my new employee ran a background check on me and asked me about what he found

A reader writes:

I started a new position recently and was promoted quickly to a management position. Great, I have a long supervisory background, looking forward to helping in a wider capacity.

One of my direct reports is a very conscientious and ambitious young man named “Scott” who I have found pleasant to work with.

Last week, during a normal conversation about a project, Scott brought up that he had done a background search on me and then asked me about an arrest on my record — an insurance snafu that led to a driver’s license snafu and when I was pulled over for a normal traffic stop in a rather conservative county, I spent a night in lock-up. Which was both humiliating and illuminating.

This is not immediately googleable. I gave it a try myself after he brought it up, and some of the specificity of the details he used leads me to believe he went to one of the publicly available background report sites and paid the nominal fee to obtain a detailed report.

His question was framed as that he “had been doing some research and wanted to clarify what happened in X state, because it wasn’t clear if it (the arrest) was in X or Y state.” I lived in Y state more recently, but there’s nothing easily found that links the two without paying for it.

In the moment, I answered truthfully that these items were from more than a decade ago and were the result of a particular set of circumstances. I then excused myself from the conversation and returned to my office.

The longer I think about it, the more weirded out I am. Scott would like to advance and I feel like a follow-up conversation is definitely warranted, but I’m struggling with an approach aside from “hey, you super violated a boundary for me and that will go over like a ton of bricks if you do it with future managers.”

To be fair, this is an overtly aggressive office culture and asking to explain your professional background in a fair amount of detail to coworkers/employees is par for the course. But while I understand having a background check run by the company during the hiring process, I’d like to keep my personal background personal.

(And while I’m not wild about discussing this embarrassing incident, my reaction was more of a “how and why did you obtain this information?” than a deep, dark secret that I’m worried might come to light.)

How do I let go of my weirded-out feeling and how do I best address this in a follow-up conversation?


You are being way more chill about this than I would be.

It’s an incredible overstep to run a paid background check on your new manager — but what’s really weird here is that he thought he somehow had standing to (a) make it clear to you that he did this and (b) ask you to clarify what he found.

The way he asked you about this sounds like he genuinely thought it was appropriate. He was “doing some research and wanted to clarify what happened”?? Because he didn’t feel he had sufficient details? About something that’s none of his business whatsoever?

Have you seen anything else weird about his judgment? Because this is such a bizarre thing for him to approach you with that I’ve got to think there’s a bigger issue with him. Maybe it’s just incredible naivete — but regardless of what’s at the root, this is just wildly inappropriate and I suspect it’s part of some broader pattern.

And as you note, it’s not that this is a deep, dark secret. It’s just that it’s personal and spectacularly irrelevant to anything he would ever have cause to “research.”

So I don’t think you need to let go of your weirded-out feeling. Your weirded-out feeling is warranted and appropriate.

I would say this to him: “I was taken aback last week when you asked me about a traffic incident in my background. Frankly, I was too taken aback to address it in the moment, but I’m not clear on why you were undertaking that kind of background search on me in the first place — and especially on why you decided to inquire with me about it.” And then, depending on his answer, you could say, “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you didn’t realize you violated a work boundary here. But I want to make sure that going forward you know that this was inappropriate, everyone you work with deserves privacy, and this is not something you should do again to anyone here.”

And I’d keep a very close eye on his judgment after this, especially around interpersonal stuff — and be prepared to swiftly shut down anything else inappropriate.

{ 729 comments… read them below }

  1. b*

    Whaaaat? If I “didn’t know better ” I’d think this was a little insight into some blackmail. If I didn’t know better.

    1. Noah*

      Maybe not blackmail, but maybe making it clear he (thinks he) has some power he can exercise. This is gross.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Yeah I got power move vibes as well. Especially if there might be any gender issues involved… like maybe OP is a woman and this guy thinks he should be the manager because…penis or some there equally compelling reason…?

          1. Jill March*

            I got more of a race issue vibe, with being arrested in a conservative state for something insignificant.

            I live in a very conservative state and (unfortunately) know people who would bristle at having a POC as their superior and assume all kinds of stupid things. It wouldn’t surprise me that the people I know might consider it their responsibility and go out of their way to prove their crappy prejudice.

            (I know speculating on information not in the original post is derailment, but if I were the LW and suspected something like this, I’d like to see confirmation that other people are seeing this as a possibility.)

            1. OhBehave*

              Whoa! That’s quite a leap. I took ‘conservative county’ to mean Barney Fife, follow the rules to the nth degree. There is nothing else that says race in this letter.

              1. MoopySwarpet*

                That’s how I originally read it, but I do think that this could happen in a “conservative county” because of race, sexual orientation/identity, or you went to high school with the guy and he didn’t like you. Combined with an out of date insurance card, I could see someone arresting them in that case when they might let a buddy go with a warning.

              2. Fae Kamen*

                It’s not the only explanation by any means, but it’s also not “quite a leap.” Not in the US.

                1. happymeal*

                  Yeah, I’ve definitely seen people targeted as POC for ridiculous traffic violations. I’d love to live in a bubble where I didn’t think that was possible.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Very Pete Campbell. Though we remember how well that worked out for him.

            I think it’s also possible that he tripped into someone else’s power move, and got the background check to confirm something he’d heard from them. Like, it’s weird, but rather than the tip of the iceberg he might be a little side chunk.

            1. Jam Today*

              “Very Pete Campbell. Though we remember how well that worked out for him.”

              NOT GREAT, BOB!!!

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup. I can totally see him trying to use this against her later on down the line if he wants a promotion that she doesn’t think he earned.

        1. Busy*

          Ya know, there is something creepily paternalistic about ALL of this.

          The best way this comes across is “I was doing some internet stalking on you to ensure you were good enough to be my manager”

          and the worst way is

          “I am stalking you, and feel an and entitled and paternalistic need interrogate you about your past behavior.”

          And if OP is a women, this is even scarier. I would actually speak to my boss – frame it like “So this guy did this, and has he shown such behavior before, and also how can we manage him moving forward now that we know he has this attitude?”

          1. Stephanie*

            I was coming here to say much the same.
            If OP is a woman, this is creepy AF. And stalking. I would definitely go to my boss, because it is super concerning.

                1. valentine*

                  Scott: My expectation is you will tell me what state you were arrested in.

                  While a default MYOB may not work with these guys, I really want their managers not to explain.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Oh good, thank you! Sometimes I worry that I am the only one to see a potential gender dynamic.

            1. Harvey 6-3.5*

              No, I’m a guy and I thought it looked like a creepy gender dynamic too. If it is not a gender thing (i.e., OP and the coworker both identify as the same gender), it is still creepy. It’s one thing to do a quick google search (though honestly I only ever google myself or family, not coworkers), but this is ridiculous.

              1. Busy*

                Yep. There is a WHOLE LOT red sirens flaring here.

                And I am lately of the firm belief that we need to stop allowing people (particularly dudes just cuz they seem to do it the most with impunity) to get away with behaving like this. This needs concerned looks, and internal investigations, and suspensions without pay until decisions are made – because then MAYBE people will STOP trying to use our social fabric to excuse this crap.

                1. New minds, fresh ideas*

                  How do you propose to allow dudes to “stop getting away with this”? The information is, at the end of the day, publicly available.

                2. Kat in VA*

                  He can look up the information all he wants. Confronting the OP with it and demanding clarification is what should be stopped.

              2. SusanIvanova*

                I’m a woman, and statistically I don’t think having an insurance glitch turn into an overnight lockup is very likely for us, no matter how conservative the county. However all of that does set off my racism alarm bells.

                But it’s a power play at the very least even if OP and coworker are demographically identical.

                1. Busy*

                  LOL people are talking about the OPs coworker – not her arrest! Many men tend to treat women in an infantilizing way, and while it is not AS COMMON as every man these days, it is still a good many. And this guy took it waaaaay over the top – like how many stalkers of the male persuasion seem to take things (because of societal ideas of the ownership of women, etc.).

                  No one is discussing the arrest.

                2. Pippa K*

                  Yeah, the arrest incident pinged my “this might be racism” radar as well. The background check and confrontation demanding further personal info – that struck me as likely gender related.

                3. Old and Don’t Care*

                  @Busy: I took SusanIvanova’s point as she assumed the OP was a man, based on the incident described being most likely to happen to a man. Reasonable minds may disagree on that, but it’s not LOL material.

                4. Busy*

                  @ Old and Don’t care. Nah. You know why and I know why. The whole “but everyone” thing grows old on these topics. Hard annoying.

                5. Slartibartfast*

                  So I’m married to a cop, snd my husband once had to take a person to jail for catching an 11 1/2-inch trout. White guy, not that it matters except to highlight it wasn’t a race thing. He had been fishing with his kids, this was the first fish his kid had caught, and you aren’t supposed to keep trout less than a foot long, but he thought it was close enough. The DNR happened to be spot checking that day, and wrote him a ticket for the fish, which he simply forgot to pay, it was only $20 or so. Well failure to pay a DNR ticket automatically becomes a bench warrant, meaning nobody’s going to waste resources looking for you but if you happen to come into contact with the police, it’s going to be tacked on to whatever else is going on. Hubs pulled him over for something, taillight out I think because he was just going to do a “fix it” ticket, no points or fines just a safety thing. Except this warrant comes up. Which means he has to call the jail and see if there’s space, which there almost never is. Except they do happen to have room this weekend, so hubs has to arrest him and he has to spend the night in jail for a fish. Please note I said “HAS to”. There’s no room for hubs to make a judgment call or interpretation of the law, it is and was stupid and hubs would be the first to say so, but the law is black and white while the world is all shades of grey. And somewhere some poor dude had to call his wife to get the kids from the police station and spend the night in jail for 1/2 inches worth of fish.

                6. Rectilinear Propagation*

                  @Busy – There’s a thread higher up where Jill March suggests the arrest could be a race issue. I think SusanIvanova was just agreeing with them.

                7. ToS*

                  It’s not unusual for a police officer to misunderstand a technical aspect (insurance payment debacle) and emphasize the violation (driving uninsured – horrors) at an hour when it can’t be smoothed out.

                  Sandra Bland spent the night in jail as a female POC. Not all police officers are biased toward being extra nice to women v. men – is that the implication? Is a gender, race or age of the officer being presumed? When I think of police officers, I think of actual people who are serving in those roles, not actors reciting scripted lines from 40 years ago.

                  I’m happy OP is doing well enough to be promoted and to question the treatment of the creepy direct report. The direct report needs to get right with their role. Ideally, OP has an option to expunge or further minimize the record at some point in the future.

                8. SusanIvanova*

                  @Rectilinear Propagation
                  Mine was slightly earlier, but yes. It wouldn’t surprise me if both the cop and the co-worker share some prejudices that caused the minor traffic stop to become an arrest and the co-worker to go above and beyond in digging for it.

              3. Mama Bear*

                If the OP is a woman, that’s extra worrying. What else did he uncover, like where the OP lives, who they’re related to…just because the info is out there doesn’t mean it’s for everyone’s use. Even if the OP is not a woman, it’s still a violation. Who else is he digging up info on? How will he use it? What was he trying to research? It’s one thing to google your boss out of curiosity. It is another to dig around and do a full on background check. I’d mention this to HR, personally.

                1. Nita*

                  Good point. This type of background search will turn up all kinds of personal info, won’t it? I wouldn’t wait for other incidents that show lapse of judgement. If the HR department is worth its salt, I’d just go straight to HR, and let them decide what to do about Scott.

                2. Kat in VA*

                  Online, within five minutes using just my name, you can see interior and exterior pics of my house, my presumed net worth, my maiden name, and tons of other information…and that’s the free stuff. This is creepy and inappropriate whether OP identifies as male or female and yeah, I agree – hard stop with a word in to HR, immediately.

              4. Works in IT*

                I’m actually a paid subscriber for one of these sites, and it’s STILL creepy and weird.

                1. Fulano de Tal*

                  I’m with Nita. …no need to wait to see who things shake out. I’d go to HR immediately. My gut tells me that, as a supervisor, I should also have a sit-down with the young chap ASAP, but I’d want to know what legal and HR land mines are out there first.

                2. pancakes*

                  A site that runs background checks, you mean? Why? I frequently work with very sensitive information on a freelance / semi-freelance basis and I’ve consented to lots of routine background checks over the years, but they’ve all been carried out by the agencies or firms that employ me, not by another individual.

                3. HR Baby Sitter*

                  It is not just paid sites that have this type of information. You can find court cases by going to local county criminal justice information system sites. It’s all pubic knowledge that is free. A friend of mine found the site for the county I live in and I looked up myself. You could see my traffic ticket from many years ago. Look yourselves up, you can find sites that you can see where you live, what your phone number is, who your possible relatives are, any prior addresses you lived at. The digital age has made this a whole new world where not much is private any more if you have an online presence. It ticks me off the information I found on myself and the fact that anyone can find personal and private information on me is beyond creepy.

          3. Anita Brayke*

            Oh, good! I’m not the only one who feels he’s a stalker (I commented downthread)

          4. Artemesia*

            If the OP has any capital at all she should be the office of her boss yesterday and making clear that this was an obvious attempt to intimidate and grotesquely insubordinate behavior. This employee should be fired. This is more than outrageous, it is threatening. A formal complaint should be at HR immediately if the Op feels she has the likely support of her own bosses. If she deals with this with less than a full on slap down (and hopefully firing) she will be under duress as long as she works there. He is just getting starting. Pretty clearly hopes to knock her off to have her job. Vicious stuff.

        2. Working Mom Having It All*

          Which is hilarious because I promise that nobody above them will care AT ALL about OP’s background thing while doing this is so out of step with workplace norms that it could be “fired on the spot” level inappropriate.

      2. Mookie*

        Barely veiled threat. That ‘seeking to clarify which state it was you were arrested in’ gambit would not fool a child. It’s an announcement that you know something inconvenient to your listener and that you are in a position to substantiate it for anyone else at any future date, whether it’s relevant or appropriate to do so, or not.

        1. Liz*

          this. Why on EARTH would it matter what state it happened it? its none of the employees’ business at all. and the fact he did this really is very troubling.

    2. serenity*

      I would agree.

      This is spectacularly invasive behavior and his nonchalance in confronting you about it is really suspicious.

      I agree with Alison. OP is being too chill about this.

    3. Felix*

      Yeah, I wanted to say the same thing. It seems like his bringing it up was a clumsy way of “just letting you know that he knows”, and maybe to induce some embarrassment/paranoia that other people in the office might know, too.
      I may be alone in this, but I wonder if there is value in disclosing the traffic arrest and Scott’s weird use of it to your boss. If this is a blackmail thing (and it really was a minor incident), it would be better if they hear it from you, rather than giving him the chance to use it.

      1. Michaela T*

        Yeah, I also wondered if OP should loop their boss in on this. It just seems like he’s hoping to use it against her somehow.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I’d loop the boss in because this is just plain weird, unprofessional, and who knows how many other people he’s run background checks on

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            “…who knows how many other people he’s run background checks on”

            Ding, ding, ding.

            Honestly, thinking about this now, if I were the boss and OP brought this to me…I’d have IT checking out his computer/phone/whatever to see if he’d done this or any background check(s) on OP or others, if he used company accounts to pay for them, did it on company time, etc.

            In the end, I’m leaning towards terminating him just for running the one check on the OP, no matter when, where, or how it was paid for because it is so, so, so out of line for him to think it’s ok. I’d also be checking any legal remedies (though I’m aware there probably aren’t any TBH) for any criminal charges that could be brought.

            I don’t screw around with privacy stuff. There is zero reason for a random coworker to know this stuff. Hell, considering what it was, unless OP is driving and needs to be insured, and this would adversely affect the ability of the company to insure her, I’d argue that it’s not even the employer’s business.

            1. Busy*

              Oh your comment reminded me one thing – in many states you can look up people’s criminal records for free using their state system. But that is assuming that this guy knew to look in whatever state she was pulled over in. Just an FYI to everyone.

              1. Nea*

                And my flesh just crawled, because he asked OP specifically which state’s records to look through.

            2. Pommette!*

              There a few plausible explanations for the coworker’s behaviour. Maybe he’s stalking his manager. Maybe he’s trying to blackmail his manager. Maybe he’s just a curious guy who feels entitled to know anything he wants about his coworkers, and isn’t worried about letting them know that he’s violated their boundaries. Any of these things are possible. All are super alarming, and most would warrant firing.
              The OP’s boss definitely needs to know.

            3. Michaela Westen*

              Though if IT checked his work computer and devices and found nothing, all that would mean is he did the checks on his personal computer or device. Or the one at the library, or whatever.
              He told OP himself he had done this.

              If it was me, I’d act like it’s ok and ask him in a routine, friendly way:
              why did he do this check? Who else has he checked and why? What else has he done regarding this?

              I’d be so curious to hear the answers, and I would get follow-up info from him as indicated. Then I would fire him and/or have him arrested for stalking or violation of privacy (if those laws applied).

            4. Anonymeece*

              Trying to envision this dude explaining to HR…

              HR PERSON: I’m here to discuss this thing you did.
              DUDE: Yes, I understand. Before we talk about that, however, would you care to explain this arrest for public intoxication from 1992, HR person?

            5. Parenthetically*

              Absolutely agree with this. It’s so, so bananas for him to do this. Love the suggestion for OP to talk with IT about this.

        2. Trying a New Name*

          I’m wondering if this should be escalated to HR, mostly because I’d be concerned he’s also running these background checks on his other coworkers as well

          1. Laurel in HR*

            When US companies check backgrounds, they need to abide by the FCRA. It includes getting permission from the employee or candidate in advance. If this person is checking out folks at work, and then using the info at work, it is only a small step to say he is working as an agent for the company. The company can find itself at risk if this is a pattern. So, not only is it inappropriate and creepy, but it is setting up the employer for a possible violation of federal law.

      2. Dan*

        Yes there is value in disclosing that to the boss. I have a job where I was required to disclose prior arrests to the security office, and an investigation done by an outside party. Why? So they know who is susceptible to blackmail. They didn’t give two shots about what I did as long as it was sufficiently in the past and I could demonstrate that I’m unlikely to repeat the behavior.

        1. Shad*

          This is also what I’ve been told regarding government security clearances.
          Although, given who was telling me that (my dad), it’s quite possible this was a slight exaggeration to make sure I’d tell them things. It mostly worked.

