our HR director might be a pathological liar

A reader writes:

I’d really appreciate your advice and guidance with a big secret I’ve had to keep at work. I’m an assistant-level employee in a small, California-based publishing company. We have about 30 employees and our HR director, “Jane,” does double duty as the HR and finance director. As such, she manages all personnel issues as well as manages our budget, expenses, and accounting department.

Jane has always been known as someone who tells interesting and crazy stories, but I’m worried that her quirky stories are signs that she is a pathological liar and possibly doing something to endanger the financial health of the company.

The source of my worry comes from a weird incident that only I and a few other employees know about. Jane is a retired army veteran and has told a lot of stories about her time in deployment. Last Veteran’s Day, she sent all-staff email with a photo of herself and proceeded to tell everyone that the photo was taken on her last day of service in the army. In the email she explained how you can see the “anguish” on her face in the photo and that her last day was marked by an ambush attack in which she successfully saved her team from a car explosion. A lot of people commended her for her honesty and candor, but one or two people questioned if the photo was actually of her since it did not really look like her.

Fast forward a few months later and an employee found a news article that included the EXACT SAME photo that Jane sent to us with her story about the ambush. In the article, the photo had a caption with the woman’s name included and of course, it was not the same name as Jane’s. An employee did some digging and found a LinkedIn page for the real woman in the photo and confirmed that she is a real person who was actually in the army, and had no relation whatsoever to Jane. It was crazy to those of us who found out that she would try and sell a story about the “anguish” on her face in the photo and relate it to her last day in the army when in truth it wasn’t even her in the photo. Moreover, it makes me wonder — if she lied about this, what else is she or has she lied about?

This was the first major red flag that set off a series of other red flags that makes me think this coworker is a pathological liar, narcissistic liar, or something else entirely that makes her an unethical choice for handling our finances.

All employees are given a yearly bonus based on the amount of time they worked in that year. For instance, last year I started in June so I received 50% of that year’s annual bonus. Jane began at the company a month before me in May, yet she still received 100% of the bonus. The accounting manager noticed this but said he was too scared to ask her why she gets 100% because she is his boss and he finds her intimidating.

Also, she recently got company approval for tuition reimbursement to take theology courses. These courses have nothing at all to do with her job and she will be studying to become a minister, but the company will reimburse her up to $5,200/year in tuition expenses. No one knows how she got approval for this because another employee also asked for tuition reimbursement for an accounting program relevant to his job and he had to go through various rounds of presentations to management for why they should accept his proposal.

Recently, she held an HR meeting with non-exempt employees explaining the rules of travel as a non-exempt employee (I’m non-exempt). She said that California law requires the company to pay for eight hours of travel time if it falls during standard business hours. I mentioned that later this year, I’ll be taking a flight that will be a minimum of 10 hours travel time. She said I would only be paid for eight hours of those 10 and that the rest of the travel time would be unpaid even though I am still traveling for work. A lot of the non-exempt employees left the meeting confused and doubtful that she was telling us legal, truthful information.

What’s most troubling is that Jane controls our finances and budgets. She gives the final recommendations for things like the cost of living increase and annual bonuses, as well as creates company policies (like the non-exempt policies) in her dual role as the HR director.

I’m starting to get increasingly discouraged from my work, because so many people in the office commend her for her wit and professionalism, when they have no idea about her lies. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep this a secret and I’m worried that management will find nothing wrong with her lies if it does come out, since it might not have a direct relation to the business/financial matters. But its hard to believe that she isn’t doing something sneaky or sly without anyone noticing since we are such a small company and since no one suspects her of wrongdoing.

She has so many crazy stories that she tells that people find so interesting without realizing that they may not be truth. I’m not sure what to do, how to feel about this, and how to ignore it. Any advice you can give on how to proceed with this knowledge about her would be much appreciated!

This is a great example of how a lack of integrity in an area that doesn’t seem to be work-related can bleed into a person’s ability to do their job … and how that’s especially true for finance and HR jobs.

When you know someone is willing to flagrantly lie, it’s hard to take them at their word about anything they tell you. And when something appears a little confusing or potentially shady, any benefit of the doubt they might have otherwise had goes right out the window … and rightly so.

And sure enough, the information Jane gave you about pay for travel time is wrong. It’s actually correct as far as federal law goes (you have to be paid for travel time that falls during your normal working hours but not for travel time outside of that), but it’s incorrect about California law. California requires that you be paid for all travel time, no matter when the travel occurs. She’s probably uninformed rather than intentionally lying, but you need to be able to trust the person in her role to give you correct information … and you can’t.

It’s also possible there’s a legitimate reason that she got a higher (un-prorated) bonus and is getting her theology courses reimbursed. (For example, she might have negotiated the bonus when she was hired. The theology courses are harder to explain, but who knows, she could have negotiated that too.) Or it’s possible that she’s incredibly sketchy and unethical, and she approved these things for herself without the knowledge of people above her. And of course her lie about the photo makes the latter seem more likely.

As a relatively junior-level employee, you don’t have a ton of standing to dig into this or really to address it at all on your own. However, if you have a good relationship with your own boss or someone else higher up in your company and — this is key — you trust their judgment and think they trust yours, you could consider having a discreet conversation with them where you explain that you’re concerned Jane has given out info that’s not accurate (cite the travel time pay thing), and that other things have come up that have made you worry about her trustworthiness more broadly. Explain the photo incident, and that there have been other things too that make you question how much weight you can put on other info from her. You can frame it as, “I realize I don’t have all the information and there might be more to it, but when I see her saying things I know aren’t true, it makes me wonder about other things that also look a little odd, like X and Y (fill in with the theology course and other examples). Again, I realize I may not have all the information, but I felt I had a duty to say something since she’s in charge of our finances. If there’s no issue, I’d be glad to be wrong, but I felt obligated to flag it for you in case it’s something you want to take a look at.”

(The language at the end is so you’re conveying, “I realize this is above my pay grade and I’m not planning to spend a ton of time on this or pursue any kind of vendetta against her. Now that I’ve brought it to your attention, I’m assuming you’ll deal with it or not deal with it, as you see fit, and I’ll leave it there.” This is subtext, not words you’re saying literally.)

Beyond that, there’s not really much you can do from where you’re standing, unfortunately. But if nothing else, I’d start verifying anything she tells you about the law, since there’s clear evidence she’s gotten that wrong at least once before.

{ 507 comments… read them below }

  1. Rusty Shackelford*

    This reminds me of a commenter here who said they liked to greatly embellish stories about things that had happened to them to make them more entertaining (they called it embellishment; to me it crossed over the line into lying). That person didn’t understand why anyone would care, and I’m like… THIS is why people care. If you lie about little things, I tend to think you’re going to lie about everything.

    1. Jennifer*

      I think an embellishment is different from making a story up out of thin air, or inserting yourself in someone else’s story when you weren’t even there, which is what Jane has done. Embellishments wouldn’t bother me as much, depending on the degree. I think a lot of people do that to make a story a little funnier or more outrageous.

      1. CaliCali*

        I remember what Rusty is referring to. Embellishment, by its definition, is just gussying up the existing subject matter a bit; the story Rusty is describing tipped into fabrication (creating entirely new details and occurrences as part of the story). And I agree with the takeaway — it erodes my trust in you. Now in THIS case, with the photo, it’s just straight-up lying. I wouldn’t call it embellishment at all. (So really, I agree with you both!)

        1. Jennifer*

          I don’t remember the original comment so I’ll take your word for it. It just reminds me of the stories people repeat sometimes. It happened on a somewhat warm day, but when they repeat it, it was scorching hot and sweat was dripping from their face. Parents that walked uphill everyday to school in 10 feet of snow. Stuff like that.

            1. Batgirl*

              Yeah I have a cousin who thinks she’s embellishing, but she’s actually making fiction with real life characters.

          1. Gumby*

            Uphill both ways! Barefoot! No coat! (That was my dad’s version. He went to elementary school in Barstow, CA.)

          2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            I knew someone who often went that route while telling a story- a warm day would be scorching hot dripping sweat; leaving 5 minutes late would be rushing out at the very last minute trying to beat the clock etc.

            That person turned out to be a malignant narcissist and a pathological liar.

        2. JessaB*

          And if Jane is using that story to get anything tangible, it’s also illegal. In the US whilst they did have a ruling that said general lying and puffery about military service is a free speech issue, using said stories to get anything tangible of value is still a crime.

          OP are you sure she was even in the Army?

          1. RainBrain*

            I believe that with the federal government applicants who have served in the military have an advantage when applying for jobs – if this is something your company takes into consideration this might mean that Jane’s lied on her resume. I also think that businesses that hire veterans are eligible for tax credits (the Work Opportunity Tax Credit), so depending on the level of Jane’s lie (e.g. she served but lied about this event vs the whole thing is a total fabrication) and if your company took advantage of those credits would that classify as fraud? How liable would a business in that position be?

            1. Wintermute*

              The business is liable to check for a valid DD-219 discharge form when they apply for a veterans’ preference credit, beyond that they have no liability.

        3. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure I remember that story also – it was the one with the knocked-over cans in the supermarket, right? At least I remember that that one had quite the discussion trailing after it, too.
          I totally agree with how you differentiate here, CaliCali, with the embellishment, fabrication, and downright lying.

          1. valentine*

            it was the one with the knocked-over cans in the supermarket, right?
            Yes. Something fell, but in the storytelling, the entire shelf or display came crashing down.

      2. AKchic*

        Exactly. Embellishing is saying the fish you caught was 12 inches instead of 10. Lying is sharing a photo of someone else and telling them it was you, and insisting you were in a combat scenario you were nowhere near.
        Embellishing is telling someone you lost 5 pounds instead of the 3 you really did (hey, we just rounded up a bit!). Lying is letting someone believe you served overseas during a time of war when you were really stateside the whole time and your knee injury was because you fell off a plane you were de-icing because you were goofing off (oh, hi ex-husband #2!) and then try to hint that you’ve seen more action than you have, without outright saying so and letting others infer what they will (until the only person who knows better calls you out on it publicly).

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        No, it’s not the same situation, but it reminded me of it. It’s on the other end of the lying spectrum from this story.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Wouldn’t the other end of the spectrum be telling the truth? :)

          I’d say that LW’s coworker is the extreme end, and the embellishment is more towards the center, but perhaps on a sliding scale.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Ha! I was actually envisioning a spectrum of lies, from embellishments on one end to complete fantasy on the other.

            1. Wintermute*

              “A spectrum of lies” would be the title of one of my “friend’s” autobiography.

    2. Elemeno P.*

      Was that the discussion about redirecting people from a personal topic about an injury/illness with something ridiculous? Like, instead of talking about a painful, triggering car accident that caused you to lose your arm, you say that it was eaten by a mutant koala? Because those are very different circumstances.

      1. Jennifer*

        I think that’s an understandable embellishment. Sometimes here we advise people to bend the truth a bit to keep nosy people at bay. I don’t think that makes them a LYING LIAR WHO LIES!!!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        No, it wasn’t that at all. It wasn’t for any purpose other than to be “more entertaining.” It was like, the first time you drove a car, you misjudged a turn and ran into a ditch, but you wanted to make the story better, so you claimed you drove off an embankment and rolled over twice, and the first responder who rescued you said you were the cutest victim he’d seen that day and asked for your number.

        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          Yeah, the way I see it, there’s using obviously false or hyperbolic descriptions on purpose for some effect (comedy, sarcasm, deflecting nosy questions, etc.), and then there’s lying.

          I include “embellishing” a story with false details merely to make it seem more interesting under plain old lying, because in my experience, the people who do that also lie about a helluva lot of other things too.

    3. Laurelma_01!*

      I served in the Navy. I hate to see someone try to take credit for another’s heroism, etc.

      This is me, — I would be so tempted to make a copy of that article and sent it to everyone … if you could do it without it coming back to you. Make multiple copies and post through the office. Or just plaster her office or cubicle. Write in bright red letters … “Liar, Liar pants on fire”.

      Or take her email & forward to the soldier in question. Making sure to list her boss’s info as well her’s. I would be concerned.

      1. Venus*

        I’d be tempted to send it out to everyone with “Oh great news, I noticed that Jane’s heroic adventure was in the news!” and then act surprised (“Oh! I just saw the photo and didn’t read the actual article”) when they realize that it’s not the same person…

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I would be tempted to print it out and anonymously leave it on her desk. I know that’s the passive aggressive answer, but if her own reports are afraid of her, it would be what I would want to do.

          1. Venus*

            A good option too! I can’t imagine that calling her out openly on her behavior would end well, and if it’s done anonymously with just her then she’ll never know who left it there (and she can’t complain, because it would just draw attention to her lying).

          2. Life is Good*

            I like this way. She will see with her own eyes that she has been discovered and maybe will change her ways, but I doubt it. People like this do not do an integrity 180 that easily, in my experience.

          3. AJ*

            I might do that too. She then wouldn’t know who knows she lied and who doesn’t know. But she would know at least one person knows.

        2. AJ*

          Or say you know someone at the local paper and passed her story onto them for a write-up… “They’ll do some background first and then contact you. They love local hero stories.” … Just to watch her face.

          (Evil Twin is posting today.)

      2. Tiara Wearing Princess*

        This was my first thought too: out her with a company-wide email. From a newly created anonymous email account. Impersonating a veteran is despicable.

        I’m also looking sideways at her supposed theology classes. Who’s verifying that she’s actually attending any class?

        People like this are dangerous.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          It worries me even more that someone that lies so easily is studying theology, which is generally for people that want to be a faith leader. Those people should be truthful, trustworthy, and have integrity. Otherwise you end up with people that take great advantage of their position (which Jane may already be doing).

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            Sadly it does not surprise me in the least. That’s not a dig at people who are religious, but I’ve developed an interest in how various theological ideas came to be lately and I’ve run across an awful lot of charlatans and straight up liars who somehow end up as clergy.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              It makes sense because that role has a built-in congregation that relies on the clergy member for guidance and confidentiality. Clergy can have a lot of power. I don’t think it’s that the profession is automatically suspect, it’s that people looking for positions of power (that often seem innocuous) can be drawn to it there.

        2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          “People like this are dangerous.”


          I have learned this the hard way, unfortunately.

      3. Emma*

        I don’t think this is a direct violation, but sounds dangerously close to the Stolen Valor Act!

      4. NothingIsLittle*

        I would absolutely not do that, for a variety of reasons. The most important being that if that sort of thing were to come back to you (ie an anonymous email being IP traced or security tapes/clearances showing you were the only one in the building) that would absolutely be a fireable offense in some offices (mine being one of them). At that point, you’re not being a whistleblower. You’re stepping dangerously far into harassment territory, especially if Jane claimed it made her feel unsafe in the office. It won’t matter that she lied, what will matter is that this could very well be considered a threat.
        It also seems like a really bad idea to involve someone outside of the company in this. I can’t think of any laws it violates, like I worry about your first reaction, but it definitely seems unproductive and could go very poorly for the soldier in question if for some reason Jane were to go after her.
        I personally haven’t served, but my best friend’s husband is Navy and I know how mad he would be about someone impersonating a veteran/appropriating heroism, but this sort of solution, or any solution involving sending the article to anyone but upper management, has far more personal risk than seems advisable.
        Given that OP is assistant level and there are only ~30 other employees, I agree with Alison. I’d talk to someone more established (who’s been there longer and/or is higher up in the hierarchy) with the caveat that I had a good relationship with them and knew that they weren’t super close to Jane and likely to write off her lying. What that woman did is absolutely egregious, but this is not the hill most people want to die on and it could seriously damage OPs reputation in the publishing industry to handle this poorly. I’m not sure what type of publishing she’s in, but I interned in a university publishing house in the Northeast and word gets around.

        1. NothingIsLittle*

          It appears OP commented under the name “OP / LW” below. Given her comments, it’s clear that my suggested solution is unworkable. My hope is that she can quietly resign and move on to better things.

    4. Cafe au Lait*

      My aunt said “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” But the truth is that it took someone twenty-five minutes to get the punchline not that they’re faking credentials they don’t have.

      1. boo bot*

        It’s the first comment thread under this post: https://www.askamanager.org/2015/12/my-manager-keeps-exaggerating-about-me.html

        To me the distinction is: can people *tell* that I’m exaggerating? Someone on that thread used the example of saying “I ate 15 cupcakes” vs. “I ate 15 gazillion cupcakes.” Because the first one is plausible, the people you’re talking to can’t necessarily tell it’s an exaggeration. Maybe they were little cupcakes. Maybe you were really hungry. Maybe they had chocolate frosting. I dunno how many cupcakes you eat.

        But if you say, “I ate 15 gazillion,” it’s clearly an exaggeration for effect, because no one could possibly eat such a large number of cupcakes, and also “15 gazillion” is a pretend number (not an imaginary number! Those are real.) So, then I know you’re exaggerating – we’re on the same page, we’re both in on the joke.

