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Does an employer have a legal obligation to give me a reason why I am not eligible for rehire?

Monday June 17, 2013
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Dear Nancy,

I gave a two-week notice and resigned a position I held for four years. I had another job for two months, but was laid off due to lack of work. I've submitted more than 40 applications but have not been able to even get an interview. The HR department of the employer where I worked for four years told me that I was not eligible for rehire. Does that employer have a legal obligation to give me a reason why? If so how do I get them to tell me? Knowing that now explains why I cannot find a job. They are my most recent job reference and I have been giving prospective employers permission to contact them.


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Lorrie,

It is often difficult to obtain the information you seek from a former employer. If the state in which you work has a law that allows current and former employees to see their personnel file, the former employee may be able to obtain this information. This would be especially so if you had been written up or otherwise disciplined and those disciplines were in your file. However, even with the ability to obtain a copy of your personnel file, the form on which the job separation is documented simply has an area for checking rehire or not rehire — with no reason given notwithstanding whatever else is in the file.

You might want to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state to see if there is a way the reason for this decision can be identified. A letter from the lawyer asking for this information on your behalf might be enough of a reason to share the decision with your attorney. Or, it simply may be the prerogative of an employer to make this decision in your state and no requirement exists to require the employer to share it with you.

You can discuss with the attorney any concerns you have about why this decision was made. Do you have information that the employer, for example, disliked older workers, and you are an older worker? Had the employer not treated female employees fairly? These, and possible other motives, may become the basis of a lawsuit if the decision was discriminatory or based on false information the employer has shared with prospective employers.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.