December 08, 2000, 4:04 PM — Résumé 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 résumé isn't
worth the digital space it's e-mailed in.
1. Follow company policy
When a résumé 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 résumé 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 résumé is objectively verifiable," Saudek says. When you
suspect an employee lied on his or her résumé, 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
résumé 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.