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Picture this: Six months ago you hired a bright new employee. Her resume indicates that she is incredibly well qualified. She interviewed well and your manager reports she has been doing a great job since being hired. Then you find out she exaggerated her qualifications. In fact, she worked for her previous employer for only three months – not nine as indicated – meaning she was unemployed when you hired her. A month later, an inconsistency is found on another employee’s resume. This time, however, the same manager tells you the employee is not worth keeping and to use the resume fraud as an easy way to terminate employment, but you are uncertain of this approach.
Employment law 101 teaches us that like circumstances should not be treated dissimilarly. Yet the nature of the lie on resumes is likely to vary from circumstance to circumstance, as will the importance of the lie given the job. For example, Employee A saying he has a bachelors degree when he actually is 3 credits short might not be a big deal when the position being applied for is that of a janitor. That same employee saying he has certain building maintenance expertise when he does not, however, might be significant to the company and result in his termination for misconduct. Or perhaps Employee B has committed the same exact lie, but for an engineering position. Being 3 credits shy of a bachelors degree for an engineering job would be a significantly more serious offense than the same for a janitorial position and would likely lead to the employee’s termination.
No two exaggerations, lies, fabrications or instances of resume padding are likely to be the same. Investigating each incident, understanding the position (its requirements, responsibilities and duties) and making a reasonable determination based on all of the circumstances involved is a tried and true approach absent a universal policy of terminating any employee who lies to any degree whatsoever on his or her resume.
In Minnesota, employers can take comfort that courts generally consider resume fraud, interview fraud and other acts of workplace dishonesty to constitute misconduct under unemployment compensation laws, in particular Minnesota Statute 268.095. Even a singular incident of dishonesty can justify the loss of unemployment compensation benefits by the employee under the Act, thereby providing employers with some comfort that a well-reasoned investigation and determination of dishonesty in the workplace, even if only one time, may cost the employee not only his or her job but her ability to collect unemployment compensation as well.
Companies who are unsure how to approach employee dishonesty issues are welcome to contact Wessels Sherman for in-house training on conducting investigations and resolving these issues, or call and discuss specific scenarios as they arise.
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