        2. Tax Nerd*

          I’m a tax accountant, and because so many Social Security Numbers cross my path, I ‘m subject to background checks. Before starting, I had to disclose whether I had any prior arrests to a security office, and have an investigation done to confirm that and then some. I think it was an outside party, but I honestly don’t know. If I were to get arrested now, I’d have to tell the security team, and they’d do their thing, because that’s Their Job(tm).

          But you know what? Still not my direct report’s business, or my co-worker’s. I’m not entirely sure my boss would be informed, depending on the charge. (Embezzling or tax fraud, most likely. Assault after getting into a bar fight? Maybe. IDK.)

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Honestly? I’d ask HR what they recommend. Because he might try this again on someone who’s a little less secure in their status. Think about it — this could be TERRIFYING for an immigrant or someone who turned their life around after significant run-in with the law.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Absolutely get HR in on this. What he did was inappropriate and a power move. Either he’s trying to control you or he’s trying to make you look bad to others.

        But definitely tell HR and your boss so it is documented.

        1. RTFE, please*

          I was going to say the same. Document details about the original conversation and the follow up you have. And bring HR into the loop.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yes! Some people test the waters, OP. If the first action is left unaddressed, then the person feels freer to take a bolder step the next time.

          He needs to know that his actions indicate he questions the judgement of HR/higher ups. And there are very few workplaces where this is tolerated.

          FWIW, it’s my opinion that a huge amount of people have been pulled over for something and spent overnight time waiting for a judge to be available. It could possibly be that the boss/HR person you are explaining this to had a similar experience as yours. They already know that this stuff happens and, while horrible in the moment, in the long run it does not amount to a hill of beans.

          I will say this guy seems to have no clue how our legal system and our courts actually work.

          As an aside, if that case was reduced or dismissed perhaps you can inquire about having the case sealed so this does not ever happen to you again. (It should not have happened in the first place, but it did.)

        2. Kat in VA*

          Yes to this.

          I had an in-house recruiter try to leverage my actual home as a reason why I should OK with accepting a lower salary than the one I said I wanted.

          Her reasoning?

          “Well, you have a really nice house so obviously you’re not hurting for income.”


          (She had my address from the job application form.)

          I passed on that job. If those were the kind of crappy recruiting tactics they resorted to, namely, Googling someone’s home address to see what their living situation looks like, and then trying to leverage it as a salary bargaining tool, then who only know what it’d be like working for that company. Especially since she was openly showing me how sleazy her methods were before I even made it to a F2F interview.

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        I would be SPRINTING to HR about this. SPRINTING. Especially if OP is a woman and the person who did this is a man.


        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          She needs to address this with him herself, because as her boss she needs to show she has the power. But HR needs to know about this.

          And I would be talking to my direct boss about a pathway out of the company for Scott because this is so out of bounds.

          1. Kyrielle*

            I would have a meeting with my boss, loop in HR, and then go talk to the employee. In that order.

          1. Deejay*

            Sprint so fast that you’ll leave Usain Bolt choking in your dust and give Barry Allen a shock.

      3. Quill*

        It would be terrifying to me just based on the fact that I have a highly googleable rare name and have been stalked before… I can’t imagine how much worse this becomes based on OP’s race, religion, immigration status, or the political climate locally around their office.

        1. Tax Nerd*

          Yes! I also have a unique name. I haven’t had a full-on stalker, but someone I knew online decided to take a minor spat offline and give out my name, address, and phone number to a bunch of companies that asked for those things online. (Insurance sellers and car dealers and the like.) Thankfully they didn’t take it further, but they could have.

          [For a while there, my political donations were some of the top hits for my name. (In the W era, Democrats working in tax were pretty closeted, at least in my city.) I know this because my boss found out, and well, he was a huge W fan. I never brought up politics at work, but suddenly it was a problem. All because my name was closer to Anatoly Beaverhausen-Galazkiewicz than Terry Smith, and thus all google searches for my name were me.]

    5. JSPA*

      My first reaction was and is, he was finding out if this is blackmail-able, or otherwise something he can leverage against you. As in, he may not want cash, but he was hoping to either have something on you that would make you overlook any issues with him, or would allow him to paint you to those above you as not suitable for your current job, not suitable for promotion, or not suitable in some other way that would diminish you, to his benefit.

      Another option would be that he has his own record, and wanted to have something on you (and establish your attitude towards rule-breaking) before you bump into whatever it is, that’s on his record.

      Another option is that he’s got bad google stalking tendencies and way too much time on his hands, and a weird focus on his coworkers.

      Another is that he has a buddy in law enforcement who has really, really bad professional boundaries, and way, way too little to do, and runs searches on all his friends’ bosses, and your report has bad enough boundaries himself to think that this is cool, and little enough sense to ask follow-up questions.

      Perhaps oddly, option #2 is potentially the most forgivable (depending what his faux-pas may have been).

      Being chill about it (without, one hopes, giving too much additional detail) was probably the best possible short term response.

      1. 1234*

        If it’s the “buddy in law enforcement,” I’ve heard that you cannot use their database/system to look up things out of the blue. They monitor each search.

        It’s a long story, but I know someone in law enforcement and he said that he wouldn’t be able to look up a shady’s friend’s name in the system to see her history with law enforcement without it being a red flag.

        1. Brett*

          Depends on the system.
          If it is an official records system, that is not just a fireable offense, but a crime in most states.

          If it is a public records system, they can search all they want. The difference is that law enforcement often has detailed professional knowledge of those public records systems and how to search them, so that they might uncover things the average person wouldn’t readily find. My brief stint as professional staff inside a law enforcement agency taught me how to find extremely detailed records for anyone in this state and most surrounding states in a matter of a few minutes with public, but not well documented, court records websites for the state circuit courts. The typical person would never even be able to locate the right interfaces on the circuit court websites in the first place (they have robots.txt blocks).

        2. JSPA*

          Sure, it’s a fireable offense! But in a smaller town where the people above are not very tech savvy, or if the nosey parker is actually the database person, that behavior can persist for quite a while until noticed.

          1. Brett*

            The audit for those systems are done by the state or feds, even if the system itself is run by locals.

        3. Slartibartfast*

          And it’s an instant firing, at the very least. With a possibility of criminal charges for the ex-officer. HUGE no-no.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        None of it is forgivable. He had zero standing to do it, period, full freaking stop.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Ok. *think think…*

          I mean, I can’t imagine doing this. The closest I’ve come is a client with a bad payment history who volunteered something odd to me (about being wanted in another country – damn I wish I’d known about this site for advice then!) – but all I did was check with Companies House public records here in UK, to check that his company did exist and that if he did end up not paying there’d be someone to sue, basically.

          And after the “wanted” disclosure I backed off as quickly and quietly as I could – but that’s by the by.

          Back to the point, sorry! – I would never mention having checked that his company was registered and live. And I would never think to investigate further or pay for searches(!) even WITH a reason to be suspicious.

          But the main point… even if I *did* those checks I wouldn’t *mention* it!

          If that worker thinks he has blackmail material, he’s dropped the ball by revealing it. Did he look all knowing and smug? Or like this is a regular thing he does?

          So I’m guessing he thinks he is a lot cleverer than he is…

          …and wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

          I agree it is HR time. I wouldn’t trust HR to protect OP especially – we all know they act in the interest of the company rather than individuals (sorry HR folk!) – but I think they should know that they’ve got a loose cannon here, whatever his motivations.

          1. many bells down*

            My ex-husband ran a background check on my new (at the time) fiance after they met. He then called me to say he found it “suspicious” that in the 30 whole minutes they were in each other’s company, new-fiance didn’t mention that he’d once lived in the same city my ex did. It was an attempt at flexing his muscle and it didn’t work, obviously. He’s the kind of guy who would totally do this to a new manager too. Especially if he thought he “deserved” the job.

      3. Working Mom Having It All*

        Huh, based on what I know about how background checks work, I actually think the “buddy in law enforcement” option could be true. Because my company runs background checks on everyone we hire, but we don’t get any records more than 7 years old. Whereas someone with access to people’s entire criminal records could find out about older stuff easily.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I recently looked up something on my county court’s records search and came up with a judgement from over 20 years ago.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            To be clear, we don’t get records older than 7 years because, for most things, we aren’t looking for anything more than 7 years old. I think there’s an assumption that, even in the case of criminal records, if you did your time, worked on yourself, paid your debt to society, etc. that’s all we can really ask. For a lot of potential issues, even if it shows up on the check within 7 years, like… we’re not going to blacklist someone for life based on a DUI they got 5 years ago, when they were 19.

            I think certain parts of the checks might go over 7 years (sex offender registry?), but I’ve never had a flag on one of those, so I couldn’t say.

    6. Close Bracket*

      Yeah, if I were to bring this to HR, it would not be with the intent of saying Fergus violated some workplace rule or did something discriminatory, it would be with the intent of saying, “Hey, this weird thing happened. I’m not thrilled about the incident Fergus dug up. It was unpleasant at the time, and I don’t spread it around bc it’s not really relevant to my life or work, and I’m just not sure why he would need to ask me about it.” Basically, “I got nothin’ to hide, but I also got nothin’ to explain.”

    7. fposte*

      It’s that oh-so-casual “Hey, was this when you lived in Vermont or when you lived in Idaho?” aspect that adds the sinister gloved touch.

      1. emmelemm*

        Absolutely. This is the “can I get you to lie/make a mistake when you’re flustered”, also “how flustered are you when I bring this up”?

      2. Flash Bristow*

        Oh, you’ve put your finger on the freaky bit that I couldn’t quite pin down.

        It suggests he’s dug deeper / knows more about OP’s history than merely his arrest history, and that’s the bit that feels more stalkery. Does he know family details (e.g. parental address) too? Etc.

        It’s not so much “no need to worry as I have nothing to hide” at this stage, is it? But “what on earth are his motives…?”

        Ugh. Eek.

        1. Blarg*

          I was involved in a procurement dispute in which the non-awarded company protested my scores specifically. Their protest documents included specific details about my employment history in other states that seemed to be included just so they could let me know they knew how to use the internet. It still makes me mad. Oh, and they lost. Twice. All of it is public record so once it was resolved I did not have to hide my experiences with said vendor. Bastards.

      3. Emily K*

        Seriously, I really hope we get an update on this one because it’s so mind-boggling I’m desperate for any kind of context or explanation that might make it less bewildering.

        1. dramallama*

          I’ve been a little taken off-guard by how extreme people’s reactions are, because OP’s only evidence for her coworker doing a background check on her is that”this is not immediately google-able”. I was on a crew where one member googled an new hire and found a drunk driving arrest, so I’m not really convinced this info was as hard to find as OP believes it is.

          1. happymeal*

            Cool. Just wait until it happens to you, I’m sure you’ll think it’s just as awesome.

          2. Torgo*

            You’re ignoring the fact that he has the information at all. There’s no need for him to have it. None. The fact you’re unconvinced is irrelevant.

          3. Kat in VA*

            Not so much that it’s hard to believe or even that he did it, but then to casually come forward with the information that he did so and *then* ask for clarification on some of the finer points.

            I mean, we’ve all played Internet Detective™ at some point in our lives (no? just me?) but I damned sure wouldn’t say, “Hey, Person, I googled you and found out X, Y, and Z and I’d like some clarification on that rasty Z piece of information I found.”

      1. fposte*

        Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that this would be enough to get a restraining order. He’s posed no threat to the OP’s safety, and he’s not domestically connected to her.

          1. fposte*

            Not clear on the differentiation you’re making. While restraining orders will vary by jurisdiction, they generally require something more than just potential threat, since all of us are potential threats.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I was thinking less of the restraining order and more of the general threat. That CW thinks his behavior is ok is threatening in itself, IMHO.

        1. Dragon_dreamer*

          Drat. As soon as I read this, ALL the alarm bells went off. Definitely tell HR, and document everything you can so you can get one if needed.

    8. Tragic Sandwich*

      Blackmail is my thought, too. It sounds like he worked to come up with wording that he thought sounded reasonable, but really was designed to let her know what he knew in a way that could be deniable.

    9. MommyMD*

      Exactly. Unless this guy and his manager were seriously clashing, there’s zero reason to do a background check, especially paid. This is near bunny boiler crazy. I’d watch my back. I’d also tell Big Boss.

    10. From That Guy*

      Are you friggen kidding me??? I almost have no words for how out of bounds this is. Congratulations on staying calm!

    11. Boo!*

      I was more thinking … he is mad that she was given the position over him … and he’s trying to undermine her now to up the chances of getting her out and having a shot (or another shot) at getting her job.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        The worst kind of gumption to have ahead.

        LW, your report is a weirdo and should be made to realize this

        1. Internet Stalker*

          I don’t think so but I’d be willing to put $20 on letter writer being a woman, offending party being a man.

    1. PollyQ*

      or “Are you f*cking kidding me with this sh*t?” day, if you have a potty mouth and no professionalism like me

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Professionalism? I’m a sailor, I’ve had professional training in swearing.

        That said, OP you get serious points in my book for not flipping the desk on “Scott.”

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        WHAT IN THE FRESH GODDAMN HELL is what I hollered when I read the headline. And then it just got more colorful as I kept reading.

    2. Busy*

      I just went and read that, and much like with this letter, I cannot even relate to those people on a most basic level. Like even if she was just “making it up” or whatever reason, who cares!!! It is not about the mushrooms. Like this guy here, it is about the behavior. And the behavior alone is scary – because there is nothing rational or or kind or caring in any of it. It is behavior that requires a person to go out of their way to try to hurt you. Way out of their way. And one has to ask where do they draw that line? Is there even a line at all?

    3. Dove*

      I had to go look that up, because *what*. And I’m just even more “*what*” now than I was before! MUSHROOM POWDER! They put MUSHROOM POWDER in the MASHED POTATOES! WHO EVEN DOES THAT!?!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        You should spend some time on One of my favorite stories was a guy who was allergic to peanuts, and his mother in law hosted a holiday dinner with peanuts in EVERYTHING. Every single dish had chopped peanuts sprinkled on it. There were PEANUTS FLOATING IN THE PUNCH.

  2. YMMV*

    I’d file a formal complaint with HR about this. If he’s doing it to you, he’s doing it to others. And it’s WILDLY inappropriate.

    1. curious*

      I agree with filing a complaint with HR. It almost seems like something malicious, like the employee has something about you in your back pocket for inappropriate use. I would assume that your situation would have come up in an employer background check; hence your employer would have asked… but for an employee to do this, what the?!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, she’s his boss. She might loop HR in so they know about it, but she doesn’t need to file a formal complaint with them; she has the power here.

      1. Naively asking Alison*

        Alison, don’t you think that the company would have already been aware of OP’s situation at some point? I am wondering why you are saying not to file a formal complaint.

        My thinking is….
        OP is promoted to a managerial position which requires, I’m assuming, some security/ privleges/ vetting/ background check. If not caught with a promotion, the company would have seen this scenario in an initial employment screening. I guess what I am naively getting at is that OP’s situation was an explainable misunderstanding 10+ years ago. If it came up in anyway shape or form from an employment procedure, OP’s bosses would have already questioned the situation. The employer made the decision to hire and promote OP.

        Since it’s not the employees job to background check his boss (aside from maybe looking them upon linked in), the employee’s actions really oversteps things. I get that employee’s actions are not illegal, but I guess it feels morally wrong. If I were in OP’s shoes I would feel violated as an intrusion of privacy by someone who really had no need to get such information as the employer already would have. With the internet and other sources you can find out personal information about most people. I get that things will come up on Facebook but the employee continued to dig and paid for information beyond a basic internet search. What’s not to say employee would continue to question other aspects of OP’s life.

        I agree that OP should mention this to HR but I also think maybe a complaint. I almost feel like this is the tip of an iceberg. If employee does this about his immediate boss and is questioning something from so long ago, what else would they do. I would hope complaint or not that OP/ HR do speak to employee using your suggested wording.

        Again I put a disclaimer in the at I am naive in this situation never having had to face something similar, I’m just curious to why you are saying a formal complaint should not be filed.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s because she’s his boss. She has the power here. She can handle the situation herself; she doesn’t need to borrow any authority from HR or have them handle it for her (and in fact could undermine her own authority if she did). Looping in HR would be about making sure they have a record of it in case someone else reports something similar to them.

          1. Naively asking Alison*

            Thanks for answering! I was looking at this more of a complaint being on file in case further action was needed… I, again naively, was not looking at this as a situation of OP undermining her own authority!

          2. phouka*

            This sounds very much like the dude is trying to ‘fire-proof’ himself — if he knows this, and tells his boss, he can claim that she is firing him for having the information. If she does anything, he’ll claim that he’s being targeted and, you know, wink-wink-nudge-nudge, boss DOES have this arrest they don’t want anyone to know about…..

          3. happymeal*

            You’re taking the exempt definition literally here. Most companies would not take lightly to the manager “just handling it.” What if this person later harmed their manager? She was just supposed to handle that threat??

      2. JSPA*

        As a default, I’d say it’s more than a “might,” as far as looping them in. (Depends on how their HR works, and whether they will automatically come directly to OP (as his boss) if someone outside their department reports something else that’s mildly sketchy. )

        Tell them that you needed to have a conversation with him about searching people’s backgrounds and bringing someone’ else’s personal information into a workplace conversation. The person does not want to file a report. You’re hoping it was a one-time thing and the message has been received. You’d appreciate a faster-than-light heads-up if any similar complaints come to their notice, even if it seems like something small or open to interpretation.

      3. LizardOfOdds*

        Hmm… I see your point, but in some organizations (I’m thinking large companies), HR might have more swing to take corrective action in a situation like this. I’ve worked in big company HR before, and I would actually push this to HR first before having a conversation with the employee.

        While the manager could have an individual conversation and tell this person their behavior is totally inappropriate, HR might determine that this is a conduct violation worthy of a formal investigation (e.g., with an external, third-party investigator) and disciplinary action. Since the manager would be the reporting party in an investigation, a manager-to-employee conversation could be detrimental to the investigative process or could muddy the waters of the investigation to a point where it isn’t as actionable. Personally, I’d start with documenting the conversation with HR and asking for guidance on whether this needs to be investigated. If HR recommends a manager-to-employee conversation, HR should provide guidance around the language to use to communicate the seriousness of the situation in an actionable way (e.g., a “final warning” type message).

