"I don't think they can find out why you were fired..."
No law prevents employers from asking or discovering why you
were fired, AND taking it into account. Do all you can to try and
not get fired.
"By law, the only information they can get from your other
employers is the dates you worked there and whether or not they
will rehire you.
Not at all true. Pay, raises you got, dates, job titles,
quality of work, etc. There's a lot that they can ask. More than
they can't in fact. It's just that most companies won't readily if
at all give it.
"If the new employer contacts the old employer, it is illegal
for the old employer to give out detailed information"
There is no such law. See above. Neither employers nor
individuals can be successfully sued for reporting facts honestly,
regardless of the harm the truth causes.
"Technically they are not allowed to ask a previous
employer why you are no longer with them"
Still wrong. See above.
Criminal records kept by the court system are public records and
are generally available to employers. The only restriction given by
the FCRA is that an arrest record that is over 7 years old cannot
be included in an employment check. However the FCRA gives no time
restriction on an actual criminal conviction.
Employers may request court records from every jurisdiction
where the candidate has lived. Typically employers use a consumer
reporting agency to do the criminal check for them. Laws on
checking criminal history vary from state to state.
The answer to this question depends in large part on the state
you live in. State laws differs on what they allow previous
employers to communicate to prospective employers about employees.
Some states, in fact, have passed laws protecting previous employer
from liability when the make a good faith effort to communicate to
a prospective employer the factual reasons why an employee was
terminated, even if it reflects poorly on the employee.
Most claims filed by employees against previous employers for
giving out information to prospective employers are based in
defamation (libel, if in writing, or slander, if spoken). Fact is
an absolute defense to a claim of defamation. So, if what a
previous employer says about an employee is true, the defamation
claim will likely not succeed. One of the reasons employers have
moved away from divulging information about prior employees is not
because they will violate the law by doing so, but because the cost
of litigating defamation claims of former employees can be very
expensive, even if the employer did nothing wrong. Many employers
just don't think it is worth the cost of litigation to share
unfavorable information about an former employee.
It is generally not against the law for employers (in
most states) to give out any information about past employees,
regardless of whether they left on good or bad terms.
However, most companies will not give out any information
other than employment dates, title, and sometimes their salary. The
reason for this is because so much weight is given to what a past
employer may say that if the company giving out the information
makes some kind of mistake, they can open themselves up to a lot of
liability from both the prospective employer or prospective
employee and then gives rise to costly litigation that companies
want to avoid.
If, for example, you were terminated for theft and the company
you worked for called and asked what the reason for discharge was
and the company said you left on good terms, and then you go on to
the new company and embezzle them and they find out later that you
were discharged for misconduct, that previous employer has opened
themselves to liability because they did not give out the correct
information. It works vice-versa too, whereas your past employer
mave have said something unfavorable about you that gave your
prospective employer reason enough to not hire you. This opens them
up to a liability as well.
Therefore, the vast majority of companies will not release
anything more than what I said above. I have worked for both very
large and some smaller companies in HR where we try to get this
information from past employers. They simply do not want to open
themselves up to this liability and make it company policy to only
give out the very basic duration of employment, title, and if
you're lucky, salary.
Sometimes some companies will make a exception to some of this
if they have a written authorization signed by you. But usually
this is only done for high level positions and they still will not
give out any valuable information regarding your particular job
performance or reason for termination. The only additional
information you might be able to get is was the reason for
separation voluntary or involuntary, or they might indicate whether
or not you're eligible for rehire (if they say "no", that's a dead
give-away that you were involuntarily terminated without actually