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Is it a good idea to explain about harassment at previous jobs?

You were sexually harassed at a previous job and quit the position because of it. Now you are making the interview rounds again and facing questions such as, "Why did you leave your previous employer?"

Could it be a good idea to explain about the harassment at your old job? In general, it is a topic you probably should stay away from in job interviews.

Why disclosure can be tempting

To be sure, it may prove tempting to jump into an explanation of the harassment and how unfairly you were treated. You may also think that it gives you an advantage in that you clarify an intolerance against discrimination. However, these types of disclosures can hurt you down the road if you pursue a legal case against your former employer. For example, you may describe a situation differently to the interviewer to make it sound not as bad as it was. Talking about being harassed also gives the current interviewer an opportunity to learn things he or she is not legally allowed to ask about.

The interviewer may also wonder if you are the type of applicant who badmouths previous employers or if you will sue the new company for harassment or discrimination.

What you can do instead

What are your options when you are trying to explain having been at your job only three months or why you left a longtime job so suddenly? One thing to do is meet with a lawyer even if you are not interested in pursuing a case. It could be that building a case might prove easier than you thought, or the lawyer can advise you on how to handle the discussion of your harassment going forward. Also, take care of yourself emotionally. Dealing with harassment is hard, and your life has already changed drastically because of it.

Answers such as, "The workplace culture was not a good fit," might be successful. If you are still employed at the place where you are being harassed, you could say, "This position with your company opened up, and I wanted to explore it. I have always wanted to work here."

If you find yourself in this situation, a consultation with an experienced employment law attorney can offer you personalized advice fitting of your situation. 

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