        In the same vein, I get really annoyed when people lie about things that don’t matter, and that I also have absolutely no frame of reference for. Like,

        “I drove the blue car today.”
        “Uh huh.”
        “Ha! Gotcha! I don’t even HAVE a blue car!”
        “… OK, the joke’s on me?”

        I, of course, get more annoyed when they lie about things that do matter, like “I served in the army and saved a bunch of people at great risk to myself.” That’s… no. Just no.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          Off topic but this-

          a pretend number (not an imaginary number! Those are real.)

          – is just a delightful string of words. To confuse things further: imaginary numbers are real, but they are not real numbers.

          1. EinJungerLudendorff*

            And by pretending imaginary numbers are real, we can discover information about the non-imaginary numbers (who may not be real numbers, but are still real).

            If this all feels unnatural, that’s normal. Because the real numbers are usually not natural, and imaginary numbers never are.

            *Not A Mathematician

        2. Pebbles*

          I love your example of how it’s plausible that someone ate 15 cupcakes because they had chocolate frosting. Like, if the cupcakes had cream cheese frosting instead, then CLEARLY you’re exaggerating! :D

    5. Phoenix Programmer*

      My FIL’s side of the family has a saying: never let the truth get in the way of a good story!

      I’m a much better conversationalist now. My integrity is intact.

  2. Jennifer*

    Wow. I’m normally team mind your business when it comes to people doing things that are downright weird but that don’t really relate to their jobs, but Jane is a special case. I can understand why you don’t want someone who is a pathological liar in charge of Human Resources AND Finance. This is just a worst case scenario all around. I hope you take the advice and that someone senior to her does something. That was quite a serious lie.

    Not a hard and fast rule, but I’ve often found that people who do truly heroic things rarely mention them, especially in a group email to coworkers. They usually are kind of shy about mentioning their good deeds.

    1. Sarah M*

      The first words that popped into my head when I read that bit were “Stolen Valor”. I would not be one bit surprised if she didn’t even serve. In my experience (and as of this year I am officially an “old”), people who lie about the “little things”, lie about the big ones. OP, I would definitely speak to a grand boss about this. Bring copies of the Vet Day email and the news article, plus any other documentary evidence you have. Facts are your friends – especially when it comes to liars. Use Allison’s language.

      1. JessaB*

        I also went there, above. If she’s using that story to get anything tangible of value, it’s a crime.

      2. Laurelma_01!*

        Some employers will let veteran’s buy time in the service to add so that you can start in with a higher rate of pay, award a higher level of sick & vacation days. That might have played a role in the higher bonus. It should been based on her hire date only.

        I agree with some of the others, that it’s doubtful she served. You don’t take credit for another’s military service, award, etc., It’s dishonorable.

      3. Ginger*

        That’s exactly where my thoughts went as well.

        OP – this person is dangerous. Anyone who brazenly lies so easily and on such heavy, big things, isn’t someone I would trust my employment with. If I were you, I would start job hunting right now and go to the highest level with Alison’s script and ask that person to not disclose the information came from you.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Job hunting? For what? OP just needs to discreetly broach this topic with Jane’s manager (especially the travel time misinformation) using Alison’s language, and go about her business. There’s no reason for OP to leave her job at this point when she hasn’t even attempted to get Jane’s boss to rein in Jane’s behavior.

          1. Ginger*

            This isn’t behavior that can be reigned in. She’s head of finance and HR and is widely inappropriate on many fronts. Unless she is fired, I wouldn’t stay at an organization that employs (and tolerates) her nor would I trust Jane won’t retaliate.

              1. valentine*

                The fact the company allows this massive conflict of interest tells me Jane may be the tip of the iceberg. She’s like the woman who bankrupted a town to buy horses.

                1. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

                  That fraud was covered on “American Greed.” Jane sounds like another candidate for an episode.

      4. MMB*

        This. Stolen Valor is taken VERY seriously by many veterans, as well as those still serving. There are several websites that discuss it and/or actively ….investigate situations like this. Typically, it involves a person who never served at all but they aren’t fond of those who inflate their contribution either. I don’t know if the OP wants to open that can of worms but if I were in her shoes I might.

      5. dramallama*

        I also can’t help thinking she’s lying about her service. Just from a practical standpoint, I can’t wrap my mind around circulating a picture *that is noticeably NOT HER* and claiming it’s her unless she really doesn’t have a single decent picture of herself in a uniform. It’s just a whole other level of bizarre to me. Even buying a fake uniform and taking pictures of herself in it– that would still be horrifying, but it would at least make sense.

        1. valentine*

          I can’t wrap my mind around circulating a picture *that is noticeably NOT HER*
          A lot of people believe massive lies because who would tell a lie so large and so easily disproven?

        2. Former Employee*

          “Even buying a fake uniform and taking pictures of herself in it– that would still be horrifying, but it would at least make sense.”

          It might make sense, but it is illegal.

      6. Wintermute*

        I am not so sure she’s a civilian who is completely lying, I mean I’ve also known more than a couple of real vets whose MOS magically loses a number from 12 to 11 [for the unaware, that’s from driver to infantry]. It’s an easy lie to tell, you know the military, you know the lingo and equipment and can pass even in front of an actual infantryman, you might have even served on the same bases. Plus they usually know enough not to go straight for 18 – special forces unlike some of the really egregious stolen valor yahoos. And it’s not like Driver is an easy or safe job, especially in a warzone, but, well, impressing someone (especially the opposite sex) gets involved and they play it up a bit.

        I’ve also seen someone’s duty station drift north a bit from Kuwait to Iraq, for instance.

        Presumably if she’s always claimed to be a vet the business verified preference paperwork and saw her discharge. Doesn’t make it better, those other guys or her, especially if she’s claiming emotional war stories when she was really driving a desk at a stateside base, but it does mean you have to tread a bit more carefully.

    2. alldogsarepuppies*

      I have met a few Medal of Honor winners and all of them dislike talking about what they did to receive it, so this tracks.

      1. Girl Alex PR*

        Just a pet peeve, but as a military veteran, we don’t call them “winners.” They did something at great risk to themselves in the line of duty. Many died. They’re recipients, not winners.

          1. Wintermute*

            I’ve also heard “honoree” used because it emphasizes that they were honored, but that is not usually used with the Medal of Honor because it sounds redundant, “Medal of honor honoree”, but it is used for other medals.

    3. Xx*

      I think OP should also be applying for other jobs in case there is no one trustworthy and higher-ranking she can turn to. Having such an unreliable person in such a sensitive position is just a disaster waiting to happen.

      1. FrankieSmalls*

        I am in team find a new job. A lack of integrity is something that is not fixable. Jane has most likely been lying her entire life, and it’s served her well so far. She is not going to change, this is who she is. The OP cannot trust this woman, because she is manipulative, and trying to expose her lies might get the OP squarely in Jane’s crosshairs. And we know she’s a good shot because of all her military experience, right? :p

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, to be honest I would probably leave the army story out of it even if that is what primarily lead you to doubt her character–but regardless of how much she has or has not lied being completely in charge of both HR and Finance seems like a terrible idea. This company needs some better separation of duties. And the sketchy appearance with her bonus and tuition reimbursement makes this need more urgent.

      1. Wintermute*

        I know, right? it has conflict of interest written ALL over it. The director of finance is supposed to be primarily concerned with the bottom line and managing costs. The director of HR is supposed to be primarily concerned with the company’s legal and ethical obligations to employees. Those two often come into conflict when doing “the right thing” is costly.

        Oftentimes the interplay of those two positions act like the devil and the angel on the shoulder of a decisionmaker, for instance the HR director advocating for a really great benefits package to attract and retain top talent and the finance director fretting over the cost of insurance and the productivity lost to time off.

        Plus what happens if they come into direct conflict? What would she say to an employee with a disability that requires an expensive, but not to the level of a legally “undue burden”? Would she be able to take off the finance director hat and successfully enforce the law? or would she fret too much about the cost and do the wrong thing, breaking the law and giving rise to liability?

    5. Life is Good*

      Yeah, I want people who have access to my finances to be above board. My bank hired a gal who was (I heard from a former employee at the other bank) was fired from another bank for stealing. I didn’t feel like I could approach my bank about my concerns, but was nervous the whole time she worked there. She’s been fired from my bank, so whew! (PS Keeping an eye on my statements!)

    6. Todd*

      Not a hard and fast rule, but I’ve often found that people who do truly heroic things rarely mention them, especially in a group email to coworkers. They usually are kind of shy about mentioning their good deeds.

      Yes. Simple, perfect, Agreed!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Lol! Yeah, someone needs to be double checking her tuition reimbursement requests to make sure the mail to address isn’t her home address.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My first thought was that there is no theology school, no student at that school named Jane, and the money is sitting in Jane’s personal bank account.

        1. Mel*

          She might really be going to theology school. Being a minister is a good situation if you want a bunch of people to trust you so much that they won’t question your stories… or what you’re using the money for.

          Not trying to say that’s typical, just that I’ve seen it happen and that could be what she’s shooting for.

          1. Roy G. Biv*

            Unfortunately, I agree. I have met many people who studied to become clergy, who truly wanted to improve the world, living a life of service. And I have met a few who were clearly hoping to give themselves a halo; a self-fabricated, tarnished halo, but a halo nonetheless, because it makes for a great prop in the “It’s All About Me” show of their lives.

              1. Gumby*

                Eh, not necessarily. Unless she’s going to empty it during the service. Depends on the set up but we have people who count and deposit contributions and it is not the pastor/minister/spiritual leader.

                I think one main reason is so the minister doesn’t know who gives a little vs. who gives a lot since that shouldn’t matter to him in his job. I’m not saying he would care if he knew, but to avoid the appearance of favoritism or whatever, he makes sure he *can’t* know.

                1. pentamom*

                  Right a properly run church handles contributions the way a properly run business handles its accounts receivables. We have two people count the money together, the pastor never sees it. All he gets are quarterly and annual receipts vs. expense reports, and he’s involved in setting the budget based on that information. But he has no knowledge of who is contributing what.

              2. Wintermute*

                Only amateurs go for the collection plate. The real pros start a prosperity gospel ministry and get pensioners to write the check right into their bank account.

                1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  Exactly what I was thinking. Look for Jane to start a prosperity-based ministry soon…

            1. Airy*

              I’ve also encountered a couple of people of this type who were training to be social workers. One boasted that she was an outstanding student because she’d got 100% for all her papers, which sounded good unless you actually know the New Zealand education system and are aware that the place she was studying offered qualifications via unit standards, which are marked only pass/fail, no percentages or letter grades. She’d passed all her papers, not excelled on them, and it was a good sample of the way she distorted facts to suit herself.

          2. EinJungerLudendorff*

            I wouldn’t be suprised. The Catholic church is still rife with sexual child predators, who are being protected by the whole power structure right up to the Pope.
            And from what I’ve heard, the other branches have plenty of terrible people in their ranks as well.

            Rule by divine fiat has many forms, and people are using it to this day

          3. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yuuuup. Just think of all those megachurch pastors and televangelists and such who have private jets or Ferraris or some such…

        2. TechWorker*

          Surely if she was going to fake class attendance she’d choose something more obviously related to the job? I guess this way there’s no chance of her lack of learning being obvious… maybe I have bad lying instincts :D

        1. JessaB*

          Since she controls the money who knows. But usually I thought when companies do tuition they either pay directly to the school or require the invoice and proof of payment before giving money directly to the employee, and a simple phone call to the school would show whether the invoice is legit or not.

          1. eplawyer*

            And the proof of payment and invoice goes to WHO for approval and payment?

            At the very least the company should have policy of having a VP approve and pay the Finance Director things like tuition reimbursement and bonus. Because otherwise, you get self-dealing if the person is even slightly ethically challenged.

            1. Lance*

              Yeah; this is very much why accounting on the whole has checks and balances, to avoid one-sided decision-making/expenditures.

        2. Shoes On My Cat*

          Yep, since normally HR would get the classes and approve, then finance sends a check where HR directs, she is -literally- one hand washing the other! Suspicious when taken in context

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I wonder if it’s a legit religion or one of those faux, new agey, enlightenment, cult like kind of deals.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Why are those any less legitimate than established religions?

        But I would question the HRM’s courses.

        1. Mine Own Telemachus*

          I mean, there’s a difference between paying for MDiv level classes at an establish seminary, and paying for, say, dianetics.

      2. Hepzibah Pflurge*

        Religion and spirituality take many forms. What may be “faux, new agey, enlightenment…” to you may be a basic tenet of existence to someone else.

        I think the real issue here is whether the tuition reimbursement policy is being applied in a fair and equitable manner to all employees in accordance with company policy. Sounds like it isn’t, which isn’t cool.

        I agree with Alison that the facts should be presented in a non-emotional way and documented whenever possible. I’ve been there, and it really sucks. It’s not fun to be constantly on edge at work because you never know when the next wacky thing will happen and what shape it will take. Hang in there.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          The tuition reimbursement seems like the least of the issues, though. I can see how this can be messed up even in a normal office without pathological liars. Our policy is that YOUR manager approves your request, and then it will get processed through HR, etc., without questions. Jane’s manager could have loose standards or just said “do what you want” while the other guy’s manager works hard to be fair and make sure the programs are work-applicable and vetted. That kind of discrepancy doesn’t seem outlandish if Jane’s very senior probably one of the few direct reports to an executive, and the other guy is a worker bee in the accounting department.

          1. Hepzibah Pflurge*

            I should have been more clear. I meant “the real issue” with the question of whether the religious training the HRM is taking is “legit”. Totally agree that there are much larger issues at hand in this situation.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Highly disagree, I think it is likely one of the most pressing issues–if the company policy requires the classes be relevant to your work but she just went ahead and approved this for herself then that is essentially embezzlement.

      3. Magenta*

        I really don’t see the difference between that and more established ones. Why would being older make something more legitimate?

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I don’t see a difference between Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, or The Church of the Sacred Cabbage. If *you’re gonna give credence to one bring “real” then you need to give them all equal weight.

          *The general you/you’re, etc.

        2. EinJungerLudendorff*

          The older ones have more time to plug the most obvious holes in their beliefs and integrate themselves into their societies. Which lets them claim legitimacy, wether or not they deserve it.

          1. Anonymous for flatulence joke*

            Were as The Church of the Sacred Cabbage is still unplugged.
            (I’m sorry.)

      4. LITJess*

        I mean, I side-eye whether this school ever saw the money in the first place, but really, does it even matter which church if the expense never should have been approved in the first place? Maybe if she’s the Finance Director/HR person at the Order of the Golden Dawn.

    2. Jennifer*

      She’s probably getting her kitchen re-done or something with that money. Or taking some lavish vacations.

      1. boo bot*

        This is really the best-case scenario! If she’s using the money for new cabinets, then she’s not using it to gain another position of trust and power…

        1. Sharrbe*

          I totally believe she wants that trust and power. This woman seems to crave attention and adoration and what better profession is there to get it? It seems like its a profession that would also allow her to avoid oversight, or to move on easily when sh*& hits the fan.

        2. Jennifer*

          I think we are past the point of best case scenarios with Jane, bless her heart. She has broken the mold.

        3. Harper the Other One*

          My husband is a minister and he always comments that this is EXACTLY why his faith has a pretty significant process, entirely separate from your education, that assesses your reasons for entering the profession. (At the same time, it provides real information about what it’s like to be a minister – it’s shocking how many candidates literally think your only weekly commitment is Sunday morning, or don’t know what the ministry pay scale is!)

          But you really, REALLY don’t want someone with any misunderstanding of power dynamics, confidentiality, and trust carrying around a certificate that says they’re ordained by your faith.

          My husband was involved in actively recommending against one particular candidate, and he found it hard to do, but the idea of that person having free rein in a congregation was much, much worse.

    3. Rebecca*

      My former awful manager did the same thing, studied to be a minister, on company time, although I think she paid for the courses herself…and had no qualms about using company equipment to do the work, enlisting one of her subordinates to proofread papers for grammar and spelling, on company time, leaving the office for “meetings”, when these were classes she needed to attend, oh yes, this was so special. Given how she treated us, the rants and raving with swearing that would make a sailor run and hide, etc. all we could do was shake our heads. And no, she didn’t have permission for any of this and the head office had no idea this went on, until after she left.

