A job seeker recently left a question in the comments section of Explaining Why You Left Your Last Job When Reason Is You Were Fired. She asked how to answer the same interview question if the real reason you were let go is based on discrimination.
While there can be many extenuating circumstances, each requiring a slightly different approach, I gave her what I think would be the best approach in general. Here’s part of my answer:
What if your last employer discriminated against you?
“An interview is a place to focus on the future and the new job. So if you don’t want to hurt your chances, you can use the techniques suggested in the “explaining why you were fired” article anyway [link above], and don’t blame a prior employer, even if they were in the wrong.
Find the most positive reasons and focus on YOU and your strengths as they match the needs of the new job. Look at whatever reason was used when you were fired (even if the underlying reason was different), and build your answer based on that, focusing on how you’ve overcome / learned / improved / moved on for better or whatever paints the most positive picture of how you handle obstacles and move on toward the future.
As for the discrimination itself, if you truly feel you were treated unjustly and want to hold your prior employer responsible, you can look into filing a lawsuit [separating this from your interviews]. No one should get away with discrimination. Just be very sure that you want to do this and have ample evidence, since you are starting something that may go on for a long time and may even affect your new job: EEOC ~ Filing a Lawsuit
But remember … what often serves you best [no matter who done who wrong] is to get yourself to a new job where you are appreciated and get “revenge” by being a star. So do what you need to do, and then leave the past where it belongs to make room for new beginnings.”
A few more thoughts
I don’t want you to think I’m saying it’s ok for an employer to discriminate. Employees should never be treated badly for any reason, including things protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
You need to do what meets YOUR needs and values. Do you truly want to step forward and dedicate your time and energy to fighting what you believe to be a clear case of discrimination? If you understand the potential costs and have at least some proof or think the case is worth pursuing anyway, then that’s probably a cause worth taking on.
But if you feel it was discrimination and can’t prove it, you may wind up fighting a fight that gets you nothing, stays on your record for future employers to see – and doesn’t further the cause for you or others at all. Maybe better to join with others, in a union or civil rights organization, etc. and let the power of many make your voices heard in the bigger picture.
One last word: I know sometimes what feels like discrimination really is, and that’s not ok. But other times there’s more to the picture. And maybe, just maybe, what feels like discrimination may have a touch of it (lots of idiots out there), but is mostly just a bad fit on both sides. In that case, moving on and making your own success elsewhere is, as I said before, your best “revenge”.
More articles to help