    3. Sarah*

      Re: HR, is it possible he GOT the report from someone in HR? Because how else would he have gotten it?

      1. Rainy*

        There are online “background check” services you can pay a few dollars to access that will bundle up prior addresses, arrests, traffic stops, etc–basically all publicly available info, but that would be too tedious for most people to spend the time to access.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          A lot of this stuff is able to be seen with a Lexis/Nexis account. My former company fired a coworker for using it to look up everyone he knew, which is usually against company policy. He made a comment about being so surprised to find out the head of a different department had a bankruptcy in his past. He said it in front of our boss, who fired his ass a few days later. So if this person has access to it at work, it might be worth OP talking to the IT dept to find out if he was using it to investigate OP and her coworkers.

          1. SeluciaMD*

            This is a really good point. I used to work for a big law firm and one of the assistants did something similar using our Lexus/Nexis account and was also fired for, essentially, misusing company assets for personal business. It was a huge deal and the firm made sure everyone was super clear after that that they could use L/N for legit work purposes only and using it for anything else was (as already proven) a fireable offense. It’s definitely worth looking at if this is the kind of database he might have access to through work.

            1. Liz*

              I work somewhere now where we have Westlaw, same thing. I also am admittedly nosy. I will google people I know or have known, and maybe lost touch with, to see if i can find them, reconnect etc. and have found out stuff that well, maybe isn’t so favorable. Like a once close friend having 2 DUIs in under 6 months. or someone else who got divorced and i heard through the grapevine it was nasty.

              But its not all out there, but WOULD be available through various resources I have available to me at work. But i would never in million years thing to use it for that. My co. is pretty mellow and i doubt very much anyone would notice IF i did, but i won’t since its not right. And IF the right person saw it, i could very well be fired for it.

            2. nonegiven*

              I assumed it was one of those data aggregators like Spokeo or Beenverified. You can pay to get people’s address, phone numbers, email address, arrest record, bankruptcies, voter registration, etc.

      2. Felix*

        That’s actually an interesting point. LW assumes Scott went looking for the information himself, but if the company runs background checks (which given the culture she discussed, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did), someone else in the company (HR or otherwise) could have had it and given it to Scott.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          What reason would someone in the company have for giving it to him, though? I think OP’s intuition that he went online and paid for one of those “free” background check reports is the correct assumption.

          1. Rainy*

            And for that matter, if the organization contracts out to a third party, the third party may ONLY return a thumbs up/thumbs down rather than a detailed report.

          2. JSPA*

            If you have a legit reason to pay for one, they often give you a certain additional number for free, or several weeks or months of free access. Without debating whether it’s good or bad, some people use those services for screening AirBnB tenants, renters, potential dates, etc. If he does this more generally, he may be under the mistaken impression *which the sites themselves try to foster* that everyone does these things.

            I’m sort of playing devil’s advocate here, because it seems creepy as all get out to me, too. But I’ve known people (some of them “missing stairs in other ways, admittedly) who’d have done it without any particular intent.

            1. Felix*

              I actually want to thank you for playing the devil’s advocate here. I think Scott’s behavior is weird AF, but I can see that if you are in the habit of using these services for normal things, you would get into the habit of doing it for other things even if they shouldn’t be. Kinda like when cops start using their computers and databases to look up their neighbors. It’s a violation to be sure, but you can see how the temptation would exist. There was a time when googling someone and looking at their social media were considered creepy (and still are), but they can just as much be considered fair game

              1. Working Mom Having It All*

                Sure, but in that case you realize you’re doing something kind of transgressive and NEVER MENTION IT TO THE PERSON IN QUESTION.

                Like, I’d google someone I was about to go out on a date with (or look them up on LinkedIn to see stuff like what they do for a job, where they went to school, etc), but I’d never tell them that I did. And that truly is one of those “we all know we do it, but also we don’t talk about it” things. Running background checks on the people in your life is not in that category.

                1. Avasarala*

                  Totally agree. If you find some dirt on someone, why would you ask them about it so they can assuage you?? If you’re going to do something sneaky don’t tip your hand like that. This guy has so many kinds of bad judgment.

                2. Felix*

                  Oh, for sure. Scott is a creep either way. And what’s more he’s also stupid. If you’re going to do a deep dive on someone, at least have the common sense not tell them.
                  At least LW knows he’s a creep now.

                3. Liz*

                  Yup. I’ve done this before. But the difference is whatever i find I keep TO MYSELF. i agree we all assume that everyone does it in situations like you describe. BUT running a background check on someone, where there is no need for one, especially your boss? Totally out of line.

              2. JSPA*

                Right–it’s still a big pile of stinking problem, but the presumption of, “paid good money to do it” is a bit of a distraction. Ditto declaring oneself certain that “nobody would do this unless there was premeditated evil intent or directed stalker behavior.”

                Even if Scott got the information from Todd (who’s the actual creep), or Scott was searching someone else, and your name was similar, and he had free searches, so he did you on a lark…what followed was a major error. So it makes sense to focus on the undebatable part of it first, while being aware of the other issues that could lie behind.

                You know how people come up with counterarguments for the slightly debatable bits, and you floor them with a “nevertheless”? Save time; go right to the part that would follow the “nevertheless.”

            2. Susana*

              But… there is an intent, even if it’s not specific and calculated. It’s looking for potentially embarrassing info. And on HIS BOSS. I would have had a very serious sit-down about boundaries and the hesitation it would give me about promoting him. The fact that he feels he has to “have something” on his boss is very disturbing and creepy.
              For the record, a celebrated fabricator, formerly at a major news organization, interned at a place I later worked. He was known for gossiping about highers-up and generally trying to mix things up when it came to people who were way above him on the pay grade. The seeds of seedy behavior were there early.

        2. Rainy*

          At least in my organization, this stuff is not what shows up in our background check reports. No one cares if you spent a night in jail because there was an insurance snafu.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            At my organization, this shows up, but the person in charge of looking at background checks knows this is not relevant and wouldn’t flag something like this.

            I see a ton of wildly irrelevant stuff in background checks all the time. It dies with me.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            The fact that this guy thinks it’s a big deal telegraphs how little he knows about this stuff. A person who has handled this type of information knows right away that this is not a big deal. AT ALL. (Not trying to minimize what your experience was to you, OP. In the big picture, a good chunk of employers don’t worry about this stuff.)

        3. Working Mom Having It All*

          That’s so heinously inappropriate that it could probably get both Scott and the HR person fired. (I vet background checks for my company.)

      3. kittymommy*

        If you know where and how to look, this type of stuff is rather easy to find. Most of the online background checks are just compiling already available data from public sources.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Maybe but he probably just paid 9.95 on one of the websites that will let you run background checks on people.

        I’ve used them when dating people, my partner of many years now had one ran on him and was told about it right away because I’m not being shady about it but I’m not meeting up with someone I met online without that info cuz that’s how you get dead!

        1. NothingIsLittle*

          Yeah, I can see how he’d get in the habit of looking people up for something understandable, like meeting online dates, and then just keep doing it for less and less reasonable people, like his coworkers and his boss. That sounds more likely, to me at least, than someone in HR giving him as much detailed information as OP indicates.

        2. MentalEngineer*

          Good call – there’s no way Vince McMahon bothered to run a background check on Seth Rollins before hiring him… (I couldn’t resist, sorry!)

      5. rw*

        Yes, I think it’s far more likely that the company ran the background check and you’ve got a gossip in HR, rather than the employee using his own time and money to run an enhanced background check on his boss. But regardless, the behaviour is way out of line and was clearly a clumsy attempt at a power play. OP needs to loop in her boss then HR, to see if there’s any further context here they may not be aware of (like does this person have any other previous warnings or flags for inappropriate behaviour), then decide on the best way to proceed.

    4. CmdrShepard4ever*

      But file a complaint to HR about what? The employee did not do anything illegal, just because people do not realize what kind of information is publicly available about them and that it is easily accessible, does not make it HR worthy. This was a public record, OP had no expectation of privacy on this information. If I had the money (and desire to do so, but I do not) I could run background checks on every person I meet.

      While I do think it was not smart to bring it up to the OP that they had run a background check, this is not much different then googling someone you work with. Many background search companies offer free trial period, or first search free, so it might not have cost the person any money.

      1. mkt*

        we’re not talking about legality here – we’re talking about workplace norms and invasion of privacy. he violated both.

      2. Felix*

        It is something she could loop HR in on without expecting any action, just so there is a record of his weird behavior at the time it happened. Could be useful in a big picture sense.

      3. Not Me*

        Something doesn’t have to be illegal to be reported to HR. While I agree with Alison that the manager has the power here so doesn’t need HR to act, I would still report it to HR so it’s in their records. The LW just became a manager for this team, it’s possible this type of behavior was reported before but LW doesn’t have that info since they are new.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I agree with at least warning HR — not so much to complain about him as to get it on file in case he runs another one on another person with worse result. (European Union resident covered by EU privacy laws? New immigrant terrified of having their work permit revoked? Adult who’s turned his life around since his juvenile-detention days who didn’t know his records weren’t completely sealed?)

      5. M*

        It’s inappropriate and honestly to me it’s borderline harassment. I don’t care if these sites are “free.” My spouse has a common name but some checks show he was in jail which isn’t the case it was a different person with same name in a previous state he lived in.

        I would loop in HR and file a complaint so one is on file anyway in case he doesn’t something like this again or shows poor judgement.

        In my opinion he was trying to get the info to get you fired so he could get the post.

        People are effing crazy. Omg.

        1. M*

          I should also reference in checks he takes where he had his social these things don’t come up its just the random or cheap background check websites. Ugh.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Yup. He had to pay for it. It was a deliberate search intended to get dirt on her to use for whatever nefarious reasons he has in his head.

        2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          My name is as common as Jane Doe so if anyone searches for me they have to filter out a lot of people with the same name. This makes me wonder how far and how deep he had to look to find anything on the LW. And sure as the sky is blue, this isn’t the first time he’s done this to someone.

      6. LizZziL*

        This is such a weird take. Just because you technically or legally CAN do something does not at all make it appropriate.

        Frankly, I think googling your coworkers is also weird, but if you’re looking for their work history or something relevant to YOU then I would let it go. Anything beyond that is a creepy boundary violation. I would be very weirded out to find out a coworker had gone through all my social media profiles or several pages of google results no matter how legal or free it is.

        Personally, I would have a hard time trusting my employee’s judgement after this and would be on the lookout for any other creepy behavior.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Hard agree.

          There are lots of things that are legal but that doesn’t mean everyone should just be doing them. Moreover unless there is some compelling reason to need to do this…what the ever loving fuck anyway? I mean what happened to just respecting people a little, letting people have at least the veneer of privacy?

          Ok that’s it. I’m building a time machine and going back to a time where it was a little harder to have every single thing about one’s life so easy to find. I’ll see you guys in … let’s go with 1975…yeah that’ll do it.

      7. Observer*

        Actually, the OP *DID* have some expectation of privacy because the information was not something that was easily available. Scott had to do some digging, which is wildly inappropriate.

        It’s important to realize that HR can, and SHOULD, take action on all sorts of behavior that is not illegal. Whether the OP should file a complaint is a different question. But not because it’s outside of the purview of HR.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Just because some info is harder to obtain does not give you a reasonable expectation of privacy. Public info by definition is not private and not designed to be so. Most court case info (criminal/civil), land purchases, tax info, and other info is publicly available, but it is scattered around in each system. If I wanted to see if a certain person had convictions in different jurisdictions I would have to query each jurisdiction individually, or if I wanted to see what a coworker paid for their house I could look up sales records.

          What many “background check” companies do is query different public databases and then aggregate the information for the person requesting it. As someone else mentioned running a background check based solely on name is prone to bringing up wrong information or the wrong person. That is why most employers will use your name, DOB, and SSN to run a more thorough and conclusive background check, employer background checks usually require the person being investigated to give authorization for the employer to run the background check and obtain credit score/financial information.

          With out OP’s express signed permission, it is very unlikely that the employee was able to obtain any info that was not publicly available.

          1. 4Sina*

            you’re telling me you would pay $10 ir $30 or whatever it is for those background check costs out of your own pocket, plus give up your own free time, to pore over the legal record of your manager just because you can, and that this is a reasonably sane thing to do.


            1. New Jack Karyn*

              That’s not at all what Cmdr. Shepherd is saying. They’re saying that ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ is a specific legal term, which almost certainly does not apply here. This was probably a paid search that gleans from public records, which by definition are not private.

              Cmdr. Shepherd made no claim as to whether they would ever consider doing such a thing, or whether it was a normal or ‘sane’ thing to do.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              No I would not do it, I have better things to spend my time and money on. I agree with you that an overwhelming majority of people would not be doing, and the most people who would actually do this have better sense to keep it to themselves. I agree that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. But also if just because people don’t do something does not mean you should be surprised that some people do in fact do it, especially if it is completely legal.

              If OP has the authority, in an at will state they can fire the employee for this, the same as if the employee wore a shirt color that OP did not like one day. But do I think this is such an egregious fire on the spot mistake no.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              Way to jump to conclusions.
              CmdrShepard4ever was just explaining how the information can be obtained.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            “Just because some info is harder to obtain does not give you a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

            How about a reasonable expectation that all and sundry aren’t just mucking around in your business for no discernible reason?

            Dude is not the employer or even a potential romantic encounter that needs to make as sure as possible that things aren’t going to go sideways. He is just a nosey dude bro tho thinks there is something ok about being this intrusive.

            Yeah public record, we all get that. Most of us though don’t go around doing background checks on everyone else for no good reason.

          3. smoke tree*

            It’s reasonable to assume that the information isn’t totally private and could come out in some way (such as an employer’s background check) but it’s also completely reasonable and normal to assume that your coworkers and direct reports aren’t going to snoop around looking for that stuff and then interrogate you about it. If your coworker starts surveilling your house every weekend, that’s not on you for keeping your curtains open.

              1. Anonna Miss*

                Totally this. I could stand on the sidewalk and stare through your living room and bedroom windows with my trusty binoculars. I could take notes on what telly you watch, what you snack on, what time you go to bed, maybe what kind of pajamas you wear, etc.

                Just because you left the curtains open doesn’t mean you didn’t still have some expectation of privacy.

                It’d make it worse if I were to ask you the next day at work “A whole can of Pringles during a Criminal Minds re-run? What’s wrong with you? And then ice cream before bed?”

                1. Penny Parker*

                  Using binoculars is illegal; taking photos from open curtains is not illegal:
                  ” If someone’s window is close to a public sidewalk and is open, curtains drawn back, so that any passerby can easily see inside, then the person does not have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”, so if you snap a photo of someone within while walking by, you may well be within your rights. However, if the window is at a great height and distant from surrounding buildings, or if the curtains are closed, you may not use a long lense to peer in from a distance or between the curtains, because the person has either taken steps to ensure his privacy or has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” by virtue of his location.”


        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Depends… I can find a court case/traffic ticket/criminal charge for anyone in my state at zero cost in about 2 minutes. Because I know where to look. Most states have their court records online now. There should be little expectation of privacy, this information is public unless it was expunged from the OP’s record.

          From a behavior perspective, IMHO: Looking it up for free? Borderline – I’d lean toward inappropriately nosy. Paying to background check your manager? CREEPY AF. Suggesting that your manager needs to justify it to you? WAY WAY WAY over the line and the OP should definitely loop in HR to start a paper trail for potentially creepy behavior to come.

          1. my two cents*

            I’m in Wisconsin, and I tend ‘to CCAP’ search people in my life (coworkers, relatives of close friends or partners, etc) for my own added security. CCAP search is completely free.
            – I namely use it for checking any driving tickets, violent/domestic charges, or DUI’s if I’m ever going to have to travel with them.
            – I would NEVER EVER think it was OK to then ask them about it, let alone demand an explanation from my superior!

      8. Lara*

        Sure an HR complaint. HR complaints aren’t only for illegal behavior, after all! While totally legal, it’s inappropriate for the workplace and that seems like reason enough to at the very least loop HR in. If I were his boss, I’d probably terminate him if I’m honest (hence why I’m not a boss, maybe?).

      9. dealing with dragons*

        Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s not wrong nor does it make him not rude.

      10. Susana*

        I also think it’s creepy if you Google someone you work with – at least if it’s just ti fund out personal details. Ick.

        But a background check? And then FOLLOWS UP and asks LW about it? Double ick. It’s a shade short of stalking.

      11. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Acting on racist tendencies isn’t illegal. Sexual harassment (as long as there is no physical contact) isn’t illegal. Being ableist isn’t illegal. Screaming at someone isn’t illegal. Swearing up a storm isn’t illegal. All of these would be something that would be reportable to HR and all would be fireable offenses in many cases.

        Doing a background check on your boss and telling them about it isn’t illegal, but it is pretty weird and something that a boss would be within their remit to let HR know about in case it is part or beginning of a pattern.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This. HR isn’t the police. You report things because they’re inappropriate at work, not because they’re illegal.

        2. Crimeandwine*

          I don’t know what country you’re in, but three of the examples you provided are forms of discrimination, and discrimination is a violation of human rights in many countries.

        3. PollyQ*

          In the US, racism, sexual harrassment, and ablism in the context of a workplace are indeed violations of the law. You won’t go to jail for it, but it’s still illegal behavior, and both the perpetrator and the employer can be held civilly liable, or be subject to government fines.

        4. Aitch Arr*

          Well, those things are illegal, but in a civil and employment discrimination context, not a criminal one.

          But I get your point.

      12. alienor*

        The actual act of Googling and/or looking at public records is nosy, but so are a lot of other things people do, and if someone really wants to spend ten bucks to find out how much my house cost or how many traffic tickets I’ve gotten just to satisfy their own curiosity, they can knock themselves out. However, I *would* report this incident to HR because bringing it up in a meeting is an implicit threat: “I know this thing about you that I may/may not try to use against you.” That part’s what makes it creepy, imo.

      13. Working Mom Having It All*

        I’m the person at my organization who vets all the background checks. I would be immediately terminated if I went up to a coworker and taunted them with information I got from their background check.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would only do this if you’re putting in the effort to either terminate him or put into record the issue for his personnel file. Then you want it properly documented of course. But if it’s just a talking-to that’s coming to him, then there’s no reason to make it an HR thing. And I’m pro-go-to-HR-about_anything-you-want.