      1. Ammonite*

        This phenomenon is commonly misapplied and used as a critique of ministers and other non-profit workers, so I almost hesitate to bring it up, but it does seem potentially applicable here.
        There are some people who think that undertaking a seemingly virtuous path (i.e. becoming a minister) entitles them to benefits that others who are less virtuous (i.e. other employees) do not get. Jane’s story about being in the army seems particularly virtue-signally and she does seem to act as though she is above the law. The self-promotion accompanies a sense that they are more deserving of things like reimbursements, time flexibility, etc. because they are doing something else in their lives that is “good.” This is obviously problematic, since regardless of whatever else is going on in Jane’s life, she is responsible for her work and should have to abide by the same policies as everyone else. I think this should be LW’s focus- which Allison did mention in her response- that Jane should be held equally accountable as other employees and the concern is with her reliability as a source for information.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          You’re absolutely right – ministry in particular is prone to attracting people for whom the primary benefit is showing off how “good” they are, and for whom “the call” justifies an awful lot.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            The armed forces and the ministry are also two occupations that other people are extremely reluctant to question. Nobody wants to be That Person who doubts what you went through in a conflict, or that your motivations might be other than spiritual. People will do a lot of mental gymnastics to justify things that they might otherwise thought looked questionable, if the perpetrator is a “hero” or a spiritual leader.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Nah, just gonna get ordained online and pocket the extra $5000 is more like it!

      Sadly, I’ve watched way too much “Evil Lives Here” episodes, lots of horror stories about “ministers” out there. She’s just getting ready to start her cult :|

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Gotta make that $$$$ because they tend to end really badly when that spaceship is on it’s way to pick you up.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          L. Ron Hubbard said the way to get rich was to start a religion. Whatever else I think if him (not much) he was right about that.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Well to be fair Jesus didn’t start a religion. He was just a Jewish preacher. Those that came after however… Oh too many to list. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    5. JoJo*

      Well, that is the one thing I would be careful about. Seriously. OP has plenty of things to complain about, but she’s already calling this woman a liar about her military history (which looks like she and other coworkers have investigated and the photo at least is a lie), but to also pile on about religion is treading into weird seeming anti-conservative territory that makes it look like OP is just targeting this woman because she doesn’t like her politically. I say this being completely on the OP’s side. It just stands out, like it would stand out if OP first gave an example of a known feminist at work who used to work at Ms. Magazine under Gloria Steinem showing photos of her supposedly on her last day at the magazine — but it turns out not to be her in the photo, and then questioning why the organization is funding her, I don’t know, classes on AIDS history in the United States or something. I get why OP now finds all of it suspect, but there is this political undertone that doesn’t have to be and maybe shouldn’t be included lest the OP’s concerns be dismissed because of examples that shouldn’t be here.

      1. Anna*

        I didn’t read a political undertone in her concerns. I read that religious classes don’t seem to fit into the ethos of the company she works for and that they aren’t related to Jane’s job in any way.

        1. singularity*

          Agreed, especially when coupled with the example of the other worker who was trying to get a degree or certification in an accounting program that was relevant to his position. It sounded as though there were a lot of hoops for that person to jump through to get tuition reimbursement. From OP’s point of view, Jane didn’t have to do any of those things because she gave herself approval –she shouldn’t be in a position that allows for oversight of herself.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          She could just mention the religion classes and say nothing more on that, in case management doesn’t know about them.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I read it that the company expects coursework to be job-related…..and that this job is not related to theology in anyway.

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          This, exactly. The company is paying for classes that ate not at all germane to her job.

      2. PSB*

        This is a very strange comment. Assuming she must be conservative because she’s religious is pretty offensive. There are plenty of liberal people of faith.

      3. Maria Lopez*

        No, there is no political undertone in the letter, AT ALL. She has lied about her military history (if there is even a military history at all), given erroneous work information to the employees, is taking unrelated classes on the company dime that just happen to be in theology (what a great way for someone like this to segue into a respectable profession).
        I see nothing conservative nor liberal about this. Just sociopathic, which is an apolitical condition.

      4. Marthooh*

        OP is questioning the fact that the company is paying for classes that are clearly not work-related. It’s not a matter of piling on about religion, since the concern would be the same if the classes were in something like … say … llama grooming.

      5. Arts Akimbo*

        Ministers come in all political shadings. I don’t think it’s anti-conservative or political in any way to question why their workplace would be funding her theology degree when their business has nothing to do with theology or ministry.

      6. Dust Bunny*

        That’s a stretch.

        I wouldn’t expect my current employer (university library) to pay for classes in, say, veterinary nursing, because they’re in no way related. *That* is why this looks questionable–Jane works in publishing, not for a religious organization.

      7. Nobby Nobbs*

        I assumed the comment was less “ministers suck” and more “this is the last person you’d want to see as a religious leader.”

      8. Adele*

        I didn’t see anything political or anti-religious about it. At my place of work, one can apply for tuition reimbursement for degree or certification courses related to any job at the institution that it would allow you, theoretically, to move into. Food service worker but taking nursing courses? Okay. Accountant but want reimbursement for a certification in dog-grooming? Nope. We don’t directly employ clergy so divinity degrees would not be reimbursable.

    6. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      Please, no. We have enough kooks and liars already working in the Christian world. No more!

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        That’s why I’m wondering if it’s like “The Church of the Blossoming Flower” or some nonsense that is essentially a cult or money-laundering scheme. Not an actual, established religion.

        1. Temperance*

          Eh, I don’t think it’s a good thing to decide which religions are real and which are not.

          1. Holly*

            I think we need to separate judging real vs. fake religions and being aware that a cult or money-laundering scheme or other criminal enterprises can use a faux religion as a front.

          2. boo bot*

            Yeah, but I think it’s fair to take note of which ones are laundering money. It can always be both!

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


        Sadly it’s often a draw to these kinds of people because they want a place of ultimate power and “trust” within society. Therefore they look for those seeking spiritual guidance and take full advantage of them.

        Where there is unquestionable trust given out, the bad apples sneak into the barrel for their own devious reasons.

    7. Slow Gin Lizz*

      There was a pathological liar in my grad school music program, who claimed to be a rabbi. Also that he had to miss a rehearsal to give a physics paper. And that he was a nurse. He was 20 minutes late for his own degree recital performance.

      1. Rob aka Mediancat*

        Unless he’s Sam Beckett of the (I think) 7 doctorates, I highly doubt him.

    8. Free now (and forever)*

      The ten occupations that sociopaths cluster in include–wait for it–clergy!!!

    9. LNZ*

      sadly that’s kind common. The head admin at our church just got busted for massive embezzlement and other sketchy stuff. People give church workers the benefit of the doubt and that can be appealing to some people.

  3. Moray*

    If there’s a way to tell that she was ~knowingly~ lying about California’s travel time law (and you would expect someone in charge of HR to know something like that) wouldn’t that alone be enough to seriously call her ethics into question?

    1. Mike B.*

      I’m not sure she’d have any reason to lie about that; it’s not like the money comes out of her own pocket.

      But that’s the thing about people who’ve been known to lie; you can never be sure.

      1. BethRA*

        I can think of two instances where someone in my organization lied about why something couldn’t be done/supply item couldn’t be ordered – when the expenses in question had no impact on them, their needs, or really even the organization’s needs. In one case I think they were being weird and controlling, in the other I suspected a mistaken attempt to control costs.

      2. I edit everything*

        It might go into her own pocket, however. If she has everyone expecting to be paid for 8 hours, but the actual payment amount is for 10 hours, that sounds like a path to embezzlement to me. Pay the employees for 8, charge the company for 10, and the difference goes into her own pocket.

          1. Lance*

            Which, frankly, is a massive problem on its own and I have no idea why the higher-ups are apparently allowing this.

            1. bonkerballs*

              I think it’s actually very common, especially in small business and nonprofit. Places that are too small to have a real HR stick the accountant with HR duties since so much HR has to do with payroll/benefits has to do with accounting. Ask me how I know.

          2. smoke tree*

            And not only that, but she’s intimidated the manager under her into saying nothing about her exploits.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I think you need to go meet Guacamole Bob to go over the whole “not coming out of her pocket” idea. Believe me, a lot of finance people care about every penny that goes out of the business, it’s part of why we have jobs, we’re warming the pile of gold coin, like dragons.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I love how Guacamole Bob has gone from being the bad guy to sort of an Accounting Batman, to be unleashed on dishonest finance departments. Just goes to show how a quality can be overkill in one environment, but desperately needed in another.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            He most certainly is a true vigilante! Here to save every penny from slipping through the cracks, no matter what he has to do.

      4. Pilcrow*

        If she isn’t somehow taking it, then she’s incompetent at her job. Not a good situation either way.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Yes, I think the lie/mistake about California’s travel law is a red flag in itself. It’s her responsibility to know this. If she doesn’t know, she should look it up and refresh her memory before telling people. That she didn’t do that indicates
          1. She doesn’t care about giving accurate information
          2. She doesn’t make an effort to do her job well
          Even if it wasn’t a scam or deliberate lie, this is what it indicates.

      5. RUKiddingMe*

        Or…since she’s in charge of the money she could be funneling those “unpayable” hours into her own pocket. Sure two hours isn’t much, but do it often enough and it adds up.

        Also, OP will be traveling 10 hours each way. That’s four hours. Times however many employees…could be a lucrative side gig.

      6. Wintermute*

        this is where HR and finance director conflict badly and it’s a serious conflict of interest problem. Because the finance director WOULD sweat paying two hours overtime. HR would care more about following the law. And any student of theology ought to know you cannot serve two masters.

        Ironically here as a finance director one of her masters is LITERALLY Mammon (or Wealth in some translations), thus fulfilling the biblical quote you cannot serve two masters, you cannot serve God and Mammon, for you will grow to love one and hate the other.

    2. Jennifer*

      You’d think that, but sometimes people lie just for the sake of lying. I was watching a news story the other day about a woman who pretended to know sign language so she could be an interpreter during a news conference. She was found out pretty quickly when people called in and said she was just saying nonsense. They didn’t pay her so it’s not a crime. She just wanted to lie.

      1. Moray*

        It’s not necessarily criminal, or even damaging–but lying for funsies when it comes to employees’ income/benefits is seriously bad, even if it doesn’t do any harm.

      2. Kristi E.*

        I’m dealing with that situation right now. We have a senior employee that just lies to lie. They just want to see how much drama they can cause. Every body knows he lies but we keep having employees fall for it. Then there is hurt feelings and drama. Then we have another senior employee who lies because he thinks it is what we want to hear. Dude, I make plans based on what you tell me. I plan for the truth. I can’t plan based on lies.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I haye that! I don’t care if it seems apocalyptic to you…just give me accurate info!!!

      3. Alli525*

        I recently heard the story of the person who posed as a sign language interpreter for ***Pres. Obama at Nelson Mandela’s funeral*** … which means he somehow got past SEVERAL levels of vetting, including the Secret Service. Mindboggling.

        1. Just Jess*

          Never assume there are meaningful performance assessments in the federal government. They’ll find out if you used marijuana 15 years ago or are late on your student loans though.

          Plus, that faux interpreter was through a South African org.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            The video of it is on YouTube, along with a real sign language professional commenting on the nonsense!

      4. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        My mom’s first husband was a pathological liar. He would lie about anything and everything, even when he had no reason to or if it was something silly and easily verifiable, like the weather.

        1. Rhonda Creed*

          OMG…I have an ex-sister in law like that. She will lie about anything and everything, even if the truth would serve her better. She told her brother (my ex) 35 years ago that she was dying of leukemia…she is currently the liveliest corpse you’ve ever seen. She told her mother that a doctor prescribed chocolate…and Mom believed it. She tells people she has grown children…she has never had a child. And on and on. I would check with NASA if she told me the sun was rising in the east.

          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            I know one person and am acquainted with two who lied that they were dying of cancer, all three are still alive and kicking!

            All three were (or still are) drug addicts- the two I am only acquainted with were lying to cover up the physical deterioration of their addictions, the third I know for sure is a pathological liar and was doing it purely to evoke sympathy.

        2. Wrong Target*

          My grandmother was like this. I have no idea how much of my family history is true because she insisted upon lying about nonsense throughout her whole life.

      5. Grace*

        There was one guy who was an interpreter for a press announcement about an upcoming hurricane but was just saying nonsense with a few actual signs thrown in. A press announcement that was telling people about the path of the hurricane, its strength, the evacuation instructions… And no-one involved seemed to think there was anything wrong with asking a random employee who knew maybe five words of ASL (and I think he lied about how much he knew?) to provide life-saving instructions. They were putting the lives of hundreds, probably thousands, of Deaf people at risk because they thought that hiring a real interpreter wasn’t worth it.

        Not necessarily anything to do with pathological liars, but just to say that fake/unqualified interpreters aren’t committing a crime but it probably should be classed as one. It’s genuinely dangerous to not be giving accurate information in a lot of cases where interpreters are hired.

        1. Just Jess*

          That person was volun-told that they needed to act as an interpreter after someone in leadership discovered the person did some signing at home with a close family member. They had a choice to not act as an interpreter, but there was pressure.

          Organizations should have good accountability and performance management to address various pathological liar and unqualified employee situations.

        2. Marthooh*

          As I remember, that was a guy trying his best (and failing) because no qualified interpreter was available. I don’t think anybody involved was lying, just poorly prepared for the emergency.

      6. Mel*

        Yes. I had a roommate who would tell me things that were obviously fake, when there was no reason to. The thing didn’t matter at all, there was no down side to telling the truth. She just liked to lie.

    3. irene adler*

      IS it lying or is it sheer ignorance that the HR laws differ between fed and state?

      Your question makes me wonder how extensive Jane’s HR background actually is.

      See, I work at a small company. For years the accounting person also did HR. But she had no training in HR. She has the title CFO but also has no formal accounting (or CPA) education. She balances the books, pays the bills, issues paychecks, is the go-to for our benefits.
      She did make it a point to contact an employer’s association to clarify any HR questions that were brought up.
      But she might very will have made this error as well concerning travel time. Depends on whether she knew she needed to ask if there was a difference in the fed and state laws.

      I know for a fact that our CFO/HR person was unaware that there was a monetary penalty for not issuing final paycheck -in full-to an employee on their last day. She wanted to send this check a week later-to coincide with regular payroll. The employee agreed. I had to step in and point out that CA law requires the departing employee to receive a whole week’s pay for this one week delay.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, in a 30-person company I’d assume she doesn’t have a formal HR background. That’s not a large enough company to need full-time, dedicated HR and it’s more likely that it was just lumped in with her finance duties.

        1. Jadelyn*

          And especially if they’re in California, HR here is really not something you can do well without knowing at least *some* of it. And the penalties for getting it wrong can be severe.

          Travel time for hourly folks always trips people up – every year, we have to basically retrain managers on how to enter hours for their hourly folks on travel days. So I can understand someone making the mistake if they’re doing HR in CA with no experience.

          1. M. Albertine*

            I don’t know…I’m in the same spot (accounting manager tasked with HR duties) and it took me a whopping 5 minutes of research* to find the publication from the CA Labor Commissioner’s Office defining hours for travel.

            *I did a bunch of research before we hired our CA employee, so I at least had the website already bookmarked.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Partly it’s “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You don’t always know it’s something you need to look up, and it’s not always intuitive when you’ll need to.

          2. Wintermute*

            And they wonder why california is considered business hostile, you can need 5 employees to run your company, but two more just to handle the government obligations…

            That said, I appreciate that they take employee rights extremely seriously and come down like the hand of God on employers that try to steal wages or flaunt labor laws, so there’s definitely an upside to them having some of the most stringent laws in the country.

            1. Leave California*

              And they wonder why california is considered business hostile, you can need 5 employees to run your company, but two more just to handle the government obligations…


              1. Former Employee*

                As Wintermute pointed out, CA takes employees’ rights very seriously.

                Love my state!

                And California has the world’s 6th largest economy, meaning that the state’s economy is bigger than that of most countries.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        And that’s the trouble with liars. If this woman weren’t known to be a liar, one’s first instinct would be to believe that she’s simply mistaken about the law. But when she’s a known liar, you assume she’s just lying about one more thing.

    4. fposte*

      It’s the kind of thing tons of people, including in HR, get wrong, though. Unless she outright admits lying it’d be hard to make the case.

      But people go nuts about stolen valor, and she made that claim in writing to her workmates. It may be more legal than breaking the law on travel reimbursements, but it’s got a lot more negative PR potential.

    5. Summertime*

      It would be hard to prove that she had lied, if she indeed had lied about the travel time policy, but it may be worth pushing back on with a group of non-exempt employees. OP could use a script that Allison recommends often and frame it as “I don’t want us to get in trouble with the law and you might not realize this is against California law to not pay for all travel time.” It may help OP to address the issues that more directly impact her and are within her realm to bring up than to worry about the multitide of sketchy things Jane could be doing but OP has less clout to bring up.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I strongly suspect it’s just ignorance in her case. California has so many unique rules that depart from the federal standard that it’s not entirely reasonable to expect someone with no HR background/training to know all of those provisions. It sounds like she identified the federal rule but failed to check if California had the same provision. That sounds like garden variety ignorance to me, as opposed to an intentional effort to defraud employees.

