How to Go From Hired To Fired in 5 Days

Bankrupt businesswoman crying desolated isolated on a white background

It's a job-hunter's nightmare. You finally find what you think is the perfect job. Maybe you moved your family to take what you thought was the dream position. Maybe you quit your old job. You start and, within the first five days, you flame out.

What went wrong? How could this happen?

Here are five ways you can flame out in five days, five things you can do if that happens, and five ways to avoid flaming out:

Flameout 1 - Failed drug test

You may get a job offer saying it's contingent on your passing a drug test. Most of us figure, okay, no problem. But there are lots of ways to fail a drug test even if you don't do illegal drugs. One of the weirdest ways is to get a "dilute" result, meaning you drank too much liquid. Yep. If you drink lots of herbal tea or water, you can fail your drug test.

Poppy seeds can result in a false positive for heroin or morphine. Cold medicines, allergy or diet pills can give a false positive for amphetamines. Took ibuprofen for a headache? You could test positive for marijuana or barbiturates. Taking hemp oil supplements? Do I even need to tell you that you'll test positive for pot? About 5 – 10 percent of drug tests give a false positive.

What to do: If you get a false positive, you can ask for the sample to be retested. If you gave a dilute sample, you should be allowed to give another sample. However, they probably won't give you much notice, so if you're a big liquid drinker you'll probably come back with another dilute sample. If you have a medical condition that requires you to take the medicine or liquids causing the test result, you might be able to ask for an accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act. A blood test might be more reliable, especially with dilute results. However, most employers have no sense of humor about failed drug tests.

How to avoid: If you're looking for a job, read up on drug testing and avoid ingesting things that will cause a false positive. Cut back on liquids. Disclose any prescription or over the counter meds you're taking to the person giving the test. In writing. Take a list with you. Most importantly, don't give notice at your job or move until you have a final, unconditional offer. Get proof in writing that you passed your test and that the offer is definite. They can simply send an email confirming you passed if they don't send you the results.Flameout 2 - Failed background check

Just like Flameout One, a job offer can be conditioned on passing a background check. If you have an arrest or conviction, even an old one, you can lose that offer. The offer can be pulled if you have a lawsuit they don't like, bad credit, bankruptcy, or inappropriate social media posts.

What to do: If the background check is done by a third party, then you have rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If the employer didn't give you the required notices, you may have a claim under this law. Some states prohibit employers from discriminating against you based on bad credit. If what they found on your social media was that you are pregnant, have a disability, or are of a different race, national origin, religion or other protected status than them, you might have a discrimination claim. If they found a worker's compensation claim or suit against a former employer, you might have a retaliation claim. Talk to an employment lawyer in your state if you think they did something illegal.

How to avoid: Don't put anything in your social media that you wouldn't want on the front page of the company newsletter. If you posted inappropriate stuff in your youth, delete as much as you can.

Flameout 3 - Job doesn't exist or wasn't what was represented

Maybe it's because Florida is the center of con artists and fraud in the universe, but I've heard from lots of people who moved or left jobs based on promises that never panned out. You think you're going to be a manager and find out you're a cashier. You think it's a permanent job and it turns out you were only temping for someone out on FMLA leave.

What to do: I wrote about this situation in Your Job Isn't What The Employer Promised: Is That Illegal? There may be some claims you have depending on the situation and your state's law, so check with an employment lawyer in your state about your rights.

How to avoid: Try to get your offer in writing. If you're moving or giving up a good job, see if you can get a written contract that specifies what cause for termination is and how long you're guaranteed to be employed absent cause. Do your due diligence and check out the employer before you leap.

Flameout 4 - They used you for your contacts

This is all too common for sales people. You're lured in, forced to sign a noncompete, maybe even after you start (which is allowed in some states and not others), then told to introduce your sales manager to all your contacts. Or they might just demand your contact list. Once they have the list, you're gone. And now you can't compete for a year or two.

What to do: Noncompete laws vary from state to state, so you'll definitely need to talk to a lawyer in the state whose law applies to your contract (usually in one of the final few paragraphs). You may have some good defenses to enforcement, such as fraud, unclean hands, and lack of a legitimate interest to protect. You may also have claims against this unscrupulous employer for fraud, unfair competition, antitrust violations, or deceptive trade practices.

How to avoid: Have a lawyer review your noncompete agreement before you sign. If you have a book of business you're bringing over, put in language that you get to take it when you leave and providing for severance for any noncompete period.

Flameout 5 - New boss doesn't want you

Sometimes you just don't click with a new boss. It happens.

What to do: Look around and see who the boss does click with. If the co-workers they get along with are of a different race, age, sex, national origin, religion or other protected class from you, then you might have a discrimination claim. While bullying isn't illegal, your workplace bully might be breaking the law.

How to avoid: The Internet is a wonderful place, and one of the things you can do is check out the boss before you leap. There are companies that rate bosses, so if yours is particularly bad you might find them online. You can also ask any current and former employees you know of for a truthful overview of what to expect.

While flaming out of a job in five days is a nightmare, you just might have some legal claims if it happens. Hopefully, next time you can avoid getting into a bad situation.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.

Please note: Anything you write to me may be featured in one of my columns. I won't be able to respond individually to questions.

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