Favorite Firing: I Wish We Could Have Fired Her for Resume Fraud

Every so often there are news reports of job applicants who have padded their resumes to get hired or promoted. One of the most notable examples was Scott Thompson, former CEO of Yahoo, who claimed he had a degree in computer science from his college, though the college did not offer such degrees when he attended. When his misrepresentation was discovered, he stepped down from the CEO role.

Here’s another example of resume fraud from my personal experience. Technically, this situation did not give rise to a “firing”, but I wish it had.

from Wikimedia Commons

from Wikimedia Commons

The Facts: In one of the in-house legal jobs I held, we had a candidate for a paralegal position who had maintained a falsehood for years. She was a long-term employee in another department in the company who had told her supervisors that she was attending law school.

When our legal group had an opening for a paralegal to assist with document work in a large lawsuit, the Human Resources department suggested we interview this employee, whom I will call G.M. We interviewed her and she seemed to have the necessary skills, so we transferred her into our department.

In addition to document work, we thought we could use G.M. for some legal research. I asked her if she could handle a project I had. “Oh, yes,” she said.

The next day she fell out of her chair at work and incurred a back injury. The worker’s compensation case went on for months, and ultimately she left the company due to her disability.

In the meantime, however, one of the attorneys in our department was chatting with an acquaintance in the local law school’s admissions office. “We have one of your former students, G.M., working with us now,” she told the law school representative.

“Who? I don’t know G.M.” As an admissions employee for several years, this person should have recognized G.M.’s name.

Upon further investigation, we learned that G.M. had never been enrolled in law school, and had misrepresented herself to her supervisors for all the time she claimed to be in school. She wasn’t using any legal skills in her old department, so why she did this, we’ll never know. But she compounded the problem by maintaining her misrepresentation when we contacted her about our paralegal position.

And we got snookered because we didn’t do a background check before transferring her into our department. And were repaid for our naïveté when she filed the worker’s compensation claim.

The Moral: Check out the critical information in all applicants’ resumes, even if they are transferring within your company, particularly if the new position will require them to use new skills. It might be too late to check out after they are hired.

Once a situation turns litigious, as with an EEO or worker’s compensation claim, it may be too late to address the employee’s resume fraud. We had no basis for disproving that her back injury was caused by a fall out of her chair (though no one saw her fall). Under the relatively lax rules of worker’s compensation cases, the company was liable for her injury, regardless of her resume fraud.

Clearly, we wanted to fire this employee because of her misrepresentation. But the risk of a lawsuit alleging we were retaliating against her for filing the worker’s compensation claim was too great. All we could do was negotiate a settlement in the worker’s compensation case that resulted in her leaving the company.

Have you ever been caught by an applicant’s or employee’s resume fraud?



Filed under Human Resources, Law, Management, Workplace

2 responses to “Favorite Firing: I Wish We Could Have Fired Her for Resume Fraud

  1. In your recounting above, you never mention that she documented her law school “attendance” in a resume-just word of mouth. Without a written submission, wouldn’t it be hard to fire for fraud? Frequently, in house candidates don’t submit a resume. If they don’t, this suggests that they should to protect the company.

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