      (Of course, ignorance is no defense, and the employer still has to conform to CA law.)

      1. goducks*

        Yes. I too am in a state with a plethora of employment laws that differ from federal law. I’ve seen trained and credentialed HR professionals make wrong statements about the law due to ignorance. They’ve said things that may be true federally, but not in the state. Or they’ve said things that once were true for the state, but are not up to date with current law.
        I agree that ignorance does not excuse the company from compliance, but I don’t see this type of error as necessarily evidence of bad intent.

    7. Essess*

      I did a quick google search and it does appear that the boss might be wrong about paying for the travel time, so this is something that needs to get addressed. According to what I found, non-exempt must be paid for ALL travel time until the point they reach the hotel, unless they are traveling outside of California.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    This sounds like the kind of situation that finance companies are trying to avoid by requiring employees to take 2 consecutive weeks off every year. Maybe someone in the finance department could suggest implementing something like that as a check and balance?

    1. Loubelou*

      This is also a really good example of the need for a Protected Whistleblower system. I don’t know why this is something only charities seem to have. If there were a way to make a confidential complaint, knowing OP were protected from blowbacks, there would be no need for this question.

      1. valentine*

        Standing to sue isn’t necessarily useful. There’s a commenter here who’s having an extremely tough time after whistleblowing two employers.

        The person finding Jane out would be her employee, so, unlikely to report her, like the guy who’s afraid of her.

    2. Frank Doyle*

      If they have 30 employees and just one of them handling both finance and HR, then it’s likely that Jane IS the finance department.

    3. JessB*

      I see what you’re saying but I think that two weeks off is mostly just for someone else to cover their regular duties, not to exhaustively investigate every transaction involving them over the past year- and judging by the examples the OP gives, that’s what would have to happen to catch this woman out.
      Her previous bonus and her tuition repayments probably wouldn’t come up at all if someone was just filling in for her over two weeks.

      1. LGC*

        Exactly – as I’ve understood it, it’s to give time for any irregularities to show up. The thinking is, if you’re committing graft, it’s really hard to run it on autopilot for two weeks AND conceal it from everyone.

        I have a hunch that if Jane set up a questionable tuition reimbursement and bonus structure AND she has a history of lying AND she works for a small company, there might be more beneath the surface that could be revealed by a two week vacation.

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    The whole veteran-in-an-active-combat-zone thing makes this a minefield (no pun intended) for OP to address. There can be all sorts of possibilities for things to get legal and/or weird — PTSD, EEOC-protected status, “stolen valor”, etc.

    If I were OP, I’d stay away from that topic and focus on job-related things. It’s the first red flag, but it’s by no means the only one.

    1. Infantry Vet*

      The email about being deployed has ALOT of issues. For starters, out processing from the military (assuming this is the US Military) takes a while, and doesn’t happen on a combat deployment. In fact, during a combat deployment, personnel are “Stop Lossed”, which means transferring to another Unit, let alone getting out of the Military, isn’t going to happen.

      If someone was using my name or photos to fluff up their resume/work history/whatever, I would want to know. Phone calls would be made, as would criminal complaints of identity theft….. The term “scorched Earth” comes to mind.

      1. JessaB*

        I don’t believe Jane either, especially since nobody in the Army would call the last day on a deployment, the last day in the Army. It doesn’t happen that way and if Jane was injured, she’d be in hospital, and if she wasn’t, it takes time to ship someone out of a deployment ahead of schedule presuming they shipped her home because of the incident.

        And I’d really want to know if Jane were using my information, it could come back on me badly, whoever said identity theft, is right.

        1. goducks*

          Yes, her calling this her last day in the Army was a huge red flag that this was false. I’ve never been anywhere near the military, but common sense says that your last day in the Army isn’t a day when you’re on a combat mission overseas. I can’t imagine anybody who actually served making that type of claim, it’s so completely disregards how the Army works.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            These are my awards, Mother. From Army. The seal is for marksmanship, and the gorilla is for sand racing.

          2. Wintermute*

            Well sometimes vets dumb things down for the civilians too “my last day in the army” when talking to civilians would be “the last patrol before I was scheduled to ship out to Kuwait, then cool my heels until I was shipped to Fort Benning for outprocessing” if they were talking to other military folks.

            I am leaning towards, “served but exaggerates their service” because presumably the business saw the paperwork if they’re claiming veteran preference benefits.

      2. Jadelyn*

        “out processing from the military (assuming this is the US Military) takes a while, and doesn’t happen on a combat deployment” That was my first “wait, what?” moment in reading the OP. There is no universe in which someone’s going to be in an active combat situation on their *last day* in the military. If this was someone trustworthy and I wanted to give benefit of the doubt, I might assume she misspoke and just meant the last day of her deployment or something, but given the rest of the context…newp.

    2. Not Me*

      What EEOC protected class are you suggesting Jane is a part based on the identity theft?

      The email is probably the easiest way to point out issues with Jane’s ethics. She clearly lied and pretended to be a military veteran. I can’t imagine a business, especially a small business, would want that kind of PR.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        She could actually be a military veteran but be lying about the details (or delusional). She could be a veteran with a service-related disability, which falls under EEOC.

        1. Not Me*

          That’s making a lot of assumptions. Based on the letter she has no EEOC protection.

        2. Infantry Vet*

          I would argue that even of she had some pyschological condition, the fact that she is committing identity theft, sending mass emails to everyone under the sun furthering the deception, and lying, would create an undue hardship for the employer.

          Disciplinary action against the employee would be due to the actions the employee took, not the condition.

          Furthermore, if the employer is allowing the employee to continue to steal the Veteran’s identity after they are aware it is occurring, and is using the identity for business purposes, what is the employer’s liability?

      2. Boobookitty*

        I agree. The rest is too easy for an employer to write off as misunderstandings. The email provides clear proof that something is seriously wrong with their HR / Finance person.

        I’ve been in situations where I’ve been the first person to realize that someone was a pathological liar. It’s excruciating and frustrating how long it can take some people to catch on to someone who’s a pathological liar — and some people never catch on unless there is something so blatantly obvious that there can’t possibly be any other explanation.

        Share the email and the rest of the evidence OP.

  6. BethRA*

    Anyone want to place bets on whether or not she goes to class? Or on who’s cashing those checks?

      1. Autumnheart*

        I guess it depends on how the tuition reimbursement policy works. When I used it, I had to get manager approval to take the classes, and then I had to submit documentation of my grades after the term was over. Classes of B or higher got reimbursed. So it wasn’t a case of “I say I’m taking classes and I get a check”. But certainly the process can vary by company.

        1. Sarah M*

          My main concern with this is that Jane basically *is* the Finance Dept. OP stated that (in addition to HR) Jane is the Finance Director and is responsible for all the accounting, approval of expenditures, etc. If she’s doing the accounting *and* approving expenditures, then really someone else should be tasked with auditing the company finances periodically, and at the very least, Jane should not be able to approve her own bonuses, tuition reimbursement, etc. Scary stuff.

  7. Alexis Rose*

    This might fall into the “personal vendetta against her” territory that Alison has suggested the letter writer NOT do, but I’d be seriously tempted to send that email/photo to the actual woman in the photo and see what she has to say about it. I realize that Jane was a service member herself, but that blatant lie about her last day still reeks of stolen valor to me.

    1. league.*

      Probably she was a service member herself – but we don’t really know that for sure, either.

      It would be really satisfying to instead show the news story to Jane and pretend like you’re horrified she was misnamed. “You should contact the reporter! Want me to do it for you?” But I can understand that the OP wouldn’t want to do that in her position.

        1. valentine*

          I’d be seriously tempted to send that email/photo to the actual woman in the photo and see what she has to say about it.
          I wouldn’t bother her, especially while Jane reigns.

      1. dramallama*

        The problem with habitual liars is that when confronted they just produce more lies. (For instance “Oh! I meant that this picture really showed how I *felt* on my last day. I didn’t mean it was actually me.”) I think OP’s better off bringing this to her boss rather than alerting Jane that people are on to her.

        1. lulu*

          This. I don’t think she would be rattled at all, she would just make up another lie. There is no way she is going to admit what she’s done in a way that’s satisfying for OP, so I would advise against confronting her.

    2. ZSD*

      I don’t think potentially adding to a veteran’s anguish is a good solution. Informing the veteran that Jane is stealing her valor just makes that veteran’s life a little unhappier (or angrier) with no real payoff. I suppose there’s a chance she might confront Jane about it, but she might also decide to just ignore it, in which case you’ve made her life a bit more miserable without actually causing Jane to face any consequences.
      I think if the OP or co-workers want Jane to be confronted, they should do it themselves (or rather, get higher-ups in the company to do it).

      1. ZSD*

        Oh, but I’ve never served in the military, so I would certainly defer to readers who are veterans regarding whether they’d want to be told.

        1. Alexis Rose*

          Hm, yeah this is exactly why vendettas aren’t a good idea, and I say that as a third generation military family member (my grandfather and dad did full careers in the military and my husband is about 15 years into his), so I really should think more about the impact on the individual.

      2. Shoes On My Cat*

        One option might be to contact the Stolen Valor organization and let them sort it out (for the military element of this ball of lies). Then the vet -or vets, if Jane really did serve, isn’t directly involved while she’s dealing with her own issues.

        1. Wintermute*

          I would too, there are people that are emotionally equipped and used to the work and very good at it, it doesn’t risk adding to anyone’s problems or pain , except maybe adding one more name to their backlog of cases, and it could get results.

      3. Wintermute*

        I wouldn’t go to the vet in question, I **WOULD** go to a dedicated stolen valor organization/forum. They are people that are emotionally used to this and for whatever reason of their own take up the banner of protecting the honor of the armed services from people that would ride its coat-tails. Even if she is a vet and is just exaggerating (and I think that’s likely for reasons I’ve said elsewhere) they know how to deal with people like that.

        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          Even if Jane is actually a vet, what she did here isn’t “exaggerating”, it’s full on LYING, and claiming another’s identity.

    3. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

      I say print the email (remove header of course), print the article with photo, laminate and post in the break room.

    4. Anonymeece*

      Honestly, given that she made a very basic mistake in her lie – saying she was combat-deployed on her last day in the army – makes me think that she isn’t familiar with the military, which casts doubt on whether or not she really is a veteran.

      It’s not the OP’s business to handle, but it definitely is fishy. Even if she were just lying about the picture/where she was, if she were a veteran, she should have known to … well, make her lie better, honestly.

      1. AKchic*

        That’s my take too.

        She isn’t familiar with combat service, out-processing, and was willing to lie about an image being her (and sounds like lying about being in combat)… so we can call into question the whole idea that she’s ever been in service at all.

        My 1st ex-husband claimed he was in the army. Conveniently, his mother refuses to discuss anything about him during those particular years. Even more conveniently, “the psycho mother of my oldest child burned all of my military stuff” (per him). When I worked on base while we were together, he was happy to buy whatever he could from the Exchange to “replace” his “lost memorabilia”, yet he would never go to the VA to reacquire his documentation. When we divorced, I decided to go try to get the information for our son, since he might be able to use a combat vet’s records to get potential benefits later in life. No records of him serving. Ever. I happened to be working for a PI at the time. We did more digging. No first wife as he claimed. No teenage daughter as he claimed. A lot of lies, though. He now claims he was a Vietnam Vet (he was born in 1969 – you do the math).
        My 2nd ex-husband *was* Air Force, but stationed in Alaska. He will hint that he’s seen combat and let people infer it. However, his injury was because he slipped off a plane while he was goofing off while he was supposed to be de-icing it. He’s embarrassed about it and likes to make himself sound better, and there’s nobody to contradict him, other than me (who took him to the ER).

        I come from a long line of military folk. I would have served if it weren’t for a bad spine. I really don’t like it when someone tries to lie about service.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “Gee Jane, weird that you were in a combat situation on your last day. When did the military start doing that?”

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Once when my son age 12 at the time was limping my mom asked him what was wrong. He said, “I hurt my knee in Vietnam.” He was born in 1987. My mom said, “you’re kind of young to have been in the Vietnam war.” He said “I never said I was in the war…”

          It was funny at the time, mostly because someone his age coming up with that response I think. Maybe you had to be there.

          Nothing to do with OP’s issue. Your mention of Vietnam just reminded me of it.

          1. Wintermute*

            I know someone that hurt themselves badly falling while travelling in the middle east, he is very careful to specify that no, he was not in the army, no he was not wounded in action, yes he did hurt himself in Kuwait.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Another instance of not checking details, like the travel law.
        I keep noticing this because I’m an analyst and no one checks my work. I’m responsible for making sure my analyses are thorough and accurate.
        So if I have the slightest doubt, or haven’t seen the numbers of a source in a while, I always check them. It’s the difference between good work and sloppy work. Jane clearly doesn’t understand this concept.
        I also don’t say numbers are accurate if I’m not sure when I’m asked – I say I’ll check and let the person know. Like Jane could have done with the travel law.

  8. Rabbit*

    If you do speak to your boss or someone else about this it might also be worth pointing out that lying or exaggerating about her military experience could be a major PR disaster if it gets out

    1. Trek*

      Anyone else remember ‘The Next Food Network Star’ that lied about his military service? It caused major problems and he lost his opportunity to have his own show.

      1. JessaB*

        Heck it bit Robert Irvine hugely, because he did too. He used to make a big deal of the “made the cake for the Charles/Diana wedding,” which turned out to be, “assisted a little bit with decorations and such.” It took years before they were willing to put him on TV again.

      2. Whenpigsfly*

        That was true for a few years, but he has popped up again and has several shows with them again! It boils my blood every time I see him. Robert Irvine.

        1. Whenpigsfly*

          I thought that original comment was about Irvine. He also lied about military service.

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        There was a survival expert that got really jumped on for lying about military experience not that long ago too… I think it was one of the Dual Survival guys, but I may be mis-remembering. That blew up a lot. Lost his contract (iirc) and everything.

      4. What’s with Today, today?*

        Robert Irvine. He lied on his resume about military service, owning a castle, cooking for numerous Presidents and a variety of other things. He’s still on the Food Network all the time.

      5. noahwynn*

        Josh Garcia I think was his name. He left the competition after that because the final vote is from the fans which I assume he realized he wouldn’t win anyways.

        Robert Irvine did lie about a lot though or at least greatly embellish the truth.

  9. MuseumChick*

    I have a gut feeling that when the full story comes out, you will find there is much more going on here then you ever suspected OP. I’m sorry that you are stuck here with no real power to figure out what is really going on. Follow Alison’s advice, it’s about the only thing you can do.

    Also: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING THIS WOMAN TELLS YOU. Get as much as you can in writing (save all emails from her for example), especially about work related things. Document when, how, and who your were with when she told you about getting a tuition reimbursement, right down the day, time, and who was in the meeting when she told you about being paid for only 8 hours of travel time out of a 10 hour trip. Save the article and name of the woman in that photo. Save the email Jane sent claiming in was her.

    This is the CYA in case Jane tries to retaliate against you in anyway.

    1. starsaphire*

      Seconding MuseumChick on the “document everything.”

      Firsting on the “and then come back here and give us an update, please please pretty please, when all this is over.”

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I think you’re right about there being so much more going on. That’s certainly been my experience with dishonest people. Once they see they can get away with the small stuff, they get more audacious until it all comes collapsing down.

      And yes to documenting everything this woman tells you. Protect yourself, OP. You might not need it, but if you do, you’ll be so glad for that protection. Good luck and let us know how it works out.

      1. embertine*

        Also that kind of lying tends to be compulsive. Jane could have just… not said anything, instead she concocts this elaborate, emotive story and splattermails the entire company about it.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          ‘Splattermails’ is an amazing word. I love it.

          By compulsive, do you mean that’s something she came up with pretty much on the spot? I didn’t realise that kind of lying was impulsive. It’s pretty detailed. I go blank when put on the spot. Imagine if Jane used her powers for good!

          1. Me*

            I think you may be confusing the word compulsive with another word. Compulsive in the sense that she cannot help herself – she feels constantly compelled to lie. Not to get into armchair psychologing, but compulsiveness is a term used with some specificity in certain behaviors and disorders.

          2. embertine*

            What Me said below – the lies may be incredibly detailed and planned (although she probably lies on impulse too) but are a type of compulsion. I’m not going to armchair diagnose Jane as a) we don’t have enough info and b) I’m not a psychologist anyway, but my ex had narcissistic personality disorder and would concoct these elaborate lies out of nothing. I believe that getting people to believe his lies, even something as pointless as “I’m going to the shop to get milk” made him feel safer; it meant he “won” and was in control. Sad really, but enormously damaging.

