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Lying on the Employment Resume

Lying on the Employment Resume

Kayla Baxter | HRPeople

September 04, 2009

Ms. Morin remarked, “My inclination is that knowingly using this service would amount to fraud by the employee if the employer could prove that it hired employee because of some of the fabricated information and then suffered some pecuniary detriment as a result of its reliance on the false information – then the employer could recoup the salary/wages it paid you, plus any other damages it sustained – even punitive. Likely though, the employer would probably just fire the employee, and give a terrible reference.”

CareerExcuse does take care to anticipate those legal types of questions, though. Here’s an excerpt from their FAQ:

Is misinformation on a resume illegal? No. Since a resume is not a legal document, it is not illegal to misrepresent on a resume.

Can I get caught and fired? We can’t guarantee that you won’t and not liable if you do. If you get the job in the first place… we did our part. It’s up to you to act responsible after you get the job.

You make any guarantees or promises? We can’t guarantee you a job. But, we do guarantee the best outsourced references at the best price anywhere, and we will do our best to help you get what you want….a job!

Is It Illegal?

Surprisingly, the legal framework of CareerExcuse’s business is solid- except for their fake diploma offerings. According to law, falsifying information on a resume is not illegal unless you’re lying about your educational credentials.

Falsifying your work experience could, however, almost certainly get you fired, not to mention the fact that your lack of experience might lead to incompetence at a new job that would be telling and risky in and of itself.

We researched the matter and came up with a 2001 legal study on lying on the employment resume, which stated:

The study concludes that it is illegal to commit résumé fraud only if the job seeker (1) is claiming an educational credential from a “diploma mill,” a bogus institution and (2) is using the résumé in a state that has enacted legislation to discourage the activities of these schools. However, an employer may be within its legal rights to terminate an employment relationship based upon misrepresentation of qualifications, depending upon the state and the nature of the falsification.

According to the study, 11 states have legislation in place to discourage diploma mills. The same study cites a cautionary tale called Sarvis v. Vermont State Colleges, a case decided by the Vermont Supreme Court in 2001. Excerpt follows:

The defendant in this case, Robert Sarvis, was an adjunct professor of the Community College of Vermont. In his application for employment, Sarvis misrepresented his prior business experience and also stated that he was particularly qualified to teach “business law and business ethics” (Sarvis, 2001). In fact, prior to commencing his employment in Vermont, Sarvis had served more than three years at the Allenwood prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He had been convicted of five counts of bank fraud, sentenced to serve 46 months in prison, and ordered to pay $12 million in restitution to five banks. None of these details were described in his résumé submitted to the Community College of Vermont.

Only after Sarvis’s probation officer alerted College authorities concerning the criminal history did they learn of their employee’s past conduct. The College immediately terminated Sarvis’s employment. He responded by suing the College, claiming breach of contract and wrongful termination. In its ruling, the Vermont Supreme Court decided in favor of the College, stating that “We have held that dishonesty can provide reasonable grounds for a just cause termination” (Sarvis, 2001).

What Does HR Think?

We interviewed Norma Stein, the Vice President of HR at SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, to get an insider’s take from the other side of the interviewing table.

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