      1. Observer*

        Well, I do think that this SHOULD be in his personnel file. Because there is a really good chance that other problematic behavior is going to come up, so having this on the record is a good idea.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I do too but I know a lot of others won’t see it that way of course!

          But I’d run this dude out of town if it happened to me, so I’m extra.

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    … I had to re-read the beginning three times before I fully understood that the person who ran the background check was not in HR or somehow superior to the OP. Not because it wasn’t clearly stated, but because it’s so far out of the realm of acceptable behavior that my brain refused to process it.

    Honestly? I feel like this warrants a report to HR.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      I agree. The way he brought it up doesn’t read “genuinely thought this was appropriate” to me. It reads as a gotcha on the new manager–which failed. It’s insubordinate and it’s pretty motivated–he had to personally invest time and money in this little project and plan out his ambush. It’s definitely HR worthy (especially if he’s done stuff that goes out of bounds before–they might know but you don’t).

      1. Pegeen*

        I agree; if this guy hasn’t been arrested (or at least looked at very closely) for stalking at some point, I’d be surprised. In any case, it should be recorded in case this loon starts to escalate his utterly inappropriate behavior.

    2. DBGNY*

      Yeah, the more I think about this, the more I lean that way myself. Do you really want employees performing background checks on superiors in the office? Or even, heaven forbid, executives?

    3. Celeste*

      This exactly. There’s just no way that he didn’t use his paid access to run name after name.

      The fact that he demanded an explanation says everything about his intent. I’d totally document this and speak to HR. This seems like it falls under a hostile workplace action.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I don’t think this would fall under hostile workplace, unless OP can somehow prove that Scott only did this because of OP’s [gender/race/religion/etc].

      2. Close Bracket*

        I’ve never paid for one of those background checks myself, but from what I have seen, they are a pay-per-report thing. So, yeah, he might be paying for reports on multiple co-workers. The thing is, if he is doing it on his time and with his money, he’s not actually violating anything. Is it weird? Yes. Is it fireable? If he’s in an at will state in the US, you can fire him for wearing an ugly shirt, so, yes. Is it something you can legislate with HR? Well, you can tell him not to ask his workers personal questions (actually, I’m not even sure you can, given some of the questions that come in here), but HR doesn’t have the standing to tell him to stop running background checks on his own time and with his own money. Even if he were only running background checks on all the people in an EEOC protected class, I’m still not sure it would meet the standard of a hostile workplace. That’s a much higher bar than most people realize.

        1. TootsNYC*

          The thing is, if he is doing it on his time and with his money, he’s not actually violating anything.

          Well, he’s not violating a law. He may not be violating an official company policy.

          But he’s certainly violating social norms.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            I mean, there’s no explicit company policy about not pooping on the floor… but if you intentionally poop on the floor people will care.

          2. Pescadero*

            He’s violating WORKPLACE norms.

            I’d say Googling friends/family/acquaintances/coworkers is most definitely the social norm today.

        2. Anna*

          You can absolutely tell an employee they cannot run personal background checks on coworkers and managers and if you hear it happened again, he will be fired. The key here is not that you can enforce the first part, but if he makes it obvious he’s done it, you can enforce the second part.

          The thing is if you went out on a date and the person told you they ran a background check and could you please explain X, you would be creeped out and probably bail. This is no less of a violation.

        3. Susana*

          I agree it’s not hostile workplace – but of course HR can tell him to stop. Or at least, stop using it to try to intimidate anyone at the office (especially his boss!). If I were LW, I’d be talking to stalker about his job security.

        4. Not Me*

          The act of running the background check is not the major issue here that I would address with the employee as possibly terminable. It’s the lack of good judgement, crossing of boundaries, insubordination, and unprofessional-ism I would address with him. The background check is a symptom, not the disease.

          1. LCL*

            Yes. And there will be something weird in his history. Many of the posters here see this as snooper laying the case for blackmail. My PREDICTION is that snooper has something really unsavory in his background and is laying the groundwork to protect himself.

        5. Parenthetically*

          “The thing is, if he is doing it on his time and with his money, he’s not actually violating anything.”

          He’s violating office norms and expectations, as well as common decency. He’s making what seem to be veiled threats regarding a manager’s past. Those are absolutely fireable offenses.

          Also, it’s not “at-will employment” vs. “can only fire a person for creating a hostile workplace.” In most states, an employee can only hope to sue for wrongful dismissal if they’ve been fired for refusing to commit an illegal act, for using guaranteed medical/family leave, or as retaliation. Only a few states have laws that protect workers beyond that, but most of the case law even in those states recognizes that it is too difficult for the courts to attempt to discern the genuine motives of an employer in firing an employee, AND the burden of proof is on the person fired.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            When I was recently re-hired by my current employer (academia, short-term contracts from various funding sources), my name came up in the random “re-run the background check” lottery. They had me sign a paper to acknowledge that I was notified that I would be background-checked, and it was handed to me with the words “we are legally obliged to have you sign this”.

            Now it is true that the employee had the background check done on his own initiative, but it is also true that he brought it up in a work context with a colleague (that it’s his boss is making this very surreal), so even if the letter of no law was violated, there’s IMHO a skirting of it here that is clearly inappropriate beyond the stalkeryness of the actions.

    4. why is it raining*

      I don’t think it would have been acceptable if his superior did it either. Background checks are usually relegated to HR or a third party vendor. If a manager ran a background check on their employee separate from the one the HR department ran, it’d also be crossing a boundary.

    5. BethRA*

      I think at the very least OP should loop them in – both because he may have done this to other people, and so they have a heads-up in case he responds badly when OP confronts him about this.

    6. probably actually a hobbit*

      I’m going go go a little Carolyn Hax here and suggest Gift of Fear — this is far outside norms, boundary-pushy, and creepy — I’m hard pressed to assume this guy has good intentions. It’s much more likely that he is seeing what he can use and what he can get away with.

      1. curious*

        I agree; plus it’s a new employee too! This is not a good way to fit into the office culture. I’m thinking OP will now question the employees reasoning on a lot of things going forward.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I don’t think Scott is new to the company, or at least, not that new. LW started relatively recently, and was quickly promoted. So Scott may be new to LW, but not necessarily new to the company or even the team.

          1. curious*

            Agree. Regardless of who is new, the relationship is new. I just feel like things are already off to a bad start.

        2. Troutwaxer*

          If it’s a new employee is he on probation? Can he simply be told “you didn’t work out?”

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Not a new employee, but if they’re in an at-will state, this could be Scott’s last week of employment at Acme Corporation.

          2. Nita*

            Frankly, if OP has the ability to do that, it’s probably the best option. Beats wondering what else Scott has been up to, when and how OP will find out what he’s plotting, and whether HR/OP’s boss/anyone will do something about it. He’s not the world’s smartest villain, since he’s already tipped OP off with his questions, but he’s either digging for something he can use in a sketchy way or has zero concept of appropriate boundaries.

  4. KWu*


    “this is an overtly aggressive office culture and asking to explain your professional background in a fair amount of detail to coworkers/employees is par for the course.”

    Yuck, this sounds like a place where there would be a lot of bro-y posturing and having to defend your credentials, rather than being able to trust that your coworkers are competent. No thank you!

    1. Merci Dee*


      I’m generally not into any kind of aggressive office culture, but I guess it’s a small favor that it’s overt and in-your-face rather that all on-the-down-low and back-stabby. But I, too, would have avoided this place like the plague. It’s so much easier to get work done when you don’t have to deal with co-workers trying to trip you up on your experience, or with trying to trip up your co-workers in a similar manner. Scheming and plotting really cut into your productive work hours.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        You can get a LOT more work done when you don’t have to spend energy watching your back.

    2. Not me... the other guy*

      I was thinking academic or science… but that’s based on what I’ve heard here and in other places about degrees and qualifications being a much bigger deal than in most corporate environments.

      Regardless… I find the description of the culture weird.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      This makes me wonder whether this culture played into Scott’s search.

      * OP is kinda new.
      * We all know there are companies with cultures that are wildly outside of the norm.

      I would ‘loop in’ HR but in a ‘this happened – I think it’s weird and intrusive, but am I missing something about company culture that would mitigate it?’

      IRL – holy hecks no no no no no nopetepus run no.

    4. CM*

      To me this is the key point. It’s not so much that he did this — and what he did is weird and creepy, don’t get me wrong — but that the OP immediately identifies it as something that seems par for the course in the aggressive culture they’re in.

      If you’re working in a place with terrible interpersonal boundaries, where it’s normal for people to have these kinds of attack conversations, that’s the main problem, and you need to bail as soon as you can.

  5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    WTF! I think I would have answered, “You do realize that I’m your boss right, and it’s not really your place to do a background check on me? That was really a bizarre thing to do and I think it warrants a write up,” but Alison’s answer is probably better.

    1. Amy*

      I think calling it bizarre is an understatement.

      Assuming I wasn’t stunned into speechlessness by the sheer entitlement on display, I think I’d have been all, “Wow. It is wildly inappropriate to run private background checks on supervisors and co-workers. Not only is it bizarre and unprofessional behavior, but it borders on stalking. Your attempt to ‘confront’ me about an old insurance issue makes me believe you were either attempting blackmail or displaying such egregious judgment that I question your ability to work independently. It is not your place to invade the privacy of other employees or demand your co-workers or superiors justify their personal history to you. Should I ever hear of such behavior again, your continued employment is in doubt. We simply cannot risk retaining someone with such poor professional judgment. I will be creating a record of this incident with HR.”

      1. pamela voorhees*

        I’d be wary of this approach because if he WAS doing it to blackmail / prove he has something, this might make him think he hit gold and perversely encourage it in the future.

        1. Amy*

          He clearly did not “hit gold” with his supervisor. But what if he does with someone else? Do you want him to be walking around quietly threatening other employees? Just because the employer might know the information does not mean everyone wants everyone else they work with to know their history. What if a someone dug themselves out of prostitution or drug abuse and they’re ashamed of it? What if someone is afraid he’ll report them to ICE? What if someone feels so threatened they quit? This is not something to let go.

          1. pamela voorhees*

            Of course I don’t want him to go around threatening people, but a lot of people who do stuff like this are looking for a reaction — if they sense that you’re angry or upset, it tells them that they’ve “hit gold”, aka found something upsetting that they can hold over the other person. He absolutely needs to stop it, but what I’m trying to say is that the OP needs to handle it with cool disdain. He doesn’t need to feel like he’s found some secret power that he can use to push other people’s buttons, he needs to feel like he’s done something really stupid.

            1. Amy*

              He needs fired. Cool disdain is not going to put an end to this practice or address his staggeringly bad judgment.

      2. SuperAnon*

        Exquisitely worded.

        And, if he did it to his boss, he’d likely do it to random coworkers he wants to intimidate.

    2. Zapthrottle*

      It’s not a question being someone’s boss. Having a high/higher/senior/executive position isn’t at all relevant- the person in the most junior position in a company or it’s CEO should expect boundaries.

      It’s also not a question of “subordinates shouldn’t run background checks on higher-ups” but that anyone, unless they are an employer and are specifically running a check that the individual accepts, should consider a background check on someone, especially if they had no idea this was even in the realm of possibility, wildly inappropriate and significant cause to question their judgement.

      1. MistOrMister*

        I very much agree with this. This is something that is beyond the pale no matter what level someone is in an organization UNLESS it is done for business purposes. It sounds like in this instance it was done only for Scott’s personal edification. The only reason I could see someone using for running such a background check is if they felt in danger for some reason. And even then I don’t know that the background check is the way to go.

        My mind is blown that someone would 1) do this and 2) be so bold as to question the person on what they found!! I feel like a stalker just for visiting a coworker’s linkedin page if we aren’t work friends!

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        On one hand I agree with your sentiment that doing a background check is inappropriate at any level, on the other…Scott’s statement of “doing some research and wanted to clarify what happened” is such a play at setting himself up as someone the OP needs to report to, that I think it warrants a reminder of his actual position in the office structure. It’s not just that he isn’t entitled to that information about anyone, it’s also very much that he doesn’t have any authority for hiring, firing or disciplinary action in the same way the OP does. If an employer were to come across information about an employee’s undisclosed arrest record that impacts their employment (like a DUI for someone who drives a company car for example) the boss does in fact have some standing to say, “I’ve discovered this thing about you and I’m giving you a chance to clarify before proceeding.”

    3. RUKiddingMe*

      I like the cut of your jib. This sounds eerily similar to what I would say…pretty much verbatim.

  6. Sara*

    Whoa – I would have freaked out if someone told me they had been doing a background search on me. That’s so far over the line that I can’t believe you were able to calmly answer him.

    1. Future Homesteader*

      Right? Putting myself in OP’s shoes – I think my response would have been incoherent mumbling, followed hysterical laughter, a long blank stare, and then backing away slowly as my rage turned to horror.

    2. Maria Lopez*

      I think OP needs to actually pay a good private investigator to explore this employee’s background. Something isn’t right with him. The search should be nationwide. Perhaps it’s my innate paranoia, but this guy has done one or maybe a few things that are not on the up and up.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          It actually wasn’t wrong what he did, just sketchy. And just sketchy enough that I would want to know.

  7. President Porpoise*

    This is wildly outside of professional norms. HR for sure, and any similar behavior would get a PIP or firing from me. So, so weird and inappropriate.

      1. annakarina1*

        Yeah, I would so get fired if I took the time to look up some buried criminal record and presented it as a “gotcha” to a coworker of any level.

      2. Anita Brayke*

        Me too! It’s so far above inappropriate! No, it isn’t illegal, but see something, say something, right? That’s supposedly how we curtail awful things from happening! Different day and age, people!

  8. I'm that person*

    “To be fair, this is an overtly aggressive office culture and asking to explain your professional background in a fair amount of detail to coworkers/employees is par for the course. ”
    That’s insane. I can’t imagine anyplace where that would be appropriate. I can’t imagine working someplace where this would be considered normal.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Professional background sure — but that’s not arrest record. That’s how far did you get in higher math? Did you learn your llama-herding skills at or go to Harvard Llama Academy? Do you know how to do a pivot table?

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        +1 It sounds like they all whip out their diplomas and work history and measure them against each other on the conference room table to see who’s is…more impressive. Academia comes to mind as someplace that has this culture; maybe tech or engineering too.

  9. I coulda been a lawyer*

    Background checks are pretty standard for me, but it would be weird for the results to be mentioned outside of HR. I work with the specific individuals who run the background checks and they have not even mentioned that I lived in Cleveland one time, even though we are friends and Cleveland Browns bashing is a regular thing with us. And even though I’ve mentioned it several times. It’s something they first learned on the check, so they will never say it out loud. Your employee is a creep who thinks he can get you fired and take your job. That is not the kind of employee any company wants. Someone who can step up to fill a vacancy? Yes. Someone who can create a vacancy? No. Just no.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      “Someone who can step up to fill a vacancy? Yes. Someone who can create a vacancy? No. Just no.”

      +100!!!! This!!

  10. Phony Genius*

    Since he is described as a “young man,” I wonder if this could be an extreme product of overprotective parenting. Some parents run background checks on all babysitters, child care professionals, and sometimes even teachers – anybody who might have the power of authority over their children. This employee may, in a very twisted way, see this as a logical extension of that. But he can’t use that as an excuse.

    That’s the kindest thing I can say about this. I don’t want to ruin my good mood.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Nah, this was an overly assertive little twerp digging for dirt on the (woman?) whose job he hopes to steal.

      1. President Porpoise*

        Or perhaps feels like he was passed over for OP’s position, and looking for payback? Especially since OP was promoted from within the team quickly.

      2. Boop*

        Seconded. The fact that he asked which state the incident occurred in because “it wasn’t clear” is an obvious sign that he was trying to pull a power move and intimidate his supervisor. He was telling OP “I know what you did”. I’m not inclined to be generous with his motivations here.

        1. juliebulie*

          I am very curious how he would have answered, if OP had asked him why he needed clarification on such a trivial thing.

    2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I think that is brilliant insight and possibly what happened. That plus the fact that he thought that if the employer can run a background check on me (we don’t know if that happened or not but I am giving the guy the benefit of the doubt since that might explain his thinking) then I can run one on my employer (supervisor).

      I agree it is far out of the professional norms but to me it is the kindest explanation.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Agreed. Ok, show of hands, how many think this is appropriate? How many would have though it was when they were “young?” That’s what I thought.

      1. Susana*

        No. It’s not OK, I don’t care what kind of household he grew up in. Also – a housekeeper is an employee. The stalker her REPORTS to the LW. It’s so arrogant and creepy I’d have a hard time keeping this guy on staff.

      2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

        I fully agree that it is inappropriate. I was just trying to get into his mind.

        I did some stupid stuff when I was younger so I tend to be a bit more forgiving than the next person.

    3. RUKiddingMe*

      Or maybe we could stop trying to excuse bad/poor/creepy/inappropriate behavior.

      To (badly) paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy.. “Mommy was fine, Daddy was fine, I’m just a shithead.”

      1. Bostonian*

        “but he can’t use that as an excuse” so, I don’t see any behavior excusing going on here

      1. AppleStan*

        Still think it warrants a second affirmation, LOL! Because it’s just that damn bizzare.

  11. Apocalypse How*

    And I thought one of our board members was bad for greeting new staff members with, “I read your Linked In profile and I was not impressed.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “Well, I got a job here now and I think that is pretty impressive, don’t you?”

    1. pamela voorhees*

      I don’t think I’d have any response except “then why did you hire me?” which … probably wouldn’t fly.

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I recently interviewed someone who opened with “I stalked your LinkedIn and saw you used to work at X. That must have been cool!”

      1. Jadelyn*

        I phone-screened someone once who mentioned that they had a sibling who taught at my alma mater. Which, my LI profile is not super locked down, my name is extremely unique and googleable, so it’s not like it would take more than 30 seconds to find out where I went to school – but it still took me slightly aback when they mentioned it. I think there’s an unspoken expectation that even if you DO look people up, you’re not supposed to bring things up from what you found. You’re supposed to tactfully pretend you didn’t FB-stalk them/look them up on LI/whatever.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          I usually think of LinkedIn as being ok to mention in a professional context — same as you’d look up the company/department’s website, publications by staff if applicable, that sort of thing.