      2. MuseumChick*

        I’m a fan of the “Just the make sure I understood” email when I feel like I need to document something. Here for example, I would advice the OP to email Jane and say something like, “Hi Jane, quick question, I want to make sure I understood what you told me the other day regarding work travel. For my upcoming trip I will be traveling for 10 hours but the company will only pay me for 8 due to the California law. Do I have the correct?”

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Oh, that’s excellent. I love that. Thank you so much, I will keep this one in mind for sure.

          1. MuseumChick*

            The beauty is, if she back peddles you can say, “Ok! Good thing I checked, I figured I had misunderstood.” and if she doubles down, you now have one more piece of evidence to add to your file.

            1. SamKD*

              …and that is -why- this is such an excellent email template. I’m keeping it in mind too! _Smart_ MuseumChick.

    3. Shoes On My Cat*

      And you can email YOURSELF for anything she says that might be dicey to email back to her, is stories. Then you have a time/date stamp. Create an outlook folder labeled AAM suggestions and dump it all in there. -or some other boring label that doesn’t scream “Jane is a liar liar pants on fire and I have maybe proof” Yes, I did this with a past boss for CYA and it was glorious. Bonus was that a few others in upper management that came along later didn’t mess with me too too much-they had heard. The good ones didn’t need a folder because-good management with honest mistakes, it happens! But if you toss me under the bus I few times too many, I WILL puncture a tire!!

      1. Philosopher King*

        Best to use a non-work email, so you have access even if you get fired or your IT dept isn’t any more competent than your HR dept and your email data is lost.

      2. JLCBL*

        Between this and The Man, Becky Lynch warming piles of gold like a dragon, AAM metaphors are giving me joy today.

    4. Michaela Westen*

      And organize the documents as you save them, so you can quickly find what you need when it’s needed.
      I’ve taken to saving emails in the file manager (as .msg files) with descriptive names to make it easier to find the right one. Not just the same subject in a chain of 10… also include the date in the file name. If you think you might not be able to access electronic files, maybe put them on a flash drive or print them out.

    5. Anon for this one*

      Good advice.

      I have encountered both game-playing, manipulative HR people and self-aggrandizing , but never all rolled into one. This woman is best avoided and as noted above, documented.

    6. Wintermute*

      SOP when dealing with a liar– record record record. If you have a face-to-face conversation e-mail her “persuant to our conversation I just wanted to sum things up to ensure I understood” and describe the substance of what you talked about.

  10. Minocho*

    One additional possibility is if the company provides an anonymous call in line to report ethics concerns, this seems like a perfect time to use it, if there’s no one the OP feels they can trust with this.

    If they go this route, assume the normal anonymity protections aren’t in place, and take steps (have a non-coworker friend who doesn’t sound like the OP call in from their phone with the information, for example), because again, you can’t trust HR or Finance here.

    1. Corporate Lawyer*

      It seems unlikely that such a small company would have an anonymous call in line; those sorts of things are more common at larger and (especially) publicly traded companies. Having said that, however, I do agree that if there IS such a whistleblower hotline at this company, I would encourage OP to consider using it.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Agreed. In many companies, those reports go directly to the internal audit function (or they’re included in the distribution). Auditors tend to take stuff like this seriously.

    3. BradC*

      Unless… the anonymous call-in ethics line goes straight to the head of HR… which seems entirely plausible.

  11. Sloan Kittering*

    I used to know someone like this. They made up stories about exactly this kind of thing (being a military hero, being a minister) for no reason – nobody asked them or expected them to even have this experience, but they were eager to volunteer all this stuff. It became increasingly clear over time that it was not possible for all the things they said to be true – for example, the years didn’t line up with their age, and they forgot things they’d said earlier than contradicted what they were saying now. I can’t express how weird and creepy it is when you realize you’re in the presence of someone who will look right at you straight faced and make up these elaborate fantasies. I honestly believe it is some kind of mental illness or break from reality. I don’t even have any advice for OP, just commiseration that it is deeply unsettling.

    1. MsClaw*

      I worked with a woman who I couldn’t stand at one point. I could overhear her conversations from where I sat, and one day she held forth about how she’d come this close to being deployed for Vietnam because she’d been told her draft number was going to be in the next group when she went to register for selective service.

      I am 100% sure she was not born a male. She was telling this story to an Iraq vet. I cannot imagine the gall it takes to make up a story like that to someone who has actually been through something you were never in the least danger of being involved in.

      1. Venus*

        The worst I have heard of this type of situation was someone (‘A’) listening to a detailed story about an incident overseas where ‘B’s vehicle was hit, and at the end of the story A looked at B and said “I was in that vehicle. I don’t remember you being there.”

        1. MsClaw*

          They had worked together a while, so I’m guessing he’d heard more than one bananas tale from her. He just kinda ‘oh wow’-ed her and steered the conversation back to work. I only had to share space with this woman for 6 months, and that was just one of many crazy stories she told. For people who had worked with her for years, I think they were probably used to it. For example, I heard about 6 different versions of the births of her two kids in that time. I’m sure it *was* really traumatizing to have had a c-section, given birth in a taxi, and nearly died because of a terrible home birth all to deliver the same baby.

          1. Boobookitty*

            OMG this made me LOL. I’m trying to envision the birth starting at home, continuing in the taxi, then ending in the hospital.

          2. tangerineRose*

            It might be fun to try to make up stuff that would get that to actually make sense :)

            Maybe she was going to have a home birth, realized it was going wrong, got in a taxi (if it was going wrong, I’m guessing she’d need help to get in the taxi), and then it went really, really wrong, but fortunately the taxi driver had enough medical experience and the medical equipment handy to do a c-section right there in the taxi.

            Hmmm, I think I need to add aliens from outer space to this story somewhere.

      2. JSPA*

        I have a female friend who’ll forget, and do this. Thing is, though you would probably not think it, she’s intersex, was assigned male at birth, and has since transitioned. So let’s leave a little room here, for unusual life – paths, complete transitions, and the forgetfulness (or not – caring?) of age.

    2. CaliCali*

      Yep. I’ve known this sort of person. They tend to choose things to lie about that are somewhat “safe” so if you question their veracity, you seem like a terrible person. In the case of one person I know, they did legitimately have something very tragic happen to them (their spouse died at a young age), but they make up allllllll kinds of other shit, and if anyone conveys skepticism, it comes back to them being widowed…somehow. Despite the lie having nothing to do with that. There is some true pathology about it.

      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        OMG I knew a person who was widowed at a young age, was a pathological liar, and made up allll kinds of shit- and some really hideous stuff. It was absolutely despicable. And I’m horrified to know there’s at least one more of of her.

    3. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      This happened to me too, in high school. One of our coaches worked for the military in some capacity. He told us he was an explosives specialist, and was always showing us self-defense moves and how to recognize if someone knows what they’re doing with a knife, etc. We all thought this was so cool and really looked up to him. One day he came in and told us he was being deployed to Afghanistan and wouldn’t be coming to practice any more. It came out a few weeks later that he was a compulsive liar and that all the military stuff was lies. When he had been going on “classified trips” this whole time he was just going on *regular business trips*. I can’t imagine what you have to have going on lie in such a way that you have a team of high schoolers crying that they’ll never see you again, and not even flinch. He came back and coached again after a hiatus but none of us could ever trust his word again.

    4. FD*

      Yeah. I’m in my 30s and I had a friend back in school (elementary) who said her sister died on the Titanic.

      1. Grace*

        A girl I knew at school told us all that she was the lost princess Anastasia because she was Russian. For context, I’m in my early 20s. She later doubled down and said fine, she was descended from Princess Anastasia. I played over at her house once when I was eight or so, and when my mum came to pick me up, she told us both that she lived in a palace, despite the fact that we were both stood there in her suburban semi-detached.

        I would have put it down to age (this was all before she turned ten) except for the fact that she changed schools at sixteen and the following year, someone from the other school asked me if it was true that she had an older brother who lived in Beijing and was a billionaire. No, she was an only child until her little sister was born a few years ago. No idea where she is now, but that latest update has me fairly convinced that she’s been a pathological liar since a young age.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          When I was 10 John Denver was my uncle.

          I am legit very distantly related to Bob Dylan (yes, that Bob Dylan) though. But it’s not like I’ve *ever* even come near meeting him or anything.

    5. Heidi*

      My high school social studies teacher invited a veteran to speak to one of his classes. The guy shows up and tells this insane story about how he did training to be an Army Ranger, a Navy SEAL, and a Green Beret. My teacher had served in the military himself and exposed him as a fraud. It was in the paper. Big deal in a small town.

      I also once met a guy who said he was an English professor at a prestigious university. Turns out, there is an English professor with the same name, but it was definitely not this guy. This probably happens more than we imagine.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I once happened to mention to an online friend that I was in the year ahead of Prince William at St Andrews. She said that someone she knew had been temporarily working there at the same time and was always seeing him walk past his department to go for his lunch. I asked his name, and it was “Apollo Warbucks in Canadian Studies”. Not sure how Prince William managed to walk past the Canadian Studies department every lunchtime when there was no Canadian Studies department there.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “Not sure how Prince William managed to walk past the Canadian Studies department every lunchtime when there was no Canadian Studies department there.”

          LOL So was your friend lying or was someone lying to her?

          1. Heidi*

            Good question. Is it more bizarre that the friend is lying about Apollo Warbucks, or that Apollo Warbucks is lying about Prince William?

          2. EvilQueenRegina*

            The impression I got at the time was that he really had told her that, she’d never questioned it at the time and was genuinely confused when I said that St Andrews didn’t have a Canadian Studies department. From what I remember she said something about how she’d ask him about it again if the subject ever came up again, but wouldn’t go out of her way to ask him about it, and I never heard any more about it. It came across like she really didn’t want to believe he could have possibly told her that and it not be true.

    6. Dr. Pepper*

      One of my high school teachers was like that. She would tell us of her many weird and wondrous adventures, and she couldn’t bear to admit she’d made a mistake over something. Instead she’d make up an elaborate and detailed story as to why she was right. She claimed to have rescued children from burning buildings- at great peril to herself, naturally- on at least five separate occasions. She constantly bemoaned the tiny “cottage” she lived in- except she was my near neighbor and said “cottage” was actually a nice four bedroom house. She told us she’d written Cliffnotes. All of them. She claimed to have lived in London and that everyone there pronounced the Thames River as the “THAY-mes”. She said she attended Yale AND Harvard, graduating with honors from both, because she was so super smart. Which is naturally why she was now a high school English teacher. Yeah……

      It was just exhausting and her crazy lies were a huge joke. Because sometimes you gotta laugh or else you’re going to cry. We followed her weird classroom rules because we had to, but that was it. Nobody believed her ever. She creeped me out and dealing with her was always awkward because you never know when she would feel compelled to vomit up a new lie to either make herself important or cover her ass when she’d gotten something wrong.

    7. PSB*

      I was in Air Force ROTC in my first couple of years of college. When I was a freshman, one of the other first years was one of those guys who’s always telling stories you know are at least 50% BS. Everyone just rolled their eyes and ignored it, mostly, because they were so obviously not true. Near the end of the year, a well known Vietnam ace who was still a Brigadier General in the reserves came to visit our unit. As we’re going through the line to meet the General, this genius tells him a story about how he’d gotten to ride in a certain type of military aircraft and his flight had included a midair refueling. An aircraft that the General, I, and most everyone else in the room knew didn’t have aerial refueling capability.

      The guy didn’t turn up for the start of our second year a few months later.

    8. Slow Gin Lizz*

      The pathological liar I knew in grad school, whom I mentioned above, said he was a rabbi, had to deliver a paper in physics, worked for Pfizer, was a nurse, and played more than the one musical instrument we were in grad school for. I can testify that he did play at least two of the instruments he claimed to play (it’s difficult to fake that), but as for the others…well, we were in our 20s and I don’t think he had a PhD in physics nor was he a rabbi or a nurse. Ooh, nor a full-time teacher, which I think he also said he was. I can’t say for sure because I never checked, but I’m guessing not. It would be hard to show up at mid-day rehearsals if you also had two or three full-time jobs.

      I think he was doing it to try to relate to other people. The rabbi thing, for instance, I think he said because he wanted to identify with our prof who was Jewish. In some ways I think that’s part of the lying thing, trying to find common ground with other people. But obviously not the whole reason. And I agree, it’s unsettling in some ways but in this case his lies were mostly harmless and I just felt sorry for him because absolutely everyone knew he was lying about everything and he didn’t seem to notice and/or care.

    9. Keith*

      There was a senior manager here years ago whose ‘husband’ was a pilot for the Rolling Stones. Everyone assumed it was a fake husband, for many reasons, but the decision to give him that job was particularly amusing.

    10. mcr-red*

      I worked with someone for over a decade that made up a family! Kids, grandkids, etc. It was super creepy after we found out none of that was true.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Part of the reason it creeps me out so much is that sometimes you hear these stories that, when the lies start to come out, the liar may panic and decide to get rid of the people who have now learned the truth rather than face the exposure …

    11. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      My husband works with a guy who claims, among other unbelievable things, that he learned karate from Bruce Lee- who died in 1973.
      This guy is around my age (50s) and in 1973, I was 6 years old.

      This guy also claims to be a former soccer star that played soccer in North Korea, and that he has trained with Mike Tyson.

      This dude was hired from a temp agency to work the absolute lowest rung in a manual labor warehouse job, but ALSO claims that he used to be an Operations Manager, that he could run the warehouse better than anyone, AND that all the other DCs in the company are run according to his plans (I hope I don’t have to emphasize what complete BS this one is LOL)

      Of course, the guy is a huge slacker and just about worthless.

      BUT, I am waiting with bated breath, because things have gotten stirred up in the management department, and from what my husband tells me it looks like the new OM is basically, giving all the braggarts & dead weight a chance to put their money where their mouths are, and they are all failing dismally. I know exactly where this is leading, and I CAN’T FREAKIN’ WAIT.

      (They LOVE my husband and he recently got promoted, so I have no worries about his job security. It’s been pretty dysfunctional there for awhile, and I’m so happy to know things are finally starting to change.)

  12. Summertime*

    Another problem with this situation is Jane’s large amount of power in the company. Is it common in smaller companies that someone doubles as finance and HR director? I know that this is a higher level conversation than OP may be able to participate in, but it seems to be a situation where someone is placed in a position that allows them to abuse their power without checks and balances.

    The photo incident is so completely bizarre. What is there to gain from providing a fake photo?

    1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      “The photo incident is so completely bizarre. What is there to gain from providing a fake photo?”

      Emotional validation and attention.

      1. fposte*

        Yup. It’s like the letter about the co-worker with a fake fiancé and sick child.

        That doesn’t mean it’s done with malice or that validation and attention aren’t legitimate things to want. But a workplace can’t fill your holes there.

    2. De Minimis*

      It’s pretty common in the non-profit world to combine the two functions in smaller organizations, though I haven’t heard of it happening much outside of that.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. Like I wrote above, a 30-person company isn’t big enough to need full-time, dedicated HR so HR gets lumped in with someone else’s job (and usually not handled especially professionally). It’s often assigned to the admin (because the company thinks of it as largely payroll and benefits) or finance (same reason).

      1. JeanB in NC*

        I’m a bookkeeper at a small private school and I am also in charge of HR. We have no other finance staff (other than the board). I’ve been to seminars about HR law, but in reality there are probably things we are doing that are incorrect that I have no idea about. It’s not a good situation.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You’re worrying a lot, I understand, I thought the same years ago when I started out. It’s the pressure we put on ourselves because we want things to be done correctly and lawfully. However I have been told by many different employment lawyers that it’s a tight ship, better than companies five times our size, etc. I’ve had run ins with bad HR departments for large corporations and they are apparently “trained” and “educated”, yet they drop the ball so hard, breaking a lot of laws, needless to say.

          So hopefully you can find peace and not worry so much, you’re most likely doing things correctly.

        2. Jadelyn*

          If your company will pay for it, you might consider getting a SHRM membership. It gets you access to their resources so you can always look things up if you have questions. Or your state chamber of commerce – our HR generalist calls CalChamber with questions when we’re all debating some fine point of CA labor law and can’t come to an agreement on how it’s supposed to be interpreted, and their labor attorneys will help clarify.

          But honestly, at least you’re making an effort and at least you genuinely care about getting it right. There are unfortunately plenty of “fully trained” HR professionals who let things slide because they don’t want to deal with it. I’d rather someone who cares and is still learning, than someone who knows but doesn’t care.

    4. Natalie*

      IME it’s extremely common for HR & Finance to be combined in smaller companies. They naturally have a fair bit of overlap, because of payroll and benefits management, and in smaller companies there’s rarely enough HR director-level work to justify an FTE.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes, in a 30 employee company, it’s very common that finance and HR are tied together. Hello, from that position. I got training though because I work for mostly people who don’t like to break the laws and have their butts covered.

