THE LAW: What employers can do about resume padding or omission

By Wilford Stone, – Lynch Dallas

Jan. 15, 2023 5:00 am

Every employer needs qualified employees. What about trustworthy employees?

A recent survey found that 56 percent of people have lied on their resume, mostly regarding work experience, education, skills, and job duties.

Is a minor embellishment on a resume that big of a deal-breaker? What about candidate omission(s)? Details matter. For example, if a candidate with a recent history of violence does not disclose that information, an employer could later be liable for negligent hiring.

These issues recently came to the forefront of the news when New York Rep. George Santos admitted to lying on his resume, including his employment and education history. Santos admitted he never worked directly for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, as he had previously suggested. Nor did he obtain degrees from Baruch College and NYU, as he had also stated.

Santos’ response? “I’m not going to make excuses for this, but a lot of people overstate in their resumes, or twist a little bit … ” he said. Despite Santos’ deception, he does not intend to resign and was recently sworn into Congress.

Conversely, in 2012, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson was terminated after only four months when it was discovered he padded his resume with an embellished college degree. Thompson claimed to hold a degree in both accounting AND computer science. In reality, he only held a degree in accounting.

Thompson’s alleged fraudulent statement appeared in Yahoo’s annual report to the SEC. Thompson’s fictitious degree concerned Yahoo’s board of directors because CEOs are required to personally certify the accuracy of their company’s filing to the SEC. Yahoo hired outside counsel to conduct a review of the false statement. Shortly thereafter, the director that led the CEO search committee announced her resignation.

Background checks

Why is this information being discovered AFTER the hiring or election process?

Well, this is a good example of the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Employers should perform pre-hiring background checks to mitigate risk and improve the quality of new hires.

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Employers can easily locate third-party vendors to perform background checks. Vendor selection will depend on employer hiring volume, size, budget and the typical screening process. Employers should consider whether the vendor should also assist with any pre-employment drug screening or professional reference checks.

Additionally, it’s a best practice to tailor the employment screening process by position (e.g., requiring criminal, civil and credit checks for positions that manage money and driving record checks for positions that involve operating motor vehicles).

Employers also should also criminal record checks to assess whether a candidate may pose a threat to customers or employees. And with the surge in remote work, many employers have added “ identity verification” as an extra layer of security.

Employers who perform background checks in-house, should create a background check policy. Written policy ensures a fair and transparent process and may avoid litigation and enforcement from federal and state agencies. Sample policies can easily be located for free online.

Of course, any background check policy must be legally compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Additionally, state and local “ban the box” regulations may require an employer to delay background checks until after the first interview or conditional offer is made.

Moreover, because job candidates have rights under various statutes and regulations, employers should notify them of their intent to run a background check and obtain their permission in writing,

Post-hiring checks

Finally, many employers are also beginning to perform post-hire screening and background checks.

For example, certain industries such as child care, health care and financial services may be especially susceptible to risk based on an employee’s criminal behavior.

Employers could be at risk for negligent retention if they failed to act or terminate an employee when they should have known that an employee represented an unreasonable risk.

Accordingly, many employers update their background check policies to include post-hire screening and notify and clearly explain the policy to existing employees and new hires.

If you learn of any problem issues, be prepared to act on them and hold employees accountable.

Wilford H. Stone is a lawyer with Lynch Dallas in Cedar Rapids. Comments: (319) 365-9101;