    3. another scientist*

      LinkedIn is a completely different animal, though. I choose what to share on that page, and it’s explicitly for professional contacts to look at.

  12. Moocowcat*

    I’d want to ask that person “How did your brain even CONSIDER this idea? Then how did you decide that this course of action was needed or reasonable?”
    Gosh, I would love to see a flow chart of his thought process.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Pinning this person down and asking the whys the wherefores is really important.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        I disagree. I mean, I would love to know what he was thinking, because WTAF. But on the other hand, I don’t think we actually need to know, because it doesn’t change the behaviour or the outcome. And as with Mr Great Expectations below, there’s a risk of getting drawn into a long conversation about “why,” which would detract from the main point. The conversation needs to be “that is completely inappropriate; do not ever do anything like that again. Are we clear?”

        1. Moocowcat*

          I’m not sure if the Why is actually important, as he Why doesn’t influence behavior or outcome.

          But my gobsmacked brain is incredibly curious and astounded all the same.

    2. Maria Lopez*

      Yes, this. First ask, “why would you take the time to do more than a Google search of my background, and what made you think it was even remotely smart to inform me of it?” Any further inquiries on his part do not deserve a response.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “So what is your point and how often do you research people’s backgrounds?”

      “Save me the effort, Employee, if I search your background what will I find?”

  13. Stepinwhite*

    I work in HR and I say: Please inform your company’s HR about this and get their guidance. There are numerous laws relating to employment-related background checks, not to mention all company’s have their own policies and practices. I think this is alarming enough that you should check in with HR about what the employee’s actions.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I’m also in HR and while there are definitely many (occasionally labyrinthine) laws around employment-related background checks, I don’t think what OP describes would fall under their purview. It’s only “employment-related” in that a coworker did it. It wasn’t done by an employer or prospective employer, or their representative; it wasn’t done for the purposes of making employment-related decisions about the person. It was a private background check paid for by an individual about another individual, and if the person running the background check doesn’t have the ability to make employment-related decisions about the person they’re checking on (which, I doubt a subordinate has the ability to determine their boss’s pay or demote their boss or anything like that), I don’t think this would be covered by those laws.

      That said, this is a creepy enough move that I’d suggest giving HR a heads-up anyway. They should be aware that they’re employing someone who could, at some point, create situations they’d be liable for (if, for example, this person was promoted into management). And if this guy has done anything bizarro and/or creepy to other coworkers, HR may already have a record of it, and this should be added to that record documenting a pattern of weird, invasive, overreaching behavior.

      1. Formerly in HR*

        Right here, when we get our vendor to complete background checks (for new hires), identify credentials have to be produced. I wonder how did the coworker get the OP’s date of birth, full address, or any other identification details that are usually required to initiate a background check. In case these were somehow ‘procured’, would find this piece a lot more important and concerning.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          Unfortunately, most of us aren’t or haven’t been in the past that protective of that kind of data. Many Facebook pages have all that information, and if you just have a name and date of birth you can Google it and get a list of people nearby fitting that profile. A phone number helps further it down.

      2. Stepinwhite*

        Not all background check laws require employment-related decisions. For example, the FCRA is just one that has a bunch of requirements, including notice requirements when third parties are used to obtain background check results. Again, there are various rules around background checks that the company is going to want to know when an employee is going rogue and doing background checks on the company’s employees. Are they just using Google or are they paying an outside company? What information are they obtaining? Is this being used to harass employees or otherwise discriminate? Etc. Etc. Etc.

  14. Chocolate Trinity*

    It sounds like Scott needs more work to do if this is how he’s using his time. (And if he didn’t do this at work, then he needs to get a life and find something more important to spend money on if he did indeed pay to access the report.)

  15. AnotherAlison*

    Ugh, people who can’t be snoopy properly. I may be boundary-crossing nosy, but one should never ask people to confirm what they find. (I’m usually nosy about neighbors or acquaintances. . .usually property records, sometimes civil suit records or criminal records. My county has a free open online database. A high school acquaintance and guy we bought a swingset from about 13 yrs ago was on the news recently for being charged with “peeping Tom” activities, so that’s the type of thing I look up. . .confirmed it was the same guy and saw what other stuff he’s done.)

    I’m not on team Scott here, but I think you just stick this in your mental file as a piece of information that illuminates who this guy is. Some people are saying tell HR. What would HR do about it? A private citizen can look up information about another private citizen. It’s weird that he told her about it, but he’s not using it against her to harm her in her career. . .that might be where it crosses the boundary to being HR-worthy.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      Hard disagree on “what would HR do about it?” You have an employee who is conducting background checks on a manager on a freelance basis and then confronting that manager with the results. It’s the kind of thing manager’s boss, “Scott’s” grandboss deserves to know at the least, and if Scott has other weirdness in his file this could be the last straw.

      1. remizidae*

        I also wonder if he’s doing this with everyone he works with. It would be even more of a problem if he’s doing it with his peers/subordinates, and perhaps with people who are more worried about their secrets getting out than OP.

      2. Rock of ages*

        I hate to break it to LW, but I think this kind of curiosity-inspired background check happens more often than you think. A *lot* more often.

        The difference is that most people don’t approach the person on whom they ran the check with follow-up questions. That’s what probably worth going to HR about; it also eliminates the possibility that Scott tries to use this incident as kompromat. (It’s not compromising if everyone knows about it.)

        But running a background check on your own computer, your own internet, from the privacy of your home? That’s where there’s nothing much HR can do about it.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        It’s an effort to undermine OP’s authority. And it needs to be addressed as such.

        OP, whether Snoopy McSnooper sees it as an attempt to undermine authority is not relevant. He needs to know that his actions read as disrespectful to almost ANY boss.

    2. kittymommy*

      Yeah, I mean if you’re going to do it don’t talk about!! Heaven’s sake! To be fair, most of those on-line background checks is really just pulling the information from already public sites for you and if you know where to look and how to follow breadcrumbs, anyone can access a lot of it (especially if you have local municipal offices that are going digital).

    3. workerbee2*

      I’m partially on board with you here… looking up stuff that’s public record is nosy but not necessarily a boundary violation. The worst kept secret in my husband’s office is that the big boss of his department has a rather interesting criminal record. An employee found out about it when she went down a Google rabbit hole – he talks about being wealthy (like so wealthy that you’d wonder why he has a job) and mentioned where he lives, so she looked him up out of idle curiosity. Everything she found was easily available through a quick Google search. She kept what she found to herself until she left for another job.

      However, Scott paid for information he didn’t need to know that isn’t publicly available (hello, stalker), then told LW he did it (are you an idiot??!?), then essentially demanded that she(?) explain herself to him. The whole thing is a really problematic combo of boundary violation, poor judgment, and insubordination. This is so far out of line that he can’t even see the line. The line is a dot to him.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        The OP suspects he paid for information.

        I see this guy as a Sheldon Cooper type, but it’s not very amusing in real life.

        I did have a colleague once ask me about information that is on my public employee profile that I didn’t know was there. (Apparently the training group adds your strengths test results there for you). I thought that was weird. He said something like “I see you’re a ‘penguin.’ That’s interesting. As a penguin, how do you like blah, blah?” I can’t imagine my reaction if he had said something about my 1996 speeding tickets. But, I think as his manager, it’s completely in her court to manage him based on knowing this info. (Manage him out the door as needed if he keeps showing that he is weird and boundary crossing.)

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I don’t know about Sheldon Cooper–LW read him as both ambitious and pleasant.

      2. LD'S Mom*

        Workerbee2–kudos for the “Friends” reference–“the line is a dot”. Well done!

    4. Observer*

      I think that it’s useful to know that Scott is a boundary crossing snoop. Furthermore, that he is either stupid about it, in that he asked about it, or he’s trying to pull something – asking for “clarification” as to which state it happened in, is a load of stinky garbage. No one needs that “clarified”, even if the arrest itself were remotely relevant.

    5. Reality.Bites*

      Companies have rules – enforceable rules – over cleaning the fridge, lunch breaks, desk assignments, etc. A company can absolutely enforce rules that go beyond merely not engaging in criminal actions towards fellow employees.

      You can absolutely take action against someone for using another employee’s personal information to harass them on the job. No matter how you know it. No matter if EVERYONE already knows it. And no matter if they think they have a right to know or not.

    6. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “What would HR do about it? A private citizen can look up information about another private citizen.”

      A company in the U.S. can fire a person for any reason (outside of specifically protected discrimination-related reasons) or even no reason at all. I’m not saying the company should fire Scott over this! But I am saying that a company is allowed to fire someone for activity it doesn’t like, even if that activity is entirely legal (again, outside of some specific, and narrow, exceptions). So the fact that what he did was legal isn’t much of a saving grace for him in this context.

      Scott did something weird, and would make a lot of people uncomfortable. Then actually going to the manager to “clarify” the results of his snooping? His judgment, respect for boundaries, respect for his supervisor, and sense of entitlement, are all suspect. HR should know in case he tries this with anyone else. If it’s a pattern, if he isn’t willing to abide by the eminently reasonable direction of “don’t conduct freelance background checks/internet snooping on your coworkers and then confront them about your results” then he should be fired.

  16. Archaeopteryx*

    Yeah this is some kind of “he wants you to know he knows” intimidation garbage. Don’t let it escalate!

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Absolutely. I agree with the first set of comments too that this is a power play and very problematic. OP needs to step back from the details (seeing the question as an innocent clarification request, which it absolutely was not) and see that it’s not about managing a pleasant, ambitious guy who was just overly curious, it’s that this overtly ambitious guy is actively looking to subvert OP’s authority in any way possible.

      Talk to HR immediately and figure out what exactly you need to do to contain this guy.

  17. Cerridwen*

    OMG!!! That just screams potential stalker to me. What other information about you was he able to get his hands in after paying a fee? Your home address? Names of family members? I’d take this to HR. This was way beyond appropriate behavior for a subordinate, or ANY co-worker. Way too creepy.

  18. Tiffany In Houston*

    Ordinarily, I would suggest a meeting with the employee and some STRONGLY worded coaching but running a background check on your manager is such a HUGE overstep that I think this dude needs to be fired, full stop. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. That is a huge invasion of personal privacy!

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      This was not an invasion of privacy, in fact this is the exact opposite, all this information is publicly available. OP had no expectation of privacy on public government records. Everything that the subordinate did was legal, yes it was ill advised to bring up the results to OP, but it was not illegal.

      1. Colette*

        There’s lots of information that it’s legal to have but is still an invasion of privacy. If I met you and announced that I knew your favourite TV show, food, and beverage, that would be an invasion of privacy, even though none of that is particularly private information, because I couldn’t have obtained it through legitimate means.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I think it depends on what your definition of “legitimate means” is. I’m pretty sure I have posted all that information at some point when I was younger on my public FB profile. If I met you and you knew all that information I would be surprised that I was interesting enough for you to research me that deeply, but I would not be surprised at all that you were able to obtain that kind of information. That is a big reason why I have almost completely stopped posting on Facebook or other social media. Now I assume anything I post online will be public right away, or will become public eventually due to hacking and anything that I want to keep private I do not post.

          1. Colette*

            I define legitimate means as obtaining information with the knowledge and consent of the person it applies to. So if I know your favourite food because we are eating lunch and you say “this is my favourite food”, that’s legitimate. If I know it because I’ve collected your grocery receipts out of your trash for 6 months and analyzed them for trends, that’s not.

            If I know your birthdate because I work in your doctor’s office, that’s legitimate (as long as I’m using it as part of my job). If I know it because I search your mailbox every day and notice when you get birthday cards or because I picked up the wallet you left on your desk and looked through it, that’s not.

      2. Tiffany In Houston*

        I didn’t say it was illegal. And just because records are public doesn’t mean that the manager doesn’t have the right to feel their privacy was invaded. If you don’t have the good sense to know that running a background check on your boss and then telling them you did it is a career limiting move then I don’t know what to say. Scott needs to be fired. I said what I said.

        1. bleh*

          We have lost all sense of privacy as some above comments suggest. Just because information is available doesn’t mean it isn’t private. It just means our systems fail to bolster that inherent privacy because they can make money by doing the opposite. OP can and should expect privacy whether or no such information is “publicly available.”

          1. Rock of ages*

            “Just because information is available doesn’t mean it isn’t private.”

            I respectfully disagree. “Publicly available” is, virtually by definition, the opposite of private.

            And I have real problems with anyone proposing limits on accessing publicly available information. The Freedom of Information Act is a Good Thing.

            Scott’s issue was that he showed no discretion in how he used that information.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              The problem isn’t accessing the information so much. It’s using it. It’s bringing it up at work, and in an arguably threatening manner to boot.

              If I happened to be a member of a swinger’s club (do these things still exist? cliché here!) and saw that my boss was a member too, I wouldn’t be doing anything super wrong if I just looked up his information in the member directory that is available to all members for the explicit purpose of sharing information among members. BUT if I then walked up to him AT WORK and said “fancy you’re a member of [club] – I hear you’re particularly into 35-40 year old readheads with advanced degrees. Classy!” it would be absolutely 100% completely inappropriate. And that’s also true if it was a sports club and I looked up competition results and then used them to neg her at work. Or any other information I may have legitimate access to, but can’t just use willy-nilly.

        2. Salymander*

          Agreed. This guy doesn’t have to be breaking the law in order for his behavior to be completely inappropriate and boundary crossing (or boundary exploding, maybe?).
          Frequently, harassment is not just one big, egregiously bad incident. It is rather a pattern of boundary crossing behavior. This guy is showing that he does not respect privacy and boundaries, and is acting like a creepy bully. He is a liability to his employer, and they might like to have that information.
          And for the record, I don’t think this is a minor incident that needs a pattern of behavior shown in order to be a big deal. This guy is doing a background check on his supervisor for what looks like purposes of intimidation and blackmail. I would be very wary of this person, as he sounds like someone who will do anything to get what he wants, and has no problem stepping outside social norms and basic decency.
          This looks like stalking behavior to me. He wants power and control, and this is how he tries to get it. And he pretends that it is totally normal, and sortof casually lets the OP know what he is doing by asking for clarification about the info from his background check of the OP? Who does that?
          Answer: stalkers. Stalkers do that. What a scary dude.

      3. Fortitude Jones*

        OP has no expectation of privacy? So you’re perfectly okay with your colleagues digging around in your records and then quizzing you on the personal information they find out about you?

        Public records or not, it’s weird asf to do something like this, not to mention passive-aggressive and oddly adversarial – he had to know this would not go over well, but did it anyway to seemingly get a rise out of his new boss. If he does something like this to the person who controls his employment, he’ll do it to his colleagues who are actually on his level.

        If I was OP, I’d let my boss know this happened at the very least.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I still don’t think that OP has an expectation of privacy to publicly available information. I think we might be talking about two different kinds of privacy. One is “legal privacy” and the other is “layman’s privacy”. I agree that many/most people don’t want coworkers, friends, family searching public records about them.
          Honestly I wouldn’t care if people that knew (or didn’t know me) me looked me up on public databases, they can even ask all the questions they want about it. But that does not mean I am going to respond/answer their questions.

          I think our current culture is in a weird transition place regarding privacy. So many people post so much of their lives on public social media pages, but in a way still expect that information to be private. Looking at someone’s public photos of this years vacation is okay, but checking out their equally public photos from 5 years ago is not okay.

          I use google to post reviews all of them are public, on google reviews you can see someones review history. So anyone can see a historic list of places I have “presumably” been to and about the time I went. I say “presumably” because I could rate a place I haven’t been to, or I could review I place I visited 4 months after i went there.

          If someone I knew had looked up my review history they could see that I reviewed JJ’s Pizzeria about 2 years ago. So if someone asked me what I thought of JJ’s Pizzeria, I would not be surprised at all that they knew I went there and when. It might take me a minute to remember that I was there and when I attended, but I would not be shocked at all that someone had that information. If I didn’t want someone being able to look up that kind of information on me, I would stay off google reviews.

          I 100% support OP telling the employee that the arrest issues are none of their business and to buzz off.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            So you’re saying that if I ran one of those background check/public records searches on you without telling you (or without it being expected that I would do that), and then I came to you and said, “Hey CmdrShepard4ever, I did a background check on you and found out that, in 2005, you were busted for using a fake ID to get into a bar in Tampa, Florida. And since you were born in Nebraska and went to college in Boston, and the arrest happened in April of that year, I can only assume you were on Spring Break at the time. Am I right? Or were you just sneaking out while visiting your grandmother, who died in Florida in 2006?” I’m assuming you would find that inappropriate and that it violated your personal boundaries.

            And if there were gender or racial dynamics (or some kind of protected class/toxic work environment situation at play), you would probably at least consider going to HR to talk about what I’d just done so as to establish a pattern of inappropriate behavior. You probably would NOT chalk that conversation up to completely ordinary behavior between two coworkers.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            “…I wouldn’t care if people that knew (or didn’t know me) me looked me up on public databases, they can even ask all the questions they want about it.”

            If this comment thread is any indication, you not everyone else are the outlier. Most people do expect a modicum of privacy even regarding public records.

            Yes, you’ve explained public records to us, I mean we already understood that, but thank you for making sure, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is/should be just searching them without a need. Idle curiosity/power move/potential blackmail material isn’t really a need.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              You are right I am the outlier. I am just having a hard time understanding why if people know this kind of info is available, but don’t want people to access this info why don’t they make an effort to make such information not publicly available.

              It almost seems like the law says the posted speed limit on a road is 60 mph, but “society” decides that everyone should only travel at 50 mph on that same road, then getting mad at a person that travels at 60 mph.

              Put another way if something is legal we should not be shocked that someone, somewhere is doing that even if we don’t want them to. Societal norms and expectations are not concrete enough and require a complex nuanced understanding of what is or isn’t allowed.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Most people cant just magically make public records private.

                The thing is we all know public records exist. We also know we can get info on people. Most of us however don’t do it to coworkers or most anyone really because we try to give most people the respect of basic privacy about their personal business…even if it’s public record unless there is an actual need.

              2. Sacred Ground*

                It’s legal for me to follow you around after work. I could follow you in my car, take note of where you stopped and for how long. I could follow you into the grocery store and take note of what you buy. It’s even legal for me to go through your garbage after you put it out on the curb.