  13. Military Brat*

    If she is using any of ‘her’ military lies to be of material benefit to her in any way, she is committing Stolen Valor. That is illegal.

      1. Linzava*

        Hm, I was wrong, I thought the stolen Valor act was repealed by the Supreme Court, looks like it is a crime again.

        1. fposte*

          There are two Stolen Valor Acts. The first wanted the mere claim of service to be illegal; it was found unconstitutional. The second, which is still in force, focuses on the claim of medals for tangible gain.

    1. Natalie*

      Worth noting that Stolen Valor Act is actually fairly narrow; she would have to be specifically claiming receipt of certain military decorations for the purpose of obtaining some kind of material benefit.

      1. my two cents*

        passing around a company-wide email pretending to be an honored vet, including pretending it’s their photo as well, is a pretty big well-documented lie.

        It might not be enough for criminal charges, but it *should* certainly be enough ’cause’ to fire them.

        1. Natalie*

          Sure, but this conversation is about legal consequences, not whether or not she could be fired. If the letter writer had influence as to whether or not Jane kept her job, it would be a rather different situation.

      2. Infantry Vet*

        Stolen Valor is fairly narrow. Fraud however isn’t. If she financially benefited because of lying about military service (ex. A Go Fund Me campaign) fraud charges can be (and have been in other instances) brought against the person.

    2. Linzava*

      Stolen Valor is such a big deal in military circles right now, anyone who saw that email can easily do the same due diligence you did and post it on one of the exposure sites. That would be a PR problem. While it’s not a crime, I don’t believe, a lot of companies will fire the person because nobody wants a group of angry veterans focusing on their company.

      I’m not saying this as something you should bring up to management, but this may just solve itself depending on who she emailed.

      1. Linzava*

        Also, if it were me, a person from a multi generational military family, I would forward the email to the real person you found on linked in. That’s a good way to thank our troops, let them know when someone is stealing their experiences for professional gain.

        1. Anonymeece*

          I wouldn’t. My partner is a combat veteran suffering from PTSD and a TBI, and this type of thing would set him off big-time. While I absolutely do not agree with this woman’s actions, it wouldn’t always be a kindness to let the actual veteran who she was posing as know about it.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Some of the commenters upthread were saying it should be forwarded to an organization that handles such things instead of the veteran herself, so she won’t be stressed by it.

    3. Rabbit*

      I think this is only true if she’s claiming a specific medal or rank though, rather than “just” making up an incident. Not a lawyer or an expert (or American) by any means though

      1. Linzava*

        In the US, Stolen Valor is when you pretend you were in the military or exaggerate your role in the military. It’s not a crime, but it’s socially repugnant here because Americans will give social perks to our military. It’s an honor thing.

        1. JessaB*

          Yeh, it’s only illegal if you use it to get something, but that something could be as small as a dinner on Veteran’s day.

  14. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Wow, Stolen Valor is something that rings every bell in my head that this woman is a total fraud. She probably doesn’t have any credentials to be running HR or finance, this sounds exactly like the embezzlement nightmares I’ve seen the aftermath of.

    You are best to just keep your distance and get out of there, honestly. She’s wicked, you don’t lie about your military service, ever. That shows how low she’ll sink. She knows how to gain trust from people who should know better as well, which is a horrible sinking feeling to think about.

    Keep documentation of your hours and throw this liar into the flames of the department of labor when you get yourself to the freedom of a new job.

    1. milksnake*

      My first thought was Stolen Valor too.
      I would ask if there’s any way to have HR request her DD214 but… she is HR, and as far as we know the only benefit she’s receiving is praise and attention.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, there’s a reason why she’s getting herself into cushy locations like an HR/Finance spot like that. It’s the best way to cover her lies.

      2. actual service member*

        even if there were someone else in hr to make this request it wouldn’t work and this is bad advice. any requests for a dd214 have to be made by the person it belongs to, unless (1) they are dead and their next of kin is the one requesting it, or (2) the veteran was discharged more than 62 years ago.

        1. milksnake*

          My intention was not to go behind her back and request it, but to have HR request it from her. If I’m remembering correctly there are times where the form needs to be submitted. For example if you’re a veteran trying to participate in veteran housing programs, or education benefits. My question was more “Would HR ever have any standing to request discharge paperwork from an employee?”

          1. milksnake*

            Thank you, that’s at the heart of what I was thinking.
            If she’s claiming something that has a paper trail there must be a way to prove or disprove her claims.
            But again, if she’s all she’s getting out of it is some strange ego-boost than there may be no standing to request that paper trail.

  15. Classic Rando*

    I used to know someone like this socially. It was an open secret that you couldn’t trust anything she said, but I was one of a very few who would correct her openly if I heard her changing a story I knew the real details of. Last I heard of her she had stirred up a bunch of family drama ahead of someone else’s wedding, and somehow is still considered a friend of the couple.

    Sadly she’s just one toxic element of a group with a lot of problems, so she rarely faces consequences for her lies. I keep most of that group at arm’s length these days, but if I found myself working with (or worse, FOR) someone like her I’d definitely go into documentation mode. Get everything in writing, if she lies in writing, well there’s the evidence, and if she lies in conversation but is reliable in writing, then you have her own words to contradict her. That’s the only way to cya with this type, until someone above her takes notice of the issue.

  16. boo bot*

    Do people think this is a case where the coworkers who know about this should go together as a group to speak to the boss? Or is that likely to make it seem more like office drama and be taken less seriously?

    With weird stuff like this I always want someone to confirm my perceptions of reality, but I can see how a discreet word from one person might be better in this case. Thoughts?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Honestly, with a company this size, I wouldn’t even bother with anything but getting the ef outta there. The boss is clearly hands off and trusts this person, it’s going to be a lot more than just everyone rallying together to get her in trouble. There aren’t enough layers here to not explode into dramatic overload.

      1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        This. I said essentially the same thing in my comment farther down.

        Get. Out. Now.

    2. irene adler*

      Personally, I think this is best presented to the boss on one’s own-without the group in tow.

      If the boss wants additional employee perspective, then he can talk with them himself.

      If the whole group shows up, there’s the whiff of ganging up on Jane – or conspiring in some fashion- that might put off the boss. Boss might want to know who brought the group together, and why they didn’t bring this up to him first.

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah, the ganging-up effect makes sense, I guess – I think that the situation is so inherently high-drama (“Hey, boss, out HR director might be a pathological liar!”) that to present it to the boss you have to kind of counter that by being as even-keeled as humanly possible. (“Hey, boss, here are some neutral facts about which I have no personal feelings…”)

        1. irene adler*

          Yep – tip-toe carefully.
          Don’t want to come off as having any kind of personal grudge against Jane.

  17. Ama*

    Eeeeek. As someone who has had two bosses in two different jobs who were found to have committed financial misconduct, I am seeing a lot of familiar signs here. The mysterious “benefits” they get that no one else can really explain, the conveniently incorrect interpretations of policy that deny other staff money so they can better hide their own excessive spending (I had a promotion denied for a policy reason that I have since discovered was total BS, and was probably more about denying me access to our department budget). One of the bosses was just excessively nice all the time (he definitely lied a lot but it was subtle enough that it wasn’t discovered until he was fired), the other was more like Jane and kind of aggressive and intimidating in order to keep from being questioned, but both of them left a huge mess behind when the full extent of their activities was discovered.

  18. OrigCassandra*

    If this were a non-profit, I’d be asking how to trigger a financial audit. I agree with some commenters above that this smells of possible embezzlement by Jane.

    I don’t know enough about the small-for-profit-business environment to know how to do something analogous here, but if I were OP I’d want one just for my own peace of mind!

    1. Marissa*

      I agree with this. It’s possible that the red flags are explainable (as Alison pointed out in her answer), but it is also possible that Jane is using small things like the bonus and tuition reimbursement to test the waters and see what she can get away with and who is watching her. The thing is OP doesn’t know and the red flags should be noted to someone higher up without making conclusions about Jane being a liar or untrustworthy, just the facts. Hopefully the company has checks in place and conducts financial audits to avoid having an individual get the ability to engage in fraud and go undetected for a long time.

  19. Myrin*

    OP, I just want to address something that I haven’t seen mentioned yet. You say “… because so many people in the office commend her for her wit and professionalism, when they have no idea about her lies. […] and since no one suspects her of wrongdoing.”

    I think it’s quite likely you’re wrong here.
    Look at your situation as you yourself told it: you and “a few other employees” know about the photo shenanigans; one or two coworkers questioned the validity of the photo even before the truth came out; one coworker went in search of the true veteran; the accounting manager noticed something was likely wrong with the bonus but was too scared to confront Jane; people are wondering about how her lessons were approved; “[a] lot of the non-exempt employees left the meeting confused and doubtful that she was telling [them] legal, truthful information”.

    Honestly, that is not a story about someone who is seen as highly trustworthy and competent by all of her peers and underlings.

    I’m bringing this up, OP, because I’m getting a lot of anguish (sorry, I just had to use that) from your letter and like you feel like you’re caught alone in the middle of a potential scandal with only you between it and its actually being revealed to anyone. And I don’t think that is true at all. I’m willing to bet that the examples in your letter aren’t the only times people noticed something strange going on; in fact, it’s not at all unlikely that others are in the exact same position as you but, like you, are not sure how to behave and whether they’re unfairly just seeing things. So, to an outsider, it might look like Jane has “stories that she tells that people find so interesting without realizing that they may not be truth”, but all these people who seem to find the stories interesting and engaging and fascinating might inwardly cringe doubtfully while being outwardly polite and interested.

    I hope this will help you get at least some peace of mind in this crazy situation!

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      “So many people in the office commend her on her wit and professionalism,” is something that happens a lot with people like this. It’s like the workplace equivalent of the Emperor’s New Clothes: no one wants to admit they’re seeing something different than everyone else, and they don’t want to risk the social backlash of disagreeing with the group, so they all go along with the party line even though none of them agree with it.

      1. Classic Rando*

        Yes, this. I spoke above about someone I know socially who does this and that’s the group dynamic around her. Sometimes people will talk about her lies behind closed doors, but if you question an inconsistency in the moment, or if you mention certain stories that she told one way until she was caught and has reversed on, the group collectively contracts amnesia about it and effectively gaslights the person doing the asking. One reason of many I don’t really talk to most of them anymore.

      2. President Porpoise*

        Once upon a time, my dad worked for a large government body with a lot of power. The administration in office at the time was interested in doing away with a very large scale, controversial, and important program – it cost billions and had international policy implications. One day, they held a big meeting. “We’re doing away with this thing. We’ve gotten consensus that it’s no longer in our best interests, and we’re shutting it down”, the meeting chairperson said. My dad stood up and said “No. No one has discussed this with me or my office, and we do not agree that this is no longer needed.” The meeting chair attempted to ignore my dad’s repeated interjections that consensus had not, in fact, been reached, when other people started backing up my dad. Turns out, the chair hadn’t even attempted to reach consensus and was hoping that if they presented it that way, everyone would be cowed into accepting it. The deputy secretary wrote my dad a letter about it thanking him for standing up and speaking out, and adverting what very well could have been a major disaster.

        1. Jeanne*

          This is a typical strategy of people who want to have control, and to make things go their way.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      These are excellent points. Jane’s stories and position might be unravelling more than OP realises.

    3. Michaela Westen*

      Is it possible for OP to compare notes with others? Maybe all the pieces put together will give a clearer picture.
      But not if it will endanger her job or her colleagues. Just go to management like Alison and others have said.

  20. Person*

    I had a coworker who was a pathological liar. It was frustrating because I was his ed tech and he was a special ed teacher and constantly come up with these elaborate excuses as to why he was out that day. My favorite was one where he said his basement had flooded, and included a picture of a flood basement. A quick reverse image search pulled up that image from a plumbing website. Another was his goat was in labor with twins–and he sent us a picture of two baby goats. Perfectly washed and posed for pictures. Turned out it was from a farming website. I had to cover him every time he was out, and it severely messed up my day and several other ed techs and teachers who had to fill in. Nevermind the lack of structure messed with the students. Was happy to leave that! Sometimes I wonder if he even truly had a teaching license or if he found a copy of one online too.

  21. MommyMD*

    Jane is a nut. Find a way to let a high superior know this. If she steals someone’s valor from a newspaper article anyone can see, she will have zero problem stealing from the company.

  22. Rusty Shackelford*

    “Oooh, look, Jane, we found someone else stole your picture! We’ve reported it to a group that investigates cases of stolen valor!”

  23. Jennifer*

    Maybe they need to do a further investigation into her background. This can’t be the first time she’s done something like this.

  24. Matilda Jefferies*

    OP, I’m curious as to why you refer to this incident as a “secret,” and why you feel you need to keep that secret. Does she know that you know? Has she asked you to keep quiet about it?

    Jane is not your friend, and there’s nothing for you to gain by protecting her. She may or may not get in trouble if word gets out about the photograph, but if she does it’s a consequence of her own actions. Take a look through the archives here for the concept of “tattling” – I’m not sure if that’s what you’re worried about, but it’s not a concept that exists in the workplace. (*or shouldn’t exist, in a healthy workplace.) Jane’s actions are certainly unethical, and some of them may possibly be illegal, but none of this is your responsibility. This is definitely the kind of thing that your senior management would want to know about, even if they ultimately decide not to act on it.

    Now, having said all that, it seems that your workplace isn’t actually all that healthy. If the accounting manager is too intimidated to investigate possible financial fraud, that’s a big red flag – who knows what other sketchy stuff is going on with money around there, that the accounting manager either doesn’t know about or is choosing not to address. Honestly, I think your best bet is to get your resume together and start looking for another job. Whether or not you decide to talk to someone about Jane’s photograph, my guess is that there is a LOT of weirdness going on there, and more problems than you can solve.

    1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I’ve known several people like Jane in a social context, and I wouldn’t be surprised if OP has the same reasons for keeping it a secret as I have with those people: fear that you won’t be believed, fear of reprisal (from Jane or people who like Jane), and fear of going against the group. Jane in particular has a lot of power that really could affect OP negatively if things went wrong, hence the urge to keep it secret.

      For my part, I find that controlling the narrative is important, especially since you can be damn sure that Jane will do that. Pointing out that you’re nervous because Jane is head of HR (“I worry that this might change how she treats me, even if I’m wrong”), or explaining your reasoning behind your distrust (“ordinarily I would think she was just mistaken, but this is a part of a pattern of false statements from her”), or anticipating possible counter arguments from Jane (“I don’t think this could be a mistake: wouldn’t you know if you were in a picture with certain people or not?”) can be useful.

      Also, the truth will out. It might not be on the timeline we want, but it will.

    2. Shoes On My Cat*

      Yes!! At OldJob, the General Manager (location CEO) was doing suspicious stuff financially and made the Director of Finance cover it up. Well, eventually it got bad enough that parent company did an audit. Director of Finance was the first to be fired. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Might as well do in my opinion! (Report up the chain) It’s easier to get a new job if you quit because acting ethically caused severe tension with your boss than if you got fired because you covered for your boss who was cheating the company. It was particularly sad because the lady who came in to sort out the mess had been in his exact shoes, covered —& documented—the smaller, initial wrongdoings by her GM at the time, then took all her proof to corporate while it was still minor enough to avoid a huge loss of faith by ownership. Corporate had her continue to gather evidence, then fired the GM and hired her to do corporate troubleshooting as she had proved smart, clever and trustworthy…with a giant salary increase and interesting work.

  25. Roz*

    I’m not sure if this has been mentioned, but I would check to see if impersonating a member of the military is a federal crime in your country. In Canada it is. We had a man impersonate a veteran at a Remembrance Day ceremony here a few years ago. He was wearing a uniform with mismatched colours/badges and when his photo was put in the paper a bunch of military peeps (myself included) noticed and informed the media who interviewed him. The Department of National Defense was also notified, they investigated and he was charged with impersonating a peace officer and some other charges I can’t remember.

    My point is, what she did was possibly a crime as well as totally unethical. This may be helpful info to get her booted from her role.

    1. fposte*

      Federally speaking, it’s only a breach of the law in the U.S. if it gains certain kinds of tangible benefits; earlier attempts to make it illegal just to falsely claim were ruled unconstitutional.

      1. Rainy*

        I believe there are some states that have enacted laws to clarify the “tangible benefits” wording in the federal legislation, so it might be worth checking on state law.

  26. Ticklemepink*

    I actually hope she’s lying about the Theology degree and pocketing those funds. I hate to think she’s going to be in the position of having influence over (or providing guidance to) people in moral or emotional distress.

    1. Becky*

      I thought theology degrees were the study of religions–history, religious language and literature etc, an academic field not a religious one–not the same as divinity school which is what you do if you are planning on becoming a minister.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think it’s standardized. There are definitely schools of theology that turn out parish ministers and div schools that produce scholars.

