethical but were downright illegal" though I wouldn't get into the details and only address it in broad strokes. There may be liability in sharing details.

As for the gap, it's not the best economy. I was out of work for a year and a half and still found work. Just be persistent and above all be honest. You can say "I knew that this potentially could give me a gap in employment but my integrity is worth more than the inconvenience of finding a new job".

  • Thanks for the encouragement. You're right, honesty (without details of course) is the best policy. – I Want To Be Hired Oct 28 '14 at 22:47
  • 2
    I would be very careful about making statements of ethicality or illegality - even without details, this could end you up in court for slander or defamation. – HorusKol Oct 29 '14 at 4:33
  • Perhaps and I agree that's good advice. Though I would personally still say "my attorney said..." in front of it. Also, it's a private conversation and I personally would not feel at risk as long as there were no details. Even so, if I had direct, personal knowledge of illegality and it made me choose to leave, I wouldn't let fear of litigation keep me from vaguely (but honestly) responding. This isn't even whistleblowing. It's just being (vaguely) honest. – Chris E Oct 29 '14 at 12:30
  • 3
    "They asked me to do things that made me contact a solicitor for advice. And the solicitor advised me to quit. " – gnasher729 Oct 30 '14 at 10:47
  • 2
    Very good but I wouldn't use the word "quit" I'd use the more diplomatic "seek employment elsewhere" :) – Chris E Oct 30 '14 at 12:15
7

Be careful about alleging anything about your current employer that's specific enough to land you in court for say slander, defamation, breach of confidentiality, etc.

Since you have access to an attorney, I'd suggest that you consult your attorney - you want to get a job not get into a fight that you can't financially afford. I expect that your phraseology would go something like "I was uncomfortable with the direction the company's management was taking the company, and after consulting my attorney, I exercised my right to leave" And then, you clam up "on the advice of my attorney" As long as you can provide the contact info of your attorney and your attorney can confirm that they were the one who advised you to clam up during the background investigation, you should be in good shape.

  • Thank you! Your advice was spot on with my attorney's. Thanks! – I Want To Be Hired Oct 28 '14 at 22:48
5

Let's assume I was interviewing you.

What you should say

The classic question comes up, "Why did you leave your previous employer?" It was perfectly fair to say "My employer knowingly asked me to do something illegal, I refused then resigned."

That really is a 100% justifiable reason with no further explanation required.

To be honest even if you wanted skirt the illegal part and say "I was asked to do some things are generally considered both immoral and unethical, I refused then resigned." I'd probably just ask for an example. (just to make sure considering it immoral was something reasonable)

What you should not say

Now because this it treading into someone's reputation who's already doing something illegal I would avoid details. Just confirm "Legal consult advised me to not follow my employer's request as it was almost certainly illegal" (Basically your saying "My lawyer said it was illegal" without actual saying your employer did something illegal). Sadly in places like the US saying anything specific like "Company X was committing fraud" can potentially put you in legal hot water.

Essentially, until such time Company X is found guilty of a crime you cannot say they committed that crime without risking defamation. (potentially for several reasons but we'll go with "innocent until proven guilty")

Time gap

Three months after leaving a job short notice to protect yourself legally? Yeah, that's not even a blip on the radar. I've known many fantastic employees who I've hired who just took a few months off working. Travel, personal development, kids, etc all good reasons. I also know really good people who were in no rush to take any job, they were picky about what jobs they'd even consider. Again, all good reasons. I'd ask why the gap just to watch for red flags, but you could say "I wanted to take a little while for myself before taking another job" and it's all good in my book.

My opinion

In the event I was hiring you this would all speak very well to me. I was never asked to do anything illegal perse, but I have been asked to do things that treaded dangerously into legally "grey" areas where if it wasn't illegal... it probably should be. In refusing to do what isn't right you've demonstrated strong moral character, I know that doesn't mean much in some places, but to me this is a very desirable trait in an employee. I find people who stand for what's right, tend to be people I can count on to be honest and stand up to me when I'm being impractical or unreasonable in expectations. (and I need that rushed code is terrible code)

  • Thanks for the encouragement. I will be honest without giving specific details or making specific claims. It helps knowing how someone interviewing me would see the situation. – I Want To Be Hired Oct 28 '14 at 22:51
  • Keep it mind everyone's different. There will be many who see things my way, and many who see this as you didn't follow orders / do what's best for the business. In my experience though you probably wouldn't want to work for that second group anyway, they tend to be the ones who nickel and dime you on PTO and expect you to put in 60 hour weeks on salary. – RualStorge Oct 29 '14 at 18:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.