                If I do all this, then the next day interrogate you, my boss, at work, about where you went, what you bought, the stuff you threw away, or anything else about what I found, I’d be creepy and invasive. But still within the law, so no complaint from you, right? You would not find it worthy of reprimand because, hey, nothing illegal.

          3. Rock of ages*

            :Looking at someone’s public photos of this years vacation is okay, but checking out their equally public photos from 5 years ago is not okay.”

            I have to disagree with this, too — if you post photos on a public website, it’s perfectly fine for others to look at them. You can’t hop up on a soapbox at Speaker’s Corner and complain when people listen to you.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I agree with you lol, I was trying to make the point that society makes weird arbitrary rules about what is and isn’t okay in regards to privacy. It seems weird to me that if I look at your photos of this year’s vacation it’s okay, but if I go back and look at your photos from 5 years ago (even though they are both equally public) that has been deemed not okay.

          4. Avasarala*

            I think you are confusing legally/emotionally public with ease and intention of access. There is clearly a spectrum of privacy one can expect. On one end is your personal website, or public Linked In photo, or similar data that you WANT people to see and share. On the other end is your secret thoughts and feelings you only share to your diary or a loved one. In the middle there is information you share with some circles based on context (sharing your address with your employer, sharing your weekend plans with your Facebook friends), and information that is available about you as a citizen (records in public databases, your house is on a map and your phone number is in the directory).

            So we can expect that others will discover information that is in their sphere of distance from you. The mailman will know your address, a new acquaintance on Facebook will know your weekend plans. Others may stumble upon information outside their sphere, but to connect multiple dots takes intention. And this is the key difference I think you’re missing.

            It’s unreasonable to suggest that any information about someone that anyone can access should be available to everyone. Just because you write something in your diary and keep it in your house where your spouse could find it doesn’t give them the right to read it just because they physically could. Just because arrest records are legally public and it is possible to access them, that doesn’t mean it is reasonable to expect that everyone else OP encounters in life should or will have that information.

      4. Carolyn*

        Its not about legality. The OP isnt comfortable being confronted about something from their past that has no bearing on their ability to do their job. A lot of commenters agree that its reasonable to assume you shouldnt have to deal with that at work, and if the company agrees Scott should totally be reprimanded somehow–up to and including termination.

      5. JSPA*

        Making you know they know it, and asking for clarifying information, and doing so at work were all violations of the polite fiction of privacy that we all depend on, in a world where our credit card purchases and IP addresses and browsing habits can be used to link our demographics and our physical descriptions and our names and our addresses with all of the above.

        That’s what “invasion of privacy” is effectively now shorthand for–and this is one such.

        1. bleh*

          Exactly. And the fact that we accept the privacy invasions by corporate entities as the price of living in a digital world is terrible enough without beginning to accept the degradation of the polite fiction -you aptly describe- as well.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I think this “polite fiction of privacy” hurts us as a society, because people get lulled into a false sense of security. So many people think that all the info they put into their phone is private/secure, but in reality it is not. Sometimes I tend to forget about it, but I try to live with the mentality that anything I post on social media/online is public and easily traced/linked back to me. For the most part I don’t really care, the helpfulness of GPS, and being able to look up what restaurants I went to on vacation 2 years ago outweighs having my location tracked 24/7 but I willingly choose to do so, rather than thinking my information is private.

          1. EH*

            This. If it’s on a device attached to the internet, it might as well be public, is how I look at it.

            1. bleh*

              You may not care, but many humans do. And in all reality, you should. No-one voted or otherwise agreed to cede our privacy to corporations. The reality that they invade our privacy doesn’t make it fine. I have no social media – fb,twitter, instagram, not even linked in, and they STILL collect data on me. Does that make it fine? No. I understand the cynicism and unwillingness to fight these impositions because of the so-called benefits, but expecting others to do the same is a chilling move into perpetration rather than mer acceptance.

              1. Rock of ages*

                “And in all reality, you should. No-one voted or otherwise agreed to cede our privacy to corporations.”

                We’re not talking corporations here. We’re talking governmental records.

              2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I do actually value my privacy, there are definite things that I wish to remain private and when that is the case I make sure to conduct those things off the grid as much as I can.

                If I don’t want a certain purchase/location visit to be tracked, I don’t research it online, don’t order it online, pay cash, go to a store that is out of the way, leave the phone at home etc…

                I just have a hard time understanding how people can post all day long about where they are and what they are doing and expect people to not be able to track their movements day by day.

                1. Avasarala*

                  People willingly oversharing on Facebook is clearly different from someone running a needless background check on their boss. If OP had offered this information to Scott or shared it on FB then sure, she could expect him to know about it, but she didn’t. He dug it up.

                2. Degen From Upcountry*

                  You’ve strayed quite a bit from the original question into some hypothetical “the world these days; am I right?” This wasn’t the OP posting on social media about an arrest and then being mad someone knew about it. The arbitrary social rules you mention may very well be real, but you’re ignoring the question of why the employee went to the OP with these findings, which is actually pretty relevant since blackmail exists.

            2. JSPA*

              We all poop, too–including in public toilets–but we don’t record or take notes in the bathroom and floor people with clarifying questions about it at work.

          2. Risha*

            It’s fine that you look at it that way, and in the future most people might agree with you, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t considered a major social boundary violation, and in particular, a massive work boundary violation, under current social and work norms. I.E., you being ahead of the curve doesn’t mean that this isn’t considered inappropriate here and now by the average reasonable person.

            1. Risha*

              And if nothing else, the most charitable possible explanation (not that I believe it) is that it shows that Scott has highly questionable judgement in that he doesn’t realize he stomped all over current work norms, and thus possibly does not have the judgment and/or intelligence to be trusted with his current job. Whatever your feelings about the boundary crossing itself.

      6. Amy*

        Great. It’s legal. How would you feel if your employee walked into your office and demanded to know why you got divorced? Or why you were married three times? Why there is a 12-year gap between your children? How dare you change colleges from his alma mater? What type of person goes to 6 different high schools? Is there something wrong with you after being in foster care?

        Just because it’s information someone could find without breaking the law doesn’t mean it isn’t invasive to compile it. Just because it doesn’t rise to the level of a legal claim for invasion of privacy doesn’t mean it isn’t mind bendingly inappropriate and worthy of firing.

        1. Salymander*


          I once had a boss who wondered whether I would be able to handle the stress of a promotion *because I had come from an abusive home*
          How did he know that? I suspect that he asked mutual family friends for details about me. Also, he was pals with a police officer who was called out to our house once when I was a child and the neighbors were worried about all the screaming and sounds of a physical altercation.

          The information was all out there for the taking. I still felt violated.

          Gathering that information was a huge red flag. This boss was a boundary crossing paternalistic creep. This was the evidence I sadly ignored. I came to regret that. Sometimes people show us just how awful they really are.

          OP has been given evidence of what sort of person this guy is. He does something creepy and awful to the OP, but thinks it is ok because it is not technically illegal. That makes what he has done seem even more malicious and manipulative, not less.

          1. Jadelyn*

            …well my eyes just about bugged out of my head. My gods. Using the fact that someone came from an abusive home as a child as a justification for not promoting them???? What planet was that guy from?

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I recently read that half (?) of all Americans consider themselves as growing up in an abusive home. This is staggering. However, this automatically means we cannot promote all these people? Talk about narrow thinking, yikes.

            1. Salymander*

              No, not the same guy.
              I did get the “promotion” eventually. It was not really much of a promotion, he just liked to talk about all the “good works” he did on behalf of his employees. The story is long and complicated, but all boils down to sexism and classism expressed in a hugely paternalistic, self righteous, hypocritical and condescending way.

              In short: Patriarchy+Evil Bees

        2. Properlike*

          It’s also legal for my employee to park outside my house, watch me take my kids to school, and then follow me around for a full day as I run errands and visit my doctor and go to work and withdraw money from the bank and then park outside my house again after I bring the kids home after school.

          Doesn’t make it right or less creepy.

          1. Mockingbird 2*

            This!! Legal does not equal not creepy. I’d be inclined to fire this person but have also been stalked and have a high BS meter for how stuff like that starts.

      7. Jadelyn*

        Why would you assume Tiffany In Houston was meaning the legal definition of “privacy”? Because under the legal definition, no, it wasn’t an invasion of privacy. But under the social definition, which I’m pretty sure is what most folks here are meaning by the word, it very much is. Information may be publicly available, but if you have to go looking for it, it’s generally considered to be personal enough that other folks shouldn’t be snooping after it. And since someone doesn’t have to do something illegal to get fired for it, I don’t see why the legal technicalities of availability of records are relevant to the conversation here.

      8. Jules the 3rd*

        Privacy in the digital age is still evolving, but I think most people will default to ‘privacy is violated if they have no legitimate reason to need to know the info being looked up.’ So:
        Checking that your date’s not on a sex offender list seems legit.
        Looking at a coworker’s linked in – ok
        Digging through a coworker’s extended history – um… maybe if you’re concerned they’re going to become violent, but it’s way better to bring specific current actions (eg ‘he yells and slams stuff on his desk’) to your mgmt and HR. And when you don’t find any indications of violent history, you don’t *tell them* you looked.

        It does not meet the *legal* definition of ‘expectation of privacy’, but it fulfills a social definition of it.

  19. Archie Goodwin*

    Ju-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-udas Priest.

    I mean, I don’t really have any advice to offer…it’s just that I’m picking carpet lint out of my teeth, my jaw just spent so much time on the floor. It takes a lot for that to happen anymore.

    *sigh* Every time I think I’ve heard it all…

  20. Anne Elliot*

    What the what?

    I feel like there must be more to this office culture than the letter conveys. Because I can’t even see how a conversation about a project could possibly turn into “By the way, I ran a background check on you” much less how the response could be anything other than [needle-scratch] “Wait, you did what?”

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, I am persuaded that the office culture may play into this somewhere.

      Also – my favorite Austen book…

  21. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I’m going to have to glue my head back together this afternoon, it just exploded.

    Even when I worked for a fairly conservative company, our candidate criminal background checks (convictions only) were limited to the prior 7 years. Also: Arrests are not convictions!! If a court system shared arrest records with us, we acknowledged receipt because of OFCCP compliance, but also stipulated that those records were not considered for the purpose of a criminal background check. BECAUSE ARRESTS ARE NOT CONVICTIONS!! Can’t seem to get past that part…

    If an employer doesn’t dig that deep, then a nosy, self-important co-worker doesn’t warrant an explanation. Scott may be outwardly nice, but he needs a serious sit-down.

  22. LizB*

    It wouldn’t be a good idea, but I’m pretty sure I’d respond automatically to “Was your arrest in X or Y state?” with “That’s none of your fucking business.” Like, the only people who are entitled to an actual answer to that question are your lawyer, someone who’s running a legitimate and very detailed background check, and your life partner. What the actual f?

    Your in-the-moment response sounds like a more work-friendly message that effectively communicated that it’s none of his fucking business, so good on you. But seriously, WHAT.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “Go ask my boss. I am sure she will be touched by your concern about her ability to chose employees.”

  23. MollyG*

    I disagree with everyone. Employers run background checks on their employees all the time and have no qualms asking for more details relating to old and minor infractions. I love the idea of employees running checks on their management. It is completely fair. If you can’t take it, don’t dish it.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      The OP already went through a background check, and her employer found her worthy of hire. That’s all Scott and his like need to know.

      I’d say the same thing if the OP took it upon herself to use the same resources Scott did, ‘just to confirm.’ He went through the same background check she did, and was found worthy of hire. She doesn’t need too know anything else.

      This tit-for-tat approach serves no good purpose, and assumes background check info is widely shared. IME, it is kept confidential unless there’s a specific, justified reason for someone outside of HR to know.

    2. Lx in Canada*

      That’s what I was thinking, too. Like, I may be missing a huge social norm here, but if employers insist on running background checks to make sure their employees aren’t skeevy, then why shouldn’t employees be able to do the same for their managers?

      1. mayfly*

        This isn’t a tit for tat situation.
        Presumably, *everyone* at a company is background-checked via appropriate channels in HR. Therefore managers have already been vetted and deemed appropriate to work at the company.

      2. Amy*

        Employers also get your SSN, address, next of kin, emergency contact, family names and DOBs for insurance purposes, etc., etc. That does not mean every simple employee should go find that info, even when publically available. It’s a creepy, intimidation tactic.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          + 100

          Plus, there are some companies that don’t run background checks on their new hires – my current company didn’t bother with one for me, probably because I’m fully remote.

      3. Observer*

        Totally false equivalence here.

        1. Normal companies don’t do the level of checking this guy did. And in many cases, they don’t even get the information at all – rather they get Y/N answers to questions like “has this person ever been convicted of a crime”.

        2. Background and credit checks generally require permission.

        3. Most staff, even upper management, actually doesn’t get to see the background checks of people. Just as the OP has almost certainly not seen the background check done on Scott. So no one can claim that the OP needs to accept this kind of boundary crossing (and attempted intimidation?) on the basis that THEY “dished it out” – They didn’t.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Agreed on the false equivalence.

          Also, another the point here isn’t that someone can’t run a background check on someone else (they can and do, apparently), it’s that this guy appears to be openly positioning to use it as leverage. Unless you can think of any business reason that the employee would need to know specific details about something completely irrelevant to the current work environment that moreover happened 10+ years ago, the only reason to ask that kind of question is to make it clear what the employee did and what they know.

          1. EddieSherbert*

            Yes, the search (and probably having to *pay* out of pocket for the detailed search) is weird and at least abnormal… Bringing it up the coworker (your boss?) in casual conversion to dig for more information is a huge demonstration that he doesn’t understand professional boundaries.

        2. Jadelyn*

          This x1000. I’m in HR, and we do background checks for potential employees (legally required for compliance reasons). The hiring manager NEVER knows ANYTHING about what we do or don’t find. They find their candidate and tell us who it is, we get a signed authorization/waiver form from the candidate, and we run the background check. The ONLY thing the manager ever knows is whether or not we can approve hiring their candidate or not – if the answer is “no”, we don’t even tell the manager why, only that we couldn’t approve the background check and they need to continue their recruiting process and find someone else. It’s a simple thumbs up/thumbs down result, as far as anyone outside of HR is concerned. And even within HR, there are only two people who see the report and make the decision on hire/no hire, and the two who make that call are both HR VPs. No one else, not even the CEO or EVP, sees the actual background check report.

          So…pretty much NONE of the normal conditions of a pre-employment background search were met in this instance. There was no permission given, and the person this guy ran his background check on was someone who almost certainly was in no way involved in his own background check process anyway.

          Talk about a wildly false equivalence. Good grief.

          1. Lx in Canada*

            Thank you, I didn’t think of it like that. I’m also relatively new to the working world, so I didn’t know how background checks work when hiring. I assumed the hiring manager did it.

        3. Working Mom Having It All*


          4. It is not appropriate for your employer to use information turned up in the course of a routine background check to intimidate you once hired.

          1. Lx in Canada*

            Oh true, and that is what the employee is doing to the LW here… I wasn’t denying that that part is inappropriate, I just didn’t realize how background checks while hiring actually worked (I read Jadelyn’s response above and now it makes sense).

      4. Reality.Bites*

        You can run a check on whoever you want. But if you run one on me without a good reason for doing so, and are stupid enough to tell me about it, our relationship, whether personal or professional, is done.

      5. Susana*

        Because they are not doing the hiring.
        I guess if *before* accepting a job, someone might run a check on a manager to see if that’s a person you’d want to work for. But you don’t chase after the person and demand “clarification.” Scott doesn’t have the standing to demand explanations from manager on his/her past. If Scott doesn’t feel comfortable working for manager, then he can leave.
        IN this case, it’s clear Scott wants to make LW feel vulnerable or afraid… and that is creep AF.

      6. Not So NewReader*

        I see no problem with running a BG check on someone.
        I see a big problem with taking information from that and using it IRL.

        This is a two part question, really. If someone can quietly look into another person’s BG and keep the answers to themselves, then no problem. But this guy went back to OP and told her what he did and what he found. WHY? What was his point in doing that?

        This is a guy who should never be in a position to hire people because he has NO clue that OP’s story is a fairly common story and has NO impact on her ability as an employee. Because he cannot handle information in a responsible, thinking manner he needs to stay away from hiring decisions. Working in a hiring capacity makes him a liability to an employer because he has very poor judgement.

    3. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      Management has a lot of privileges staff don’t, that doesn’t really have any significance here. It’s still shady.

    4. vanillacookies*

      But someone presumably already ran a background check on OP, when they were hired.

    5. CAS*

      The *employer* likely ran a background check on the OP before hiring, and the *employer* ran the background check on Scott. The OP had no role in Scott’s background check when he was hired. It’s not as if they’re remotely the same or equal situations. Scott wants the OP to be one-down. It’s a power play. Employers don’t do background checks for power plays. They do them to screen out applicants.

    6. Drewski*

      Hows that?

      The writer here likely has additional personal information on “Scott” that “Scott” would not have on his boss. SSN, pay rate, disciplinary history… Should he be privy to that too?

      “It is completely fair” how? She is responsible for his performance and behavior. Not the other way around. The writer here has the ability to end “Scott”‘s career… and it would likely have ended if he was working for me and pulled that crap.

    7. Detective Amy Santiago*

      There are a LOT of rules that employers have to follow when running background checks, especially depending on where they’re located, so this doesn’t really work.

      1. motherofdragons*

        Isn’t a big one that the employee *consents* to the background check as part of the hiring/onboarding process? OP never consented to Scott’s snooping. Big red flag no-no.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          You’re right, it is. Most employment applications cover this – here’s what we’re checking, here’s the legislation that allows it, signing this app gives us your consent, here are your rights and recourse if we find an issue or discrepancy, etc. But the applicant must give their consent and their identifying information for us to do so.

        2. fposte*

          Yup, that’s huge. Without consent, this isn’t tit for tat; this is a massive and aggressive escalation.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Yup. And when I ran background checks, we had to have separate authorization forms for different types of checks if we were doing anything additional like a credit check or motor vehicle record check. The company we worked with wouldn’t complete the check without those forms uploaded.

        4. Pommette!*

          Yes! The employee knows about the background check, knows the purpose of the background check, and can consent (or decline) to have it run.

          There’s lots that’s debatable about the way employers conduct background checks and what they do with the information. But that’s a conversation for another day. This isn’t anything like an employer’s background check; it’s just a sinister surprise.