        1. Myrin*

          And where I’m from, minister and scholars come from the same schools!
          (As in, school = university. There are different tracks you need to enrol in depending on your goal – I minored in catholic theology and sat in lectures next to future pastors as well as future religious education teachers, although those guys needed to take a lot more courses specifically for their path.) /end tangent
          I’m very certain OP isn’t in Germany, though. ;)

          1. I edit everything*

            In my denomination, a ThM (master’s of theology) does not qualify you for being a pastor–that’s an MDiv (master’s of divinity). Lots of people start with the MDiv, then do a ThM later, to pad a resume or enable a step to a “tall steeple church” or just for fun. But a ThM or PhD in theology, without the MDiv, would be the path for scholars/professors.

            I’ve toyed with the idea of a ThM, just because I find theology fascinating. But I have exactly zero desire to be a clergy person. It would be more for the mental exercise than anything.

          2. CMart*

            My husband was one of a small handful of academic scholars pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology at a Catholic institution that was otherwise populated by seminarians pursuing MDiv’s or MA’s in Pastoral Studies. Lots of members of various Orders of Priesthood among his classmates. He would be well within his rights to call himself a “Catholic Theologian” or a “Bible Scholar”, as that is what his degree was in.

            This was in the US.

      2. Asenath*

        I suspect what they’re called varies from place to place, but in my experience, the more secular study of religions is called “Religious Studies”, but the training of future ministers/priests is “Theology”. They can both be offered in the same university, but usually in different schools. There can be overlap, although Religious Studies tends to be broader, and usually (but not always) each school of theology will specialize in one religion. Theology degrees, in my limited experience, do include a lot of the thoroughly academic study of religion, its history, the development of its beliefs, its literature, moral theology etc etc, just as might be taught in a religious studies department. But a theology program intended to produce religious leaders will also have courses in things like Pastoral Studies, which can include counselling and teaching, possibly liturgy, definitely preaching, and probably some kind of practical experience.

        I take some courses at such a school – most of my fellow-students are probably aiming for the ministry, some, like me, take them out of interest. I pay for my own tuition, though, unlike the person in this letter.

      3. I edit everything*

        Theology is more like philosophy about God. It can be either Big University Degree or a seminary degree, and lots of clergy people have degrees in theology. But proper scholarly theologians tend not to have ministerial degree.

    2. ex-evangelical*

      I was in a support group for a while for people who left abusive religions, and the theology degree here doesn’t surprise me at all. I know there are a lot of ministers in the world who are ethical and moral and all that good stuff. But the sheer volume of shysters and compulsive liars who use other people’s religious needs to gain authority and adulation is a lot higher than a lot of people realize.

      But here’s hoping the HR director is just embezzling.

      1. Rainy*

        I grew up in a cult, and the cult’s (mostly unaccredited) colleges included a required double major in Theology no matter what the main course you took.

  27. Michaela Westen*

    I know someone like this. She doesn’t work, luckily for potential colleagues. She gets men to support her. She’s very good at seeming innocent and charming and normal. I had known her and her husband for 10 years without knowing she sabotages herself and then doesn’t mention it so she seems like a victim. She cheats on her husband so openly that some people think her boyfriend is her husband. She also took financial advantage of her friends by saying she needed money for legal difficulties with her ex, without mentioning she brought the problem on herself by bad behavior. She appears to be more competent and together than she is, and never does what she said she’d do. If you didn’t know her well, you’d never guess.

    1. Rainy*

      I thought you were describing someone I know until you said she’s still married! I’m always surprised and disappointed to learn there are more out there.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I stopped hanging out with them about 2 years ago and they were still married then. For his emotional and mental health he should have left, but didn’t…
        I don’t know what their living arrangement is now, but they still work together. They’re in a band.

      2. Lora*

        I know another (colleague/friend’s wife) who eventually had her older kid taken away from her for Munchhausen’s Syndrome By Proxy and her stepkids have a restraining order/PFA order on her so she can’t be within howevermany feet of them. When her husband has his visitation with them, she has to go stay with her folks. Her husband won’t leave because he’s scared of what she’d do to their daughter.

        Weird weird stuff. She goes through phases where she makes new friends who don’t know her history, is super-charming and aggressively friendly to them, then they eventually figure that she’s got major issues even if they don’t know the whole Munchhausen’s thing and drop her. Then my colleague/friend calls them up begging for THEM to apologize to HER because she feels very very hurt and doesn’t have any friends left…

    2. AKchic*

      I feel you there.
      I became reacquainted with an old jr. high/high school person about 18 months ago. Lo and behold, she was in an “abusive” situation and needed help. Well, our group swooped in and helped her, based on the information she gave. Ah, but she was not the damsel in distress she made herself out to be, merely great at crying wolf and taking advantage. I spent 7 months with her in my own home while she played the ever-increasing victim of so many different bad-luck scenarios. I think she has been living with her grandmother ever since, because her ex won’t take her back now that he is well rid of her.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Yes, I was always trying to help her. Not as dramatic as your former friend, I thought she was a slacker and clueless, not deceptive or manipulative. So I would tell her things to help her get it together, get/keep a job, take care of herself… when she was fired from a job she said it was because of corporate bs and more than a year later, her husband told me he caught her making out with her boyfriend in the break room when he stopped by to see her… that’s what she does, sabotage herself and get people to help her.
        The thing that amazes me is how good she is at hiding it. You really would never know if you didn’t know the intimate details.

  28. wayward*

    No military experience personally, but wouldn’t someone’s last day of service typically be in the US dealing with all the exit paperwork and logistics?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      No. It’s as they described, the story was real, it just wasn’t Jane’s story.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think that’s what the OP says, though; it’s just that there was a news story with that same photo that named it as somebody else. There’s no indication whether the story is “hero on day of discharge” or just “local woman comes home from service.”

    2. Ann Perkins*

      Yes… my husband’s last deployment officially ended almost a month after he came back from overseas. I can’t remember offhand what it’s called but there’s specifically transition time tacked on after travel time. At least that’s been our experience with the Air Force.

  29. Violetish*

    Please be careful about how you talk to your boss about this!

    I was the whistleblower about a similar coworker a few years ago. She was charming and well-liked. Other people on my team saw and agreed that she was avoiding work, chatting all day, and taking others work to share as her own. Repeatedly. My boss even saw her lie to a different manager about something he himself said.

    I know this is different. The lies are more extreme and there’s more at stake in your situation. But being the one to point out issues with a well liked employee made me seem petty. It hurt my career.

    Again, your situation is different! But there’s a fine line between sharing info about a creepy (maybe illegal?) lie about military service and sharing a conspiracy theory complete with an online search and someone reaching out to a stranger.

    Alison’s script is fantastic as usual. I would just add to bring it up once with evidence (but not so much info that you seem obsessed), put it in your boss’s hands, and don’t be the one to bring it up again. If people keep complaining in hushed tones, maybe they can bring it up next.

    1. Shoes On My Cat*

      Sorry that happened to you, Violetfish! Your suggestion-especially: proof, one time, and others who complain can be the next to bring it up!

    1. The Oracle at Delphi*

      1) Jane is going to double down on the lie when questioned.
      2) She is going to produce some sort of “proof,” like a photo or letter, that isn’t really proof at all, and no one is convinced.
      3) Jane is going to complain about being the victim of lying haters. But she says her faith will carry her through these dark times, and she will prevail.
      4) She will not prevail, because you can’t control a giant snowball of lies once it starts rolling downhill, and one day she just won’t be there anymore.
      5) People will tell this story at this job until the end of time.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        We had a bonkers lying coworker who would cover up her mistakes, tell impossible stories about herself, avoid doing her work, etc. After she was finally fired, I found notes in her desk she’d written to herself about how the haters were trying to stifle her and bring her down, but “they will learn that they are triffling [sic] with the Lord’s anointed!” It was almost exactly those steps you’ve enumerated… she was a typhoon of bonkers!

  30. RandomU...*

    Non serious advice coming:

    I would be so tempted to find that article again and reply all to her email with the story something along the lines of “OMG… I found this article with Jane’s picture in it. I haven’t had time to read it, but I thought I’d pass it one since I was so touched by Jane’s story!”

    1. LadyofLasers*

      Ummm, this is devious and awesome, and maybe she should actually do it *evil grin*

  31. De Minimis*

    This reminds me a lot of a person we hired at my previous job….they were rarely in the office, had a series of medical and personal “emergencies” that later turned out to be fake, and spent most of their time when they were in the office doing work for outside people. They even conned some of their coworkers into giving them money. They finally resigned after a few months, and right after that we realized we’d been lied to. We basically had spent several months worth of salary for nothing. It especially stung because we were a nonprofit, not that it would have been any less bad had it been a regular company, but we all felt really burned by it.

    I shared an office with the person and had suspicions the entire time, but didn’t make it known until after they’d left and the pieces started coming together. It was a case where several people had an inkling that something wasn’t right, but would have had to all get together to figure it out. Like the LW, I didn’t feel like I had standing, and didn’t bring it up [although we shared an office, they worked in another department and had a different supervisor.] I wish that I’d said something at some point to their supervisor, so good on the LW for seeking advice on what to do here. At the time I thought it was up to the other supervisor to be aware of what was going on with their person’s work, and I didn’t know for sure that something was wrong. I think I should have at least made my suspicions known.

    1. ragazza*

      Similar situation at our office! We had a guy who claimed his child was very ill and so he needed to take a lot of time off. The jig was up when an admin decided to send flowers from the office to the hospital and of course the hospital had no knowledge of said child. I remember the admin said later they didn’t even know if the employee used his real name. Considering the background checks they did on me, I really have no idea how that happened.

  32. Zap R.*

    Here’s the thing: even if it *was* true, it’s an extremely weird thing to share with your co-workers unprompted. I’m Canadian so I don’t know how seriously Americans take Veteran’s Day, but like, I don’t send out an all-staff email every Pride month with a picture of myself in the parade and a story about a time I faced homophobia. A low-key email with something along the lines of “Please join me today in remembering those who served” would be much more appropriate for the workplace.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, it’s not the norm. Most don’t want the attention because they didn’t sign up for the military so that they could become some decorated war hero. To become a war hero, your friends had to suffer tragedy and often die, that’s not something you celebrate, it comes with a lot of internal conflict, needless to say.

  33. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    I know we aren’t supposed to armchair diagnose subjects of letters, but this story reminds me a LOT of some of the details shared in a couple books about sociopaths / psychopaths in the workplace.

    1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      This story reminds me a lot of Actual Sociopaths and Narcissists I have known.

  34. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    I’d be thinking about creating an anonymous email account and sending a company-wide email outing her with the details about the real veteran.

  35. LCL*

    Have you tried just an online search using variants of her name? Speaking as someone with a very common name, showing up in a search isn’t proof of anything but it can be a good starting point.

  36. Pathological Liar Reporter*

    Oh my god. Buckle in. Story time!
    In my first job out of college, I was working in education as an after school teacher for an Americorps-type program. Most of us were new to the workforce, and while the program was a two-year commitment, at my site, we only had 3 second year teachers and 15-20 first-years. We also had one colleague, Bill, who was not a teacher but was not our boss and held a weird in-between position related to student discipline, but was employed by our program, not by the school.
    I never really got along with Bill, personality-wise, but he became close with some of the other teachers. He had a background working in education, and he told us about how he went to a well-known private school in NYC, then went to Yale, and then taught at a school where his students were called the Yale team because each class was named after their teacher’s alma mater.
    Dysfunction was rampant at this job, and my colleagues and I chatted a lot — we all worked out of one big room in the school where we sat in table groups. At some point, Bill sent out an email with a typo — something like “weather” instead of “whether,” and one of my coworkers made some joke like “How did Bill go to Yale but he can’t tell the difference between these words?” I laughed and then went back to whatever I was doing. When I next tuned into the conversation, a lot of people were sharing stories about how information Bill had shared didn’t add up — one colleague had Googled him (something we all did frequently to ensure that our students wouldn’t find weird stuff about us when they Googled us) and found a LinkedIn profile that didn’t match what Bill had told us. When she asked him about it, he said “That’s not me,” and then the next time she looked, that profile had been changed to private.
    Another colleague who had been close to Bill told me that she had started to notice some holes in his story and did some digging — she ended up sending me a few articles that mentioned work he did as high school student in New Haven — so, not at the private school in NYC. She had also found a video of him graduating from a different, decidedly-not-Yale college. Another coworker, who would have been at Yale at the same time as Bill, found it odd that they had no friends in common, and that Bill reported doing no activities while at Yale, which she told me was really out of character for a Yale student (idk if this is true, but it’s what she said at the time).
    So another coworker and I ended up putting all this together and meeting with our bosses to discuss this. Our supervisors were appropriately concerned and brought it to the higher-ups, who worked at a central office.
    Well. Turns out Bill hadn’t lied on his resume, so upper management didn’t care. Instead of them sharing our concerns about integrity and trust when it came to SOMEONE WORKING IN A SCHOOL WHO WE ALL HAD TO RELY ON, we got a giant lecture about gossip. One of the Management People had a one-on-one with me and basically asked if we were all sitting around laughing at Bill behind his back, which was baffling to me.
    Later that year, Bill got in trouble for making a joke about beating up a student and then asking the student to lie about it, and the principal told our organization he couldn’t keep working there. He quit before he was officially fired.
    So. I think I have some understanding of where you might be, letter writer, in terms of feeling like Something Is Not Right. I do encourage you to speak up about it if you think your boss would listen, because this shit gets real crazy real fast. Best of luck to you.
    (Also, I was very young and new to work when all this happened — there are pieces I would handle differently now, #1 among them being not staying at that freaking job for a second longer than necessary, so I’m not trying to present this as me handling everything perfectly.)

    1. fposte*

      The thing is, I don’t entirely disagree with them. The social problem of somebody BSing is not automatically the same thing as a work problem, and while the group dive into Bill-sleuthing is understandable (I love a bit of compulsive searching), it is indeed a problem in its own right.

      There’s no black and white answer on somebody misrepresenting themselves in the workplace–appropriate action can range from calling the authorities immediately to MYOB with a lot of shades in the middle, depending on the situation and what they’re claiming–but I think the frequent pitfall of others in response to BSing (or even seeming BSing) is to succumb to a sense of mission that the Truth is Out There and make that a group bonding thing. And that’s often a lot more damaging to a workplace than the initial BSing.

      I mean, this place sounds dysfunctional to the core so I doubt it made much difference there, but I think it’s worth remembering, when we’re gripped by the detective impulse, that we too can be part of the problem.

      1. Pathological Liar Reporter*

        Totally agree with your points. I would not handle it the same way now, and also wouldn’t have been nearly so concerned about it if these lies weren’t such a big part of everything he told us about himself — if it was just one or two fibs, whatever.
        (Also, would not have done all that digging myself, even at the time, but once it was brought to me, I felt like something had to be said.)

    2. Robyn*

      I had a similar experience – I worked at a non-profit that contracted with a physician to provide certain medical care to our clients on a basically monthly basis. I don’t remember how it came up (but honestly she was not very reliable and I was often very frustrated with her so I might have been fishing for dirt), but I searched the doctor’s name in our state’s medical licensure database and lo and behold, hers was suspended. I went to my boss, the ED, worried that we were liable in some way for continuing to allow her to practice medicine on our clients with a suspended license, and instead got a “How dare you look up the status of this provider in the publicly available database?” lecture. And of course nothing was done except the train misery-making consequences for me from said boss chugged along at greater speed.

  37. Zipzap*

    As soon as I saw the info that Jane sent a picture of herself on her “last day” in the Army and talking about her service, my BS detector went off. For the veterans I know, this doesn’t sound like something any of them would do. I agree there’s not a whole lot a junior level employee can do other than bring it to the higher ups’ attention, but hopefully that is enough. They ignore this at their (and the company’s) peril. They need to check with the Army to verify Jane’s service and check with the theology school she claims to be attending. I’m sure she’s not above falsifying an Army discharge form or a school attendance verification form.

  38. Bopper*

    Does the OP’s company have a legal or security department? I would contact them…or if you have an Ethics hotline.

  39. Scarlet*

    Yeah I completely disagree with Alison’s advice. Of course there is action you can take here.

    Here’s what you do, OP. Get an anonymous email address. Attach said article of HR Director. Send to entire company. Tell no one what you’ve done. Let the cards fall where they will. Boom.

    The seeds of doubt doth do sew themselves.

  40. OP / LW*

    LW here—

    Thanks to everyone who commented and to Allison for answering this. I didn’t think to go to my boss because he’s very close with the Director and they have a good enough relationship and trust that I’m worried he won’t believe me or take it seriously. One of us who knows has been documenting everything and someone attempted to whistle blow by submitting the documents anonymously but nothing has been said or done about that. I am considering letting my boss know more so I’m the context of travel rules and non-exempt laws and the confusion the Director caused about that.

