Resume puffery: Hiring managers have seen plenty of it. But what happens when it isn't puffery but outright fabrication? That's the question facing one board of a Southern Maryland county school district where the CIO is accused of falsifying both her educational credentials and employment history in order to land the job. Employment law attorney Mark Saudek, an associate with Hogan and Hartson, in Baltimore, offers some advice for managers when an employee's resume isn't worth the digital space it's e-mailed in.
1. Follow company policy
When a resume falsehood comes to light, "talk to someone who has dealt with this situation on a regular basis, HR for example," Saudek says. Most companies have a policy in place that makes lying on a resume or job application grounds for immediate dismissal. That policy is often incorporated as part of an employment application. Also be sure, advises the attorney, to review any employment agreement for termination clauses before taking any action.
2. Confirm the lies
"Everything on a resume is objectively verifiable," Saudek says. When you suspect an employee lied on his or her resume, contact the school or former employer. In some instances, you'll need a written liability release signed by the employee to give to the organization. If such a release wasn't part of the employment application, then prepare a simple one for the employee to sign, Saudek says.
3. Confront the employee
Handle the meeting behind closed doors with an HR representative or, at the very least, a supervisory manager from another department present. "Pull the person in, close the door, and tell that employee that 'we have a concern,'" Saudek says. Calmly detail the concern and wait for a response. If the employee denies the allegations, ask him or her to sign the information release. If he or she refuses to sign, "you have grounds for termination for that," Saudek says.
4. Keep the employee on board?
Good employees make mistakes. You may not want to fire the employee if he or she does good work and isn't a problem otherwise. If your company doesn't have zero-tolerance policy, you can probably find a way to keep the employee.
However, Saudek says, if you have previously fired someone solely for lying on a job application or resume and didn't cite any other reasons for termination, keeping that one employee on board can expose your company to claims of discrimination or wrongful firing by others.
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