        5. Jadelyn*

          Yes. And, at least in California, we can only run a background check after the position has been conditionally offered and accepted. We can’t just take our top 3 candidates, background-check them all, and decide who we want based on the results (a fact which has to be repeatedly explained to certain of our hiring managers…). It’s a very narrowly-defined permission, only under certain circumstances, etc. It’s not something we just do whenever and however we like.

        6. Occasional*

          Not to derail too much, but lots of people are making this comment, and while I don’t disagree with the general point that most people are making re: the two situations not being at all the same, I’ve got to say that the idea that these kinds of checks are “truly” consensual is a bit of a joke.

          “Hi Bob, welcome to the company! We just need you to sign this form saying we can run a background check and you’re all set!”
          “Oh, jeez, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that”
          “Well, if you don’t consent, we’re not going to be able to hire you”
          “Oh… well, I guess I don’t have much choice huh?”

          Acquiring grudging consent under the threat of (in this instance) losing your job is not proper consent. Legally it may be, who knows, but we shouldn’t pretend to ourselves that consent gained under threat is anything other than a joke.

          1. Jadelyn*

            …except that 99% of the time the background checks are done pre-hire, so you’re not threatening someone’s job, you’re threatening their potential future job.

            I mean, on principle, background check consent is on the same level as signing off on a EULA in order to use your computer. You *can* say no, but if you say no, you don’t get to access the thing. But I feel like it’s probably vanishingly rare for a company to go to an existing employee and say “sign this consent form or lose your job”.

            1. Occasional*

              That’s a bit of a strange distinction to try to make. What I’m saying is just as true for people in the process of joining a company as it is for people already at a company (hence the example). Either way, you’re still obtaining “consent” under threat of either losing a job or losing out on a job. We shouldn’t fool ourselves that consent granted under those circumstances has any real legitimacy.

              1. Jadelyn*

                But losing a job is a distinct event from losing out on getting a new job. I’m not “trying to make” the distinction. You’re treating the two situations as if they’re the same or have the same impact, and I don’t see that to be the case.

          2. Baru Cormorant*

            And this is why worker rights will never be fully realized until we implement universal basic income. Viva la revolucion!

    8. Lady Blerd*

      This is in no way comparable. He had no reason to do this and frankly I don’t understand how you are not seeing the huge violation here. This would be like you running a background check on your neighbours. The underling had no standing whatsoever to do this.

      1. Drewski*

        It would be like that… but only if your neighbors were also your landlord.

        This is way worse than him running it on a coworker. Shes his boss!

      2. LizB*

        The actual comparison would be if Scott did some research on the company and came to the OP to ask about some shady dealings the organization was accused of 10 years ago. That would be 100% legit. The OP didn’t personally dig into Scott’s past, the company did. I’m no fan of background checks that make big deals out of irrelevant stuff, but this is not the way to protest that.

        1. bleh*

          Exactly. Turning our frustration about corporate (and law enforcement) overreach and privacy invasion onto other individual humans is inherently backward and only exacerbates the existing problem.

    9. Summertime*

      I may be wrong, but I thought that HR conducted the background check and asked question about infractions. Those background checks are not distributed to everyone the potential hiree would work under, so the information is mainly contained to the HR department who is vetting the individual. I don’t believe that check is kept somewhere where a manager could easily access it.

      Employers do run background checks very often, but they are companies and entities. In this case, Scott’s dishing it back is not by calling out their place of work, but rather a direct dishing towards OP which OP did not deserve. There are big differences between consenting to a background check as part of an employment process and what Scott has done which is to obtain this knowledge without OP’s consent.

      Though, I would not be opposed to the idea of having a background check on an organization to learn about their policies and practices and whether those practices are ethical and legal.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘I may be wrong, but I thought that HR conducted the background check and asked question about infractions. Those background checks are not distributed to everyone the potential hiree would work under, so the information is mainly contained to the HR department who is vetting the individual. I don’t believe that check is kept somewhere where a manager could easily access it.’

        You’re not wrong at all. HR owns the background check process, not the hiring manager. The findings are not widely shared, nor should they be. If a HM wants to know more, we tell them, ‘No need, everything checks out.’

        I agree that a company is fair game to research, and there are a lot of resources job seekers can use. But to use retail background check tools on your boss, co-workers, or direct reports, is beyond the pale.

      2. LizB*

        At least at my company, you’re 100% right on how background checking works. The only thing I as the hiring manager see related to a candidate’s background is whether I’m able to hire them (in which case I know they passed the check) or not (in which case I know they must have failed). We have a third-party service that actually runs the checks, and maybe one person in HR is able to actually see what the report says. Candidates have the option to work with the third-party service if they think there’s an error in the information they found, and I’ve seen someone correct the record successfully and subsequently get hired. Also, the people I hire work directly with kids, so background checking is extremely important; we don’t do it just for fun, we do it to make sure the people we hire can safely be in their role.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          Hiring an outside vendor to run a background check is a common practice for good reason. If the hiring manager goes snooping, he/she might discover that the candidate is a racial minority or a member of a protected group, and make the company vulnerable to a lawsuit for discrimination.

    10. Me*

      Way way way not the same.

      We run background checks because we cannot hire you to do certain jobs. If you have embezzlement charges, you aren’t working in finance. If you have pedophilia charges, you aren’t working in any capacity with children. We don’t give a rats patootie about something minor that happened 5 years ago and aren’t going to ask. If you’ve had much experience being background checked and grilled about minor things then take it as blessing as you know you don’t want to work there.

      It’s not about idle curiosity and MOST importantly, you agree explicitly to have us do that as a condition of your employment. It’s not sneaky and underhanded.

      In short – employers do so for good cause and with permission.

    11. motherofdragons*

      This comment reminds me of that scene in Anchorman when Ron Burgundy just told San Diego to go f*ck itself, and his boss Ed is like “Ron, I’ve gotta fire you.” And Ron goes “Ed, I’ve gotta fire you! Bing bong bong, you’re fired.” Only one person had the power to fire the other person in this scenario (spoiler alert: it wasn’t Ron), and that’s how I see this background check thing too. There are things that are within the power of employers to do that employees cannot do.

    12. Classic Rando*

      Even if you take that attitude about it, it still doesn’t make sense in this case. OP is newish to the company, Scott was already here. If the company did a background check on him when he was hired, OP had nothing to do with it. And even if OP was around when his check was done, chances are she never saw any details of it, usually those reports aren’t a detailed breakdown of the person’s past. So he’s just being creepy and invasive to someone who hasn’t done anything even remotely similar to him.

    13. Crackles*

      Your argument is ridiculous! Should he call her references too then? After all the company did it so it’s completely fair.

    14. VivaL*

      The comparable scenario is if Scott did a *reference* check on OP.

      The boundary violation here is that they know each other in a professional context and he was asking about personal information – that she had not given him.

      The fact that it is all publicly available doesn’t change the context of the boundary violation.

      Also typically a background check or reference check one gives consent to. So the two situations are not comparable at all.

    15. Salymander*

      I don’t think it is great for my coworkers to suddenly start running background checks on each other, looking for dirt, and justifying it by saying, “Well if the company does it, I can too. It isn’t technically illegal. If my employer can invade my privacy, I can invade everyone else’s privacy. It’s only fair.”

      This sounds like rude children on the playground, but with background checks.

    16. Tinker*

      I do think it’d be similarly inappropriate for an employee of a company who is a manager to privately run a background check on another employee of that company who reports to them, and confront them in an intimidating way about results that are not relevant to the business — it’s not a matter of “how dare he, it’s not his place to question Boss”, it’s “that isn’t the right way to work with other people regardless of who you are”.

      I think the solution to that should be that neither do it rather than both, though.

    17. Louise*

      You know I agree with the spirit of your take but not the specifics. There’s a huge information imbalance between employee and employer that contributes to the power imbalance, and while this *feels* like a way to take back material power, I don’t think it actually does. Like, it doesn’t help your ability to negotiate (like how salary transparency does) and it doesn’t help your ability to advocate for yourself (like how flatter org structures do), unless you’re literally planning on blackmailing someone. I think there are better ways to balance power between employee and employer than digging up dirt on your manager.

    18. Mike C.*

      Look, I’m the biggest pro-employee poster on this board and have been for years, and even I think this is a completely unreasonable stand to take.

    19. Hamburke*

      For my current company to run a background and credit check, I needed to grant written permission. I mean, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been hired (I work in finance), but there was consent. And since I do some of the hr office support for my clients (mostly maintaining new hire packets and processing them as they come in since I do payroll), I’ve been in charge of hiring the background checkers – they all require written authorization from the employee. This is… Different…

  24. CAS*

    There would be no stopping me from taking this to HR. That would be step 1. Step 2 would be requesting HR’s presence at the follow-up meeting with Scott to discuss a) the inappropriateness of the background check, and b) bringing it up with you. If it were me, I’d probably add that he’ll have a lot of work to do to regain my confidence in him.

  25. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I am an exceedingly curious person but it would never occur to me to PAY to run a background check on someone! This guy has some brass ones and I would keep a verrrrrry close eye on him. As in, what Alison said.

    1. Lx in Canada*

      Lol, Ikr. All the information I acquire on people is solely stuff that’s already available publicly online. (I originally typed “solely confidential”, not sure why, it’s probably somewhere else in my field of view… LOL though.)

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Most if not all of the information on background checks are things that are publicly available, and that most people could look up on their own. Usually you are paying for the third party company to compile all the information in one place instead of having to submit info requests to 30 different public agencies.

        1. Eirene*

          And if Scott did the latter, that’s even creepier than just paying for one single aggregated background check.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Right – so that means he has not broken any law or committed any tort and couldn’t be charged with a crime or successfully sued in civil court.

          Thankfully, “not a crime or tort” is not the standard we use for professional and courteous behavior in the workplace. We aim a little higher, yeah?

        3. Jadelyn*

          Ok, look. Can we perhaps agree that at this point, it’s been established that everyone here understands that what was done was not illegal, nobody is ignorant of the existence of public records, we do understand what that means, and that we are referring to the colloquial usage of “privacy” when we talk about coworker’s invasion thereof, not attempting to make legal arguments on what is “private” information in the legal sense?

          Because you’ve posted some version of this comment probably half a dozen times now, and it’s not advancing the conversation any further at this point.

        4. AvonLady Barksdale*

          The name of my estranged parent is also publicly available. Doesn’t mean I want someone walking up to me all, “Heeeeyyyy… is this guy your dad? How come you never mentioned him? He sounds soooooo cooooool!”

          If that someone were my subordinate, trying to pump me for personal info? Ugh, makes my skin crawl.

  26. Summertime*

    I wonder if this is one of those early career moments where Scott is unaware that this is overstepping boundaries, professional and personal. Perhaps Scott felt that because the company has a background check on him, some sort of reciprocity was appropriate (when it definitely isn’t). And when he discovered the arrest on OP’s record, he asked about it to fulfill his curiosity to understand why OP was able to get a managerial role despite the arrest. Maybe it was pure curiosity for OP and Scott’s ambition to maybe one day get a role similar to what OP is in now, and instead of digging into OP’s professional history, Scott dug into OP’s personal history. Of course, that is all speculation on his motivations.

    But the fact that Scott brought this up is the big indication that OP will need to keep a closer eye on Scott’s judgment. Is Scott is willing to bring up uncomfortable and inappropriate topics to OP, who is senior to him, then what is he saying to his peers and those junior to him?

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      Ditto! Agree fully. I also don’t think he has a malicious intent. I think he just has bad judgement.

      1. JSPA*

        “knowing” he’s not malicious is just as much a projection as “knowing” that he is malicious.

        We already know he’s not broadly stupid or careless–OP says he’s been a pleasure to work with, so presumably he’s been broadly competent until now.

        Beyond that, we can’t know intent from what’s reported. If he’s not being conniving or malicious, he’s being some variant of clueless or norm-stomping. We can, however, point out the options, so that OP has a broader idea of what else to look out for. Bad boundaries/cluelessness and veiled threats/evil intent and personal stalking / even more evil intent will each unscroll differently.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          The fact that he’s been pleasant and competent up to now actually makes this creeper to me. Either he has a giant and unusual hole in what is otherwise an excellent grasp of business norms or he knows exactly what he’s doing.

    2. SierraSkiing*

      But if he didn’t mean it maliciously… why bring it up as “was it in State A or State B?” It’s a really weird question if he’s just a curious guy with no sense of boundaries. If he was just curious, I’d expect him to ask something like, “hey, I was Googling you and saw you got arrested. What happened?” The location question sounds more like the start of a deposition.

      1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

        I disagree. What he said sounds like something I would have said when I was younger and I never stalked anyone.

  27. agnes*

    This is completely ridiculous. I would call him on it pronto and ask him why he did it and why he asked you about it. It borders on stalking and if he does that to you, what might he do to his colleagues or to your clients? This is not naive behavior. This is trying to do a “gotcha” and the guy needs to be put in his place.

    1. Drewski*

      Agree… and if he did anything other than apologize (i.e imply even the slightest he “had something” on you) he would be cleaning out his desk.

    2. SierraSkiing*

      Agreed! I’m imagining going into a business meeting with this guy, and he starts out by asking, “Just so you know, I googled you in detail before this meeting. How did your relationship with the girl from the blind date turn out, by the way? I was wondering after reading the article about it in your college newspaper.”

      Is that information publicly available? Sure, you might come across it while looking me up on Google. Would I angrily flounce out of the meeting and resolve never to do business with him again? If at all possible, yes.

      1. Susana*

        I went on a first date once with a guy who mentioned that he had Googled me. I was appalled, and the way he reacted to my reaction was to pat my hand (literally!) and say there was nothing bad he found.
        Never went out with him again. And he did not understand why! What an insecure creep. If you can’t even go on a date with someone in a public restaurant without investigating them first… well, I don’t know what to say.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          How was he insecure? I don’t go out with strangers I haven’t done a cursory Google search on, either. Women can be predators too you know. They also set some men up to be beaten and robbed.

  28. Heather*

    If that’s the only trouble you plan to be in, you might really get that record expunged. Something this small should be achievable through mail-in form(s.) This dude is very invasive, but it also sounds like you’ve got a pretty competitive job, and this may not be the only Scott you’ll run into. (For example, what if Scott reveals the practice is common at the company? You’ll have bigger problems to deal with, and having this expunged will make life easier.)

    1. QueenintheNorf*

      Expungement would be for a court record. She doesn’t have a court record. Just an arrest.

      These background check places are sketchy and pick up info from all sorts of sources. Often the info is incorrect. They won’t just remove something because it has been expunged.

      1. Anonymous*

        One of my friends is a lawyer who does pro brno work helping low income people get their arrest records taken down in the event nothing came of the arrest. (An example would be a party where everyone got arrested and the police sorted out who actually committed a crime later.)

        It is doable in some states.

      2. emmelemm*

        Expungement can also be for arrest records. My BF is also a lawyer who does pro bono helping people expunge arrest records, because in some cases (working with children), even an arrest without *any* follow-up actual complaint or being charged in any way (much less being convicted) can keep you from employment.

    2. Brett*

      Sounds like the arrest was based either on a failure to appear or license suspension that the LW was not aware of.
      In either case, expungement is not likely. Unless your job requires use of a company vehicle, it is pretty rare for either of those to have any impact on hiring.
      (If it was simply that the LW was not carrying their license or insurance which were valid at the time, the arrest can be expunged, and probably should have been automatically expunged. But it is rare and even somewhat bizarre to be arrested just for not carrying license or insurance without there already being a related warrant or suspension.)

      1. K.A.*

        “But it is rare and even somewhat bizarre to be arrested just for not carrying license or insurance without there already being a related warrant or suspension.)”

        That depends on the state, and sometimes it’s at the discretion of the arresting officer. Also, if there was an insurance snafu, then there could have been an automatic license suspension that she was not aware of.

        1. Hamburke*

          When we first got married, I added my husband to my insurance. They sent a card that had my name on it but he was covered as well – I was just primary. He got pulled over for expired tags and got a ticket for that + no insurance. The officer was nice bc he could have had the car impounded at the least but let him drive home.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      She might make out better trying to find out if the case should be sealed because of a reduction or dismissal.

  29. Lady Blerd*

    I had to comment before reading Allison’s response. WTF!!!???!!! How do you not have the emotional intelligence to know this is not ok??? This would definitely should be a teachable moment.

    1. Remote Worker and Dog Lover*

      I don’t think that’s a fair assessment to make of the LW! We’re supposed to give people the benefit of the doubt here.

  30. Archangels girl*

    Did he complete the background check on an office computer where IT could track it? Did he expense the cost of the background check? Is he using company time to make these expirations? All of these would be interesting things to know when deciding what to do next. In other words, he clearly overstepped, but how far?

  31. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    O.M.G this is so over the top and incredible nonsense! This person is going to cause you so much more headaches than you can even imagine, he has no boundaries what so ever or understands how egregious this is to breech anyone’s privacy, let alone their supervisors.

  32. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    I know Alison and this group usually frown on saying “I would have fired the person immediately if I could”, but in this case…I would have fired the person immediately if I could. It doesn’t matter that this is a workplace where people must continually justify their professional background.** Most successful businesses are based on trust and professionalism. The trust issue is obvious from his running a background check. The lack of professionalism is highlighted by (1) his running a background check (Googling your boss is normal, checking her LinkedIn is normal, THIS IS NOT NORMAL), and (2) bringing it up in a discussion as if this were normal behavior. Your employee’s actions are so far from acceptable that I would never be able to work with him.

    ** Side note: OP, this is a sign of a toxic workplace. Yes, you must justify your professional background in the hiring process. No, you shouldn’t need to keep doing this once you are hired, particularly if you are performing at or above expectations. Ask yourself this question: would others in your company think your employee’s behavior is acceptable. If the answer is yes, please start looking.

    1. M*

      This! This person clearly has bad judgement and major issues. Get it on file and lock your Door!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      There are seriously some incidents that do call for immediate termination.

      This is in that category as far as I’m concerned as well. We wouldn’t put up with this kind of behavior, it’s foreshadowing of “what other boundaries won’t he respect?”

      Questioning someone’s professional background is 100% reasonable. “So justify being my manager, what’s your professional background?” vs “So justify a personal thing that you did and I only found out about because I paid for a background check on you.” Dude, we background check here and if it’s no big deal to get a pass on our side, an employee making it a big deal of their own is outrageous!