    My letter is really only a small slice of the strange things the Director has said. Like Allison said, she is HR-Finance because our company is too small to have a designated HR position. We had an HR director before this current director but she left shortly for disability leave shortly after Jane was hired. They had issues I’m not fully aware of but in sum, the previous HR Director is now suing Jane and the company for creating a hostile work environment. She’s been out on disability leave for months and isn’t allowed to come back into her HR role. The company is dealing with lawyers to settle but staff is kept in the dark for the most part and we’ve been told to treat Jane as the HR contact. We have 3-4 other staff in finance but none of them have enough authority to oversee Jane, her boss is the CEO/CFO and he seems to trust her at her word.

    Some unmentioned red flags: A lower level finance employee received a notice from the IRS for a garnishment if wages against Jane and Jane took the letter and told the employee not to worry about it. Jane expense a $400 “work bag” on a recent trip that was paid for by the company. She frequently brags about how much fun she’s going to have on the company dime when she gets to travel to conferences.

    We have no legal dept, no anonymous tip line. Our policy for complaints and concerns is to go to your direct manager first, department head next, and then to Jane. She is the final point of contact for any HR issues and this is what makes this situation sticky for me. I don’t want to raise flags because I will be instructed to go to Jane with any issues and there is no backup for if Jane is the issue.

    1. fposte*

      Wow, OP. That is . . . a lot. I think that it’s gotta be time to job hunt with all this; I think Jane’s claims of service are the least of the company’s worries. Other people may know more than I do on this, but I suspect the IRS gets pretty unhappy when companies don’t garnish as required.

      1. valentine*

        We had an HR director before this current director but she left shortly for disability leave shortly after Jane was hired.
        Does this mean Jane onboarded herself?

        1. OP / LW*

          Yes to some degree. Since we’re a small company we don’t have an official on boarding process.

    2. Ginger*

      Yikes, that’s a whole lot of craziness.

      Just because the CEO “seems” to trust her, doesn’t mean he wouldn’t want to know but you know the relationships better than a stranger on the internet (obviously).

      Document everything, keep copies of all of your pay stubs, employment records, everything. It sounds like a nightmare, TBH.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah; I wouldn’t actually spend time documenting Jane (if the disregarding the IRS garnishment isn’t enough for the CEO, nothing will be), but I’d make sure I have my own copies of everything I’d need for taxes and future employment.

        1. Not Me*

          I don’t see where it says the CEO is aware of the IRS garnishment and is disregarding.

          LW – You should probably start looking for a new job before this ship goes down. It’s highly unlikely Jane is doing all these shady things *and* doing a stellar job at handling the HR and finances for the company.
          If I were in your shoes, I’d put together all the information I have and either give it to the CEO directly or anonymously then wash my hands of it (aside from the looking for a new job). You’re in a tough spot here where you can’t force the CEO to believe you, so no point stressing over it once you’ve given him/her all the facts you have.

    3. Interviewer*

      Right now, your coworkers all have a bunch of puzzle pieces, but no one can see the whole picture. You can keep trying to put it all together, or you can get the heck out before it gets any worse. It sounds like you feel a strong desire to help the company, maybe sharing what you know so someone else will take action – but you need a minimum safe distance away from the blast before you can even consider doing that. If you report all of these red flags while you’re still employed, and nothing happens to her, or she explains it all away and keeps her job, then you’re trapped without a good way out. She’s already inspired one lawsuit. You do not want to be the next litigant.

      Good luck, OP.

      1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        This. Run before she decides you are a problem and f’s you up for decades with her lies.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        I agree. This new information makes everything very clear. Start looking for a new job and protect yourself in the meantime. Sorry you’re dealing with this and hope you find something new soon!

    4. Anon, a moose!*

      Oh man, I’m not the only person who has gotten a letter like that about the head of finance? (Fortunately I was able to pass it along to someone different, but it was a weird experience!)

      Honestly I almost want to ask if it’s the same Jane, but ours was weird in different ways… and I think the fallout is too identifying to post publicly.

      1. OP / LW*

        LW / OP here— would love to trade facts with you to see if it is in fact the same person!

    5. kayakwriter*

      Not sure how it works in the US (I`m Canadian). Up here, a company that ignores a court-ordered garnishee can find itself on the hook for the monies owed (source: in a previous incarnation, I took a debtor to my company to small claims court and won a judgement against them. Filed the paperwork to have their wages garnished. Followed up with the debtor`s boss, who basically told me that the deadbeat was a nice guy and he was going to ignore the order. The `nice guy`quit without notice a couple of months later and left for parts unknown. Since I was able to prove to the court that the company had received the order and ignored it, and that I had no hope of tracing the original debtor, the court ordered the company to cut us a cheque. Which they did after much grumbling.)

    6. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

      Find a new job. This is a train wreck in slow motion. Eventually it will all blow up, probably wreck the company, and leave you and others out of work suddenly.

      Ignoring an IRS garnishment? Legal problem. Ending up in a lawsuit due to a hostile work environment toward Jane’s predecessor by Jane? Legal problem. Buying personal gear on expense account? Potential fraud when audited by the IRS.

      The lower level finance employee would be advised to look for new work too.

    7. NothingIsLittle*

      Hi LW!
      I agree with the other commenters who suggested finding another job ASAP. Obviously, this woman can’t be trusted not to get vindictive and you do not want to be the person she decides is at fault.
      If you feel safe doing it, it may be worth it to pull the “Hey, I’m not sure you realized, but the 8hrs thing is only federal law. CA law actually requires all travel to be compensated.” with Jane herself. I know Alison suggested sending it to someone else, but doing anything she’d perceive as trying to get her in trouble probably isn’t worth the trouble. I only recommend it because you mentioned you’re going to get shortchanged as a result. Granted, 2-3 hours pay probably isn’t worth it if she’s going to come after you.
      As I mentioned in another comment, I interned in a university publishing house in the Northeast and in that sector word definitely gets around. I would recommend staying as far away from this as you reasonably can, no matter how aggravating. It doesn’t sound like this is the hill you want to die on and I really wouldn’t recommend it.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      There are penalties attached when an employer knowingly dodges a garnishment.

      So she’s basically in full “Destroy this place, leave only rubble behind” mode. You are not safe here, nobody is. Your’e all going to end up unemployed because the CEO/CFO allowed someone to ruin the company with such heavy hamfisted disregard for any oversight and unwavering trust.

  41. LadyCop*

    I used to work with a pathological liar. After our department started to put 2 and 2 together, we would simply let him tell us his stories and then exchange them in his absence to cope with the fact he was still working there (he was otherwise horrible at his job, and was eventually fired for sexual misconduct with another employee during work hours). Some of his stories included:

    He used to play professional Rugby in New Zealand
    He owned a large cabin in the exact same distant northern city as another employee (yet also talked about how he couldn’t afford to pay his child support)
    He was working with DEA operatives to counter terrorism near our site…even though DEA doesn’t deal with terrorism
    The mother of his children was an Egyptian Princess (we believe she was actually Egyptian)
    He won $10,000 by betting on American Pharaoh to win the triple crown…but again couldn’t pay his bills.

    As a side note. I would have been suspicious of Jane’s story from the get go. I am a vet, and while I don’t have any magnificent stories of heroics….of the vets I know who do, even they wouldn’t call them that. When people say “thank you for your service” I never know how to react. I don’t take compliments well…but don’t thank me, thank the people who sacrificed more than I did. Volunteering to pat oneself on ones back is not a quality those kind of people typically have.

    1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      My husband works with a guy who claims to have played professional soccer in North Korea.

      Yes I said NORTH Korea.

  42. MK*

    I haven’t read all the comments, and this may well be a culture issue, but wasn’t sending the e-mail with the photo and the story weird on its own, apart from the lies? I mean, show the photo to coworkers and tell the story when given an opening, ok, but specifically sending a company wide e-mail, telling people to note the anguish in her face and describing what a hero she was would be taken as melodramatic self-aggrandiziment here.

  43. MsPantaloons*

    This is so minor in the scope of this (bonkers) letter, but I believe the California law is that non-exempt employees are paid for total travel time less their normal commute. So if your total travel time for the 10 hour flight (including getting to the airport and catching a shuttle to your hotel) is 14 hours, and your normal drive to work is 1 hour, you are paid for 13 hours.

    This has been the policy everywhere I’ve worked in California and I *think* it’s the law.

  44. Ciela*

    OP, yeah document everything she tells you that is even vaguely work related.

    I have a former co-worker, who had no control over the books, HR, or anything like that, who would also lie about his military service, job experience, family, etc.
    I think the best one was when he called out because he was too upset to work, as his sister had been in a serious car accident. Bonus: his older brother is the company owner. They have no sister.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Oh man, that is the dumbest lie I have ever heard. It’s like he WANTED people to call him on his BS.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        When I was at university, my then-boyfriend had this friend who was a compulsive liar. One reason it took me a while to pick up on it was that I’d known her for a relatively short time, so I’d hear one version of a story and have no reason to question it, but what I wouldn’t have known was that a year or two earlier, other friends who’d known her longer had been given a different version of the same story (e.g. she talked to me about living with her ex as though they were living together openly; others had some story about how she would sneak out of her house every night to spend the night with the ex, and her parents never knew). Once someone did clue me in, I did end up wondering how I’d taken as long to catch on, although there were a couple of times when I’d wondered how timelines could quite fit.

        Anyway, the point of my reply is that there was one piece of BS which I have often wondered if she wanted to be called on, if she was even testing people in some way, although it was a test I could never have passed because I wasn’t familiar enough with the story. She’d announced that she had a date with “Colin”, who also went by the nickname “Fizz”, who was the former flatmate of her ex “G” and “J” his best friend who she left him for (those two are a whole other story). What I didn’t know until months later was that two years earlier, she had claimed this Colin was DEAD.

        Once I did know, I realised that when she’d first brought it up, she’d only brought it up with those who were least likely to question that because either they were least likely to remember, or wouldn’t know in the first place. She’d made a big point of saying to me “Don’t tell Lucinda!” which I now realise was because she thought Lucinda was one of the more likely ones to catch her out (she later did tell her anyway; Lucinda said later she thought something wasn’t right at the time but wasn’t sure what it was so said nothing until months later when she had realised), and with her flatmates, who were also likely to remember, she made a big thing of only talking about him as “Fizz” and never using “Colin”, as though to impress on them that it was a separate person – but since she was quite happy to use the name Colin in front of others, it was pure luck that no one ever let slip the name in front of them!

  45. MissDisplaced*

    Was Jane actually in the military?
    Even if she was, stealing another veteran’s story is disrespectful and disreputable.

    I’d be very wary of this person, because if OP does say anything she is likely to face retaliation from Jane. If you choose to do so, make sure it is someone who will hold it confidential.

  46. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

    OK, I have to disagree with Allison here.

    My recommendation? A) Start looking for another job, because the fact that you even doubt Jane will show up on her radar sooner or later, B) AFTER you’ve left and received your final pay and transferred your 401k away, relay your concerns to upper management.

    Why do I say this? Once you go to any manager, the first thing they will do is confront Jane. She will then go full victim mode and manipulate “who said such awful things” out of them. After which, your pay, vacation, bonus, expenses, health insurance, retirement savings will be targets for Jane. She could even try to frame you for fraud. She already has them snowed enough to get away with special bonus rules and paying for classes toward a theology degree. This indicates she has a supporter or ally who is solidly in her back pocket. Going to upper management while working there is like playing Russian Roulette with your job.

    Yes, I’m being paranoid here, but I’ve been burned by gaslighting liars before, and this sets off warning bells in my mind. If she’s willing to lie about her service with an easily discoverable photo, she must be awfully confident in the security of her post, possibly because she has manipulated management thoroughly.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I agree. This may all blow up suddenly and dramatically and harm your reputation, OP. I’d get out as quietly as possible and then submit your evidence to the CEO when you are safely employed elsewhere.

  47. SenseANDSensibility*

    I work with someone who outright lied straight to my face about an important work situation, making me look pretty bad in the process, and this was during week #2 of their employment. The lie unraveled pretty easily once I looked I the situation, but more importantly, it told me immediately what kind of person they are & that there is no integrity there. I haven’t trusted them at all about anything since then & they have lived down to their no-integrity reputation many times over. People can be pretty horrible.

  48. A different anonymous today*

    I was married to the male version of Jane. (Lied about the military, bigamist, completely pathological).

    The related part? He took down or came close to it, with every small business he every worked for where he had any financial/ data access (even forging checks or invoices charged to the work account, contractor’s license numbers, etc).

    They can get mean and vindictive, and run, run, run is my recommendation. (I did not see the truth until it was too late).

  49. I heart Paul Buchman*

    I’m sorry but I have to strongly disagree with Alison. I think people like this come in two broad types:
    1) people with problems who lie as fantasy and come to believe their own lies. These people are relatively harmless and generally anyone who spends any time with them can spot them a mile away. No need to push back because everyone else knows it’s all BS.

    2) people who are nasty and use lies to manipulate/for their own gain. IME these people can turn fast and target anyone who threatens their position. Is Jane vindictive? If so I’d stay away and let things implode on their own.

    If you do want to do something: impersonating serving personnel is particularly heinous. Is there a way to report that anonymously to the military?

  50. staceyizme*

    With the evil HR director, the LW could “leak” stories and evidence to internal, industry and external entities, confidentially or openly, after transitioning to another company (ideally).

  51. Ginger Baker*

    Has anyone else read about “The Al Capone theory of sexual harassment”? Google will pull up a great article about it – the article discusses using sexual harassment as a “canary in the coal mine” for other major issues (embezzlement etc). but in this case I think it’s easy to see how lies of this magnitude should lead to the same concerns. A relevant quote: “But one of the implications of the Al Capone theory is that even if an organization can’t prove allegations of sexual misconduct, the allegations themselves are sign to also urgently investigate a wide range of aspects of an employee’s conduct.”

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      YES! That is one of my favorite work-advice articles ever!

      I think it also goes the other way around – uncovering an embezzler or what have you often will often reveal that they were harassers as well.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        ^Yes THAT also (and I have this article saved and send it to a number of people…maybe I will up that number now!)

  52. LadyMac*

    I don’t know if Jane is a liar but she certainly gives off a whiff of embezzlement. I worked for a small company (12 employees) that had an “office manager” who was in charge of billing, bookkeeping, and employee records. She didn’t have a college degree but had worked as a civilian for the army when her husband was serving overseas. She had a very strict and formal way of doing business–always double and triple checking people’s expenses or pinching pennies on budgets that really didn’t concern her. The owner trusted her completely because she was such a stickler for the bottom line.

    When I left and went through some federal paperwork to change my legal name, it came to light that my income while working at that company had been seriously underreported (think four figures instead of five) for several years. I reported it to the company (via this individual) and the IRS/ SS office. A year later, I found out this person was going to jail for embezzlement. The owner of the company didn’t realize anything was wrong until a client called to mentioned that they hadn’t received a bill for OVER A YEAR despite having ongoing work done.

    The embezzling employee had been charging all sorts of personal items to a company credit card, writing herself checks, and not billing certain clients (that part I never figured out). Oh, and she also hadn’t been paying employer taxes on most of our salaries for several years to cover expenses of NOT BILLING CLIENTS. Everyone was so focused on doing client work and thought that “someone else” was double checking the office manager’s work.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a tale as old as time when it comes to Small Business and The Office Manager/General Manager/Bookkeeper that stole them blind. I’ve cleaned up after these people, it’s horrifying. It also breaks good people because my oldest boss really had to learn to trust again, his story taught me to be transparent and preach it from the rooftops to small business owners I met following all that.

      I had an old client at one place that was taken for the ride by HIS former PARTNER, the partner’s wife kept the books. She cooked them just enough to get them a pile of money and they took off with it. They are totally off the hook, he kept the business and BOOM the IRS wants their money since they audited them given all the flags.

      My boss at the time actually gave him the heads up because of billing issues as well.

  53. Anonymous12*

    I don’t have a lot of advice for the OP but I sure hope we get a follow-up on this one! :)

    I work in HR and did receive an IRS garnishment for the Director of Finance at my previous job. Fortunately, it was for a very small amount (like $60) and she immediately contacted the IRS to pay it. She wasn’t originally from the US so I think she may have just been confused somehow.

  54. charo*

    It’s crazy to let her run HR and also finances. Too much power.
    I worked at a company that ended up being a pyramid scheme w/a “Christian capitalism” CEO, and was glad to get out of there. It was ALL toxic.
    But I later worked at a legit. big publishing co. that had a flashy exec. of the communications dept. who I thought felt sketchy — and he ended up being fired suddenly. The co. was still fine.
    Sketchy people get into these jobs, and some entire companies can be sketchy.
    When they’re paying you a salary it’s harder to see that it could all implode.

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