Can an employer tell other employees why you were fired?

Updated on August 9, 2023
Can an employer tell other employees why you were fired

Being fired from a job can be a very unpleasant experience. I know because I was fired from my very first job back when I was a teenager.

I worked as a “sandwich artist” at a popular international sandwich-based restaurant chain that will not be named.

After about two weeks on the job, my shift manager came to me and said I wasn’t good at sandwich artistry so they had to let me go.

I felt bad about it and my self-worth suffered. I felt angry for being fired like this.

I remember how disappointed in me my dad was when I told him I was too dumb to assemble sandwiches from a variety of freshly baked bread and pre-sliced and pre-chopped products.

Also, I felt ashamed and I didn’t want my colleagues to know what happened but common sense told me that they would be asking.

They would want to know why a person was removed from the job. And I wondered: can my boss tell my coworkers why I was fired just like that? Well, here’s what I recently found out about this matter.

In the USA, employers are not prohibited by law to tell their employees why a staff member has been fired. If they find it reasonable and necessary, your employer can choose to disclose details about your firing to your coworkers.

So if you are in a similar situation, and your coworkers wanted to know from your boss what happened to you, they are free to say that you were fired and for what reason.

Of course, there are some more nuances to this situation so let’s take a closer look.

Can an employer discuss the termination of an employee?

Can an employer discuss the termination of an employee

As I already explained, an employer is free to discuss the termination of an employee with other company employees.

But can an employer tell someone you were fired? Someone who is not part of the company? Such as, for example, your potential future employer who is doing a background check on you.

Well, the answer is yes. There are no legal restrictions that will prevent your previous employer from disclosing such information to your potential future employer.

They will be in their right to talk about the reasons that led to you being fired. And this can indeed impact whether you will be hired or not.

However, they can choose to not share any information at all. These days companies will do anything to avoid lawsuits.

Therefore, a company might have a policy to not disclose such information just in case (even though they would be in their right to do so).

I am not a lawyer but from what I understand, the concern for them would be to discuss the reasons why an employee was fired and state something that is not true. Then they could be looking at a defamation lawsuit.

Also, the sheer incompetence of your previous boss and the HR staff that worked in the company might play in your favor.

They might not know that they can openly speak about why you were fired so they can decide not to offer any information out of lawsuit fear.

Besides, your ex-employer talking to your potential future employer about why you were fired is not the end of the world.

If you are a promising candidate, your side of the story is very likely to be taken into account as well. At the end of the day, it is your word against theirs.

Being fired is indeed dramatic but it doesn’t have to be a career-ending experience.

Can an employer say you were fired if you quit?

If you are somebody who is distrustful of people because you know from experience just how toxic things can get at work, then I understand why you’d look over your shoulder after quitting a job. Doubly so if your ex-boss is a spiteful and malicious person.

Can an employer say you were fired to your previous coworkers or to a potential future employer when in actuality you quit the job yourself?

No, they can’t do that. And it would be very stupid of them to say something like this because you will have the documentation to prove that it is not true.

Something like this can indeed be considered a defamation attempt and you’d be able to build a case in court. Also, take a look at the signs that might suggest your boss felt threatened by you.

An employer discussing termination with other employees is not a bad thing

An employer discussing termination with other employees is not a bad thing

Imagine that you have this coworker, let’s call them Dan. Dan is pretty popular at the office. He tells funny jokes during lunch breaks and doesn’t wear mismatched clothes. You like Dan.

But one day, Dan doesn’t show up to work. Later that day, you get an email from the department manager, saying that Dan is no longer part of the company.

The person in the office who was closest to Dan is saying that Dan got fired. The office becomes a quiet place and there is tension in the air.

This is something that I have gone through several times during the course of my career. It is very unpleasant and quite demoralizing.

That is why I think it would be better if bosses and supervisors openly talked about dismissals.

Understanding the reasons behind a dismissal gives employees closure and allows them to move on.

In case you are in the place of Dan from my little story, I feel for you. Going through a firing and being talked about can be soul-crushing. Here are the steps that you can take if you want to say goodbye to your coworkers when leaving a job.

The best thing for you would be to think about what lessons you can take from your previous job and move on.

Key takeaways

  • Employers can openly talk about an employee being fired to anyone.
  • In the United States, there are no laws against disclosing such information.
  • Your name can be added to a no-rehire list which can make future employment harder.
  • Employers are usually cautious when disclosing such information and fear defamation lawsuits.
  • If you have been fired from work, do your best to forget about the unpleasant experience and move on.
Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

3 comments on “Can an employer tell other employees why you were fired?”

  1. My ex boss told my ex manager (I took her job as manager after she quit) that I was being fired. She came and told me this on a Friday. Monday morning I was fired and now she's back at the job. I had issues the boss didn't want to address. Someone came to the store and threatened to kill me. It took threats from the police department to get video footage of them coming to the store the boss DID NOT WANT TO PRESS CHARGES. Went to court for that the person is in prison. The store was broken into twice and I lost phone service the first time. The boss knew for over a month why and never informed me. He couldn't understand why I needed a business phone. I was expected to call in orders from my personal phone. Never written up or told why I was fired. I was given my check and asked for my keys and I left. Currently waiting on a decision on my unemployment.

    1. So sorry to hear about that. I hope you will bounce back. In these cases, it is important to move past self-doubt and move forward with your next job. Have done any applications already?

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