Dealing with references from bygone jobs can turn out to be a difficult hurdle in the search for a new one.

QMy husband has accepted a new job out of town, and we will be moving soon. After we arrive I will be job hunting. In the course of getting ready for this, I called a former employer to confirm that he would serve as a reference for me. I was under the impression that I had left on good terms.

However, my former boss said no because he'd have to say bad stuff as well as good stuff. I was too flabbergasted to ask what "bad stuff," but I know enough about how the firm functions to figure out that, just like all the others who had departed, I had been made a scapegoat for the mistakes of others.

First, how do I address this "bad stuff"? I realize I'd look awfully childish if I got dragged into a he-said-she-said thing with a former employer. Is there a mature way of addressing this?

Secondly, what do I tell future employers since I definitely don't want them to call this company. I have three years' experience and ample good references at my current firm. Can I just skip giving contact information for this former boss?

APalmer G. Suk, president of Snelling Personnel Services, a Tysons Corner recruiting company, said this job seeker should not omit the troublesome company from her resume "because then you're going to have a gap in your work life to explain."

"I would be interested in seeing what the guy with the burr in his saddle has to say. I would call back and see what was on his mind," Suk said. "I would ask, 'What exactly did I do that was so bad? I don't recall ever getting any document or evaluation on that. Is there something in writing?' If you don't deal with it, it could come back at you. It's sort of like protecting your credit record."

Suk suggested that this woman also contact someone higher up than her former boss to let the company know that she is potentially being treated unfairly on her performance at the firm. If she is still displeased with the company's response, she could call an employment attorney to handle it.

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at bredemeier@washpost.com. Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.