In the past two years, I quit two jobs and was fired from one without cause. I'm a senior-level web developer, if it matters.
The first, after a year working there I was significantly late being paid several times, so started looking for a new job. I received a better offer from a more established company. The last day, the owner and another employee conspired (really the only appropriate word) against me and tried to threaten me to stay (as they hadn't found a replacement) I didn't, and it burnt bridges.
The second job, I was doing great, had an exemplary performance review two and a half months in. I was told my skill level was above that of my peers, and they were talking to me about moving into a more supervisory/instructional role. Two weeks later I was fired without cause, and given no explanation other than "it's not a good fit." Several other recent hires were let go the same week.
Because I was fired without cause I qualified for EI (Unemployment Insurance.) After two months I had a couple of job offers, and took the position with slightly better pay and work from home three days a week, even through it wasn't the better cultural fit.
The cultural fit ended up being a huge issue. I was also given impossible deadlines, I wasn't allowed to work from home, my employment contract wasn't being upheld, significant unpaid overtime, I was given several new contracts to sign without remuneration. The icing on the cake was that my salary was being paid by a government development agency for one job, but I was required to do unrelated work for other companies that the CEO owned. Unethical at best, fraud at worst.
I tried many times to deal with this in a professional manner, but the situation wasn't getting better so I quit with cause during the probationary period, and reactivated my EI claim. The product was due to launch on the 15th, so I gave notice late September, for the 15th which was two and a half months in.
In that time, the CEO started spreading rumors that I was fired for breach of trust. I addressed the rumors with the CEO, they acknowledged starting them, and felt they were justified in lying so I walked away that day, rather than stay in a hostile environment. The record of employment they issued does say "quit."
The problem is now I'm left with zero references for my last two years of employment, and I was self employed for about two years before that.
I don't necessarily want to be self employed again, so how can I delicately address these issues in an interview? Should I simply tell the truth? Is there a better way of wording these issues?
Would or should these issues be held against me?