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Questioning someone’s professional background is 100% reasonable. “So justify being my manager, what’s your professional background?”

        This isn’t even appropriate. Unless you’re the person’s manager, employees don’t have standing to ask anyone they work with to justify their place at the company.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          “So justify being my manager, what’s your professional background?”

          I agree with FJ. I cannot fathom an employee do that and staying employed. That’s flat-out insubordination. A subordinate can think there is no justification for someone to be their manager (I have done so several times and I am 100% sure some of my reports have thought that of me). But directly challenge a manager to justify their position? No. Not professional and not acceptable in standard business environments.

    3. auburn*

      I’m with you. I would have fired him and that is rarely something I jump to. The fact that he did it at all is a massive overstep. The fact that he brought it up so casually and acted entitled to that information? That’s fireable. Hell no. If I had the authority he would be packing up his desk.

  33. Anonymous Poster*

    I don’t understand your workplace’s culture, but everywhere I’ve worked, and it’s been some heavy posture-y places, this would have crossed a line. The worst place for this I worked someone circulated a local news story about another coworker getting arrested and it blew up, but all parties involved work together and are fine now.

    People don’t just offhandedly run paid background checks on one another in a workplace. I wouldn’t be surprised if this person was doing other stuff that just shouldn’t fly.

    Some phrases you could mull over:
    “Why are you running a background check on me? And are you running it on others? That is not the sort of behavior that will work out well for you here.”
    “I know you want to advance, but even managers don’t run background checks on employees out of the blue. This behavior is inappropriate and will hold you back, or perhaps lead to discipline.”

    Best of luck! Yes this is very weird.

  34. Quinley*

    This…this is so *beyond the pale inappropriate* and bizarre. It’s DEFINITELY him, not you OP. I’m amazed you handled this as calmly as you did. I know it’s been said once but this behavior is definitely worth bringing up with HR (depending on the competency of your HR of course). I’d even go so far as to bring it up with HR after you address it with him directly, just because of how bewilderingly inappropriate this is. Depending on how charitable you want to be about your report’s motives behind this, you could frame it to HR as less a complaint and more “hey, I just want to bring to your attention that this is a thing that happened, and it was disconcerting enough that I feel you should know about it.” Because given how casually he brought up the fact that he *ran a paid background check on his manager*, I would not be at all surprised if he’s done this to other people.

    1. MaxiesMommy*

      If she asked him if he had looked up other employees do you think he’d tell her the truth? He’s so arrogant he may not realize he’s in trouble.

    2. Spooooon!!*

      Yeah, this isn’t “running a background check,” this is snooping/ stalking your superior.

  35. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I… like… I have dated online for years and, while I’ve heard other people talking about running a paid background check in these situations, I myself never have. The farthest I’ve ever gone was to google someone’s name and look at the mugshots dot come record that came up, because the person was seriously creeping me out and I wanted to see if there was more to it than my gut feeling – because I was spending weekends at his place 1:1 and wanted to make sure it was safe to do.

    But that was in my personal life! To run any check, much less a paid BG check, on your coworker – your new supervisor, of all people – and then tell them about it – my brain’s about to explode.

    My next question; WHY would Scott possibly have done it? I am strongly suspecting that, because OP was recently and quickly promoted, and because Scott is “ambitious”, that Scott could have been gathering proof that OP is not qualified to be in this management position, but Scott on the other hand is! I’d take it to HR, upper management, everywhere. In no way shape or form is this appropriate. I am leaning towards agreeing with those commenters that say that Scott should be let go from his job. That’s WAY over the line.

    PS. OP, one of my sons had the insurance+driver license snafu happen to him when he was 19. He would’ve lost his license and probably not even found out about it (and possibly subsequently gotten arrested for driving with a suspended license!) if I hadn’t stepped in. It took me several weeks of jumping through all manner of bureaucratic hoops to get it fixed. I totally get how this happened to you.

    1. Tigger*

      I am dealing with this right now and it is maddening! (Why do dmv’s not talk to each other!) OP is it not your fault. It can happen to people who do the right thing but someone else messes up the paper work.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Exactly – my son was on my insurance, that was up to date, but he had forgotten to put the new insurance card in his wallet, and showed the traffic officer an expired one. Mind you, I’ve done this before myself, and with me it was “don’t worry Ma’am, I know you have one”. But with a 19-year-old guy, it was “here’s your court date”. He drove downtown to where the court was, parked several blocks away, and left the new insurance card in the car. Weirdly he had no idea that something had gone wrong. “Oh they told me that, if I get pulled over again, they’ll arrest me, but I don’t know why?” then he got a letter in the mail that he had 30 days to mail in the proof of insurance, or he’d lose the license. (Guess who opened the letter, and who thought it was junk mail and ignored?) Then I took over and mailed the proof of insurance twice, only for the DMV to misplace it both times, and tell me when I called to follow up, that I hadn’t mailed it and they didn’t have it. Finally someone I talked to on the phone took pity on me and gave me the address of a super-secret DMV location where you could take your proof of insurance in person instead of mailing it, and that thankfully resolved the issue. What a nightmare.

      2. noahwynn*

        No kidding!

        I moved to Minnesota. The day before I went to the DMV to get new car tags and switch over my license, I called my insurance company and they moved my policy over to MN. Apparently that meant North Carolina (my former state) got a message that I canceled my insurance, so North Carolina put some sort of block on my license and invalidated my registration. It was a nightmare trying to get it all fixed.

        1. Tigger*

          That is EXACTLY what happened to me!!! I also moved to Minnesota and because of the way they do the plate Tabs here my insurance thinks I have been driving around with no insurance for 30 days and my former state suspended my license. Don’t even get me started on how long it took to get my new id.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I did run it personally on people but that’s because it’s a lot different letting someone into your home or car than you know, someone who was hired to work at your office and supervise your work!

    3. Deejay*

      A number plate typo on an insurance company’s accident report once turned my car into a wrecked motorbike. I only found this out when I tried to sell it. After several hours on the phone with them refusing to even consider the possibility of a mistake, they finally accepted that with government records saying “This number plate belongs to a car” and accident records saying “this happened to a motorbike” there was a problem.

      At that point they refused to fix it, citing data protection legislation. Even after I confirmed with the data protection authorities that this wasn’t a valid excuse, they still refused. At that point I told them they were leaving me no choice but to take legal action. That got the job done. No apology of course.

      A few years later I was stopped in the town centre by a salesman for that very company. I took great pleasure in explaining to him exactly why he’d have better luck trying to sell Satan insurance for the snowplough he’d be using before I’d go with them.

  36. Memyselfandi*

    This does not speak to the personnel issue, but if I were the OP I would sign up with Worth the money because there are people like this out there.

  37. Freya*

    I think it’s actually the employee you might need to ultimately let go of, not the way you feel.

  38. Sharrbe*

    Internet, social media and reality show cultures have all collided to result in everybody thinking they should know everything about everyone else at all times. We need some mystery, people.

  39. GreenDoor*

    I had started seeing a guy that did this to me. Over dinner with his family he brought up the two small claims lawsuits and three traffic violations he had found and said, “I have to know who I”m dating here” as explaination. I was so stunned that all I could do was point out the truth. The person he looked up was Green R. Door, while my legal name is actually Greendolyn M. Door. That shut him up. His whole family was appalled. I was embarrased to death – – and it wasn’t even my record!! I dumped him like a hot potato.

    I say call this guy on it, as AAM suggested. I’d even say, “I’m curious why you felt conducting a background check on me was appropriate. I looked myself up and the things you found could only have been found through a paid search which makes this all even more bizarre. Please explain yourself.” And sit back and see what he says and does. That will tell you a lot about this guy.

    1. Close Bracket*

      I think dating partners are a separate issue from managers. I met this guy on a dating site who a google search revealed to have a record for domestic violence and had been cited at his job for anger management problems. I didn’t invite him to dinner with my family to as him about it, I just cancelled our date and stopped communicating with him. Frankly, I did have a right to know who I was dating (or not dating, as it turned out)!

      1. JSPA*

        you’re allowed to stop dating someone for “eh, not feeling it.” Or, “I don’t see us together in six months, so I’m ending it now.” Or any other dang thing. Doing it on the basis of a search is hardly problematic.

        If you want a contract in a relationship, that’s what a marriage license is. (Or other partnership agreements, in countries that have them.) At which point, rules and regulations apply.

        Work, even at-will work, isn’t quite that at-will. Nor are there individual contracts between every two people in the workplace. Thus, “don’t be creepy to your coworkers” is a great touchstone.

        That said, I might search someone if I were the only other person there on the night shift, and they were big enough to pin me with ease, and something about the situation seemed potentially problematic. Just because I’d feel several sorts of idiot if something happened, that information was out there, and I hadn’t bothered to check. But regardless of what I found–I would not throw it in their faces. (Seriously, WTF?)

      2. Reality.Bites*

        When you bring someone home to meet your family and your family asks YOU to leave, you’ve crossed a line somewhere. (Yes I know they didn’t literally do that).

      3. Fortitude Jones*

        Yes. I wouldn’t be nearly as creeped out if this was a dating situation – you just don’t do this to your boss. The relationship is not that close to merit something like this.

        1. Jennifer*

          I think I’d be annoyed and creeped out if I was asked about this on a first date too. I mean, she didn’t murder anybody. It was an insurance mix up. If I had multiple tickets for driving without insurance, including several recent ones, that’s definitely a red flag, but one from many years ago shouldn’t be a big deal. I wouldn’t want to date someone who’d make it a big deal.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Same here, I found an arrest record for DV and personal injury. (He later explained to mutual friends that it did not count, because his wife at the time had dropped the charge after he’d spent a weekend in jail.) I’d gone looking because the way he was acting and the things he was saying was scaring the living sh!t out of me. Ended the (two-week) relationship via text and never saw him again. If I am coming over to someone’s place and sleeping at their place, I want to take precautions. So totally justified in a dating situation in my opinion (though, to agree with GreenDoor, probably not a great family-dinner conversation subject!); and a totally different issue than with a manager.

    2. Jennifer*

      Wow! Even if that was you, two small claims suits and traffic violations aren’t necessarily that troubling, depending on the circumstances, and they should have been brought up privately. What is wrong with people?

    3. LizB*

      I think the similarity I’m seeing between your comment and the OP is the element of “gotcha!” on the part of the person running the check. OP’s employee has no professional reason to need more information about her background, and since they only know each other in a professional context, looking for this level of information and slyly asking questions about it is totally out of line. In your case, it’s pretty legit to look into a dating partner’s background in one way or another, but confronting you about it at a casual dinner with family feels very very weird. If he had, idk, asked you in private, or just looked at what he found and broken up with you for vague reasons, that would be way different. It’s the apparent desire to somehow use the information found against the person that is really rubbing me the wrong way in both cases.

      1. GreenDoor*

        Exactly where I was going with this. Plus, at work, you can’t just “dump” your boss so that akward/creepy factor will hang around while you’re trying to do your job.

    4. Marthooh*

      Over dinner with his family? What, what, what was he thinking? Is it an old family custom or something, bringing potential mates home to meet Mother and be deposed on their criminal history? What!

  40. Internet Stalker*

    FYI – I am pretty sure that background check companies are required to send findings/documentation to the requester as well as the one the check is being run on. My last job offer required a background check, and it was sent to me as well as my employer. Additionally, a friend ran a check on another friend’s sketchy boyfriend, thinking covertly, and it sent him a copy. DRAMA!

    That is super fucked up, though. Even if that person had been a hiring manager, supervisor etc, it would have been creepy but at least a little understandable. The fact that it was a subordinate is so out of line.

    1. Brett*

      It was probably not a real background check, just one of those companies that compiles together public records to make a “report”.

    2. LizB*

      I think this may vary by state or organization. At my company, the candidate can choose to receive a copy when they’re going through the paperwork to consent to the check, but the default is not to send them one.

  41. HR Ninja*

    I know this isn’t Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, but I wish I could insert the “Carrie Bradshaw gob smacked” gif into my comment!

  42. YetEvenAnotherAlison*

    I have not commented recently; I read this and could not WAIT to comment. In no way, shape or form should you, OP, tolerate this massive overstep. “Scot” has some unmitigated gall to question you in this way. It is none of his business what happened in your arrest, which state it occurred in or whatever…….. He works for you. Since he works for you there is nothing about his role that indicates this line of questioning is appropriate. I would tell him – without getting angry – that his questions about you are none of his business and there will be no more audience by you for issues like this. It is called a private life for a reason. I might even call HR to sit with you while you let him know this – to emphasize how inappropriate his actions were. Do not let this go. And watch him carefully.

  43. Una*

    I find it particularly strange and telling that the employee asked to clarify what state this happened in. That’s not even satisfying some kind of concern about the nature of the arrest, or even particularly a matter of curiosity. The only reason I can see why he would ask the letter writer about it would be to point out that he knows about the arrest. It comes across, at least to me, as a veiled threat – that (in his head) he holds some kind of power over the letter writer. Super unsettling behavior here.

    1. Drewski*

      Yea I cant believe this would be anything other than a power play.

      Unless this guy is 19 years old and has zero social or interoffice reference.

    2. DashDash*

      Knows about the arrest, and would then know which state’s arrest databases to search to get more information.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        Well it was only a choice of two, so it wouldn’t take much longer to check both.

    3. Blarg*

      Midway through my first year of college my brother called. To tell me he’d read all my diaries and the notes I’d saved from friends and boyfriends. He proceeded to list some very specific and embarrassing details, to make sure I knew that he’d actually spent the time to read everything, and also that he’d be happy to blackmail me. The next time I went home (also the last), as I packed those things up, he asked why I was bothering since he’d read it already.

      Telling OP he did it was the power play. He didn’t want the information. He wanted OP to know that he had the information. He’s awful.

  44. I edit everything*

    I was weirded out when my hub’s secretary told me the other day that she found a picture from our wedding on her computer when she was clearing out old files from her predecessor, and I can actually think of a situation or two when that might be not unreasonable.

    This is a whole ‘nother level of weird. I…who even has the *idea* of running a background check on their boss?
    [files this away for a book plot]

    1. Reality.Bites*

      As long as it’s not a photo from the wedding night, I don’t see the problem. Your husband sent out photos (presumably) and an employee saved it on their hard drive. 90% of what’s on a hard drive isn’t there on purpose anyway.

      1. I edit everything*

        Our wedding was twenty+ years before he started at this particular place, so not like he was sharing from a recent event. It just struck me as odd in the moment.

    2. not really a lurker anymore*

      My coworker just looked up our new-to-our-company boss. I know he hit LI, not sure about anywhere else. We’re IT and he wanted to know the boss’s skill set. But as far as I know, he’s not mentioned it to new boss.

  45. Me*

    OMeverlovingG. Wooooooowwwwwwwwww.

    I would explicitly add to the discussion the statement that he has seriously made me question his ability to make good judgements and that it is something I will be looking for moving forward.

  46. ErinFromAccounting*

    Here’s my question: why does he think it’s his business to “research” his colleagues’ backgrounds??? Unless someone is in HR and researching job candidates or is involved in investigating for granting security clearances, this is incredibly inappropriate.

    I hope OP makes it very clear to this guy how inappropriate and uncalled for this behavior is, as well as saying that another privacy breach will have serious consequences.

  47. whatthemell?*

    Yeah I would be so pissed off right now OP. Not that your background is anything you should be ashamed of or feeling the need to hide, but what the actual EFF??!! Who does this twerp think he is? I’m pretty petty so I’d probably be in HR’s office letting them know that this dude is running inappropriate and unwarranted background checks on people and I would be asking for confirmation that HR speak with him immediately to let him know how wildly out of place his actions were.

    This is really bizarre and Op you and definitely being more forgiving than I would be. I would be seeing red if a coworker – a subordinate no less- decided he thought it was a good idea to run a report on me.

    What an inappropriate jerk. I feel like this guy is like Dwight on The Office. Just wildly clueless and zero social ability.

  48. Booksalot*

    The way Scott handled this is super WTF, but this sort of information becoming company knowledge is actually somewhat common in my experience.

    I’ve worked with a lot of specialized engineers, and it is embarrassing to both them and the company for them to be turned away at customs for a DUI or similar incident on record. Employees for whom this is possible are supposed to disclose ASAP, so the company isn’t out the travel expenses for a useless trip.

    This doesn’t help LW deal with Scott, but LW’s background info could feasibly be relevant in some capacity.

    1. Jennifer*

      An insurance mishap isn’t the same as a DUI though. This is a minor traffic violation versus putting lives in danger.

        1. Jennifer*

          I just don’t see how a traffic violation years ago would cause any issues in the OP’s current job.

    2. M*

      It should be knowledge to whoever job it is to do the background check but it shouldn’t be “company knowledge.” I work for an organization that makes some departments including mine sign NDAs. HR should keep this stuff private.

      I worked for a company once where HR sent out everyone’s W2s with socials on a massive email list. That HR rep got promoted! Promoted! I quit after that happened. They tried to get me to sign paperwork saying I wouldn’t sue, didn’t sign it. A coworker of mine had their identity stolen because of this stuff. Those with private information should be properly trained and not share it around. This Scott person is way out of line.

      1. Booksalot*

        Ideally, yes, it should stay with HR. Realistically, though, managers and colleagues are going to start asking why Fergus isn’t doing his fair share of flying to International Customers A and B. It almost always gets out.

        1. Close Bracket*

          “Ideally, yes, it should stay with HR.”

          Scott isn’t with HR. Scott is acting on his own behalf, not the company behalf. Not the same situation as you are talking about.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          But in the LW’s actual situation, there wouldn’t be professional consequences, or anything that would affect the job. It was an arrest, not a conviction. It was years ago. LW can drive. LW can get through security at an airport. LW’s incident will have zero impac on her job. So I don’t see how your points – which I think are that some things from people’s past can sometimes affect their ability to do their jobs? – have relevance to the LW’s situation.

    3. Jennifer*

      Plus if it were relevant the company would have addressed it with her when they ran her background check, or just not hired her.

  49. Jaybeetee*

    Erm, I’ll be that person – OP, do you happen to be a POC? There’s just a… layer to this that’s downright weird, in addition to grossly inappropriate. Like, either this guy pays for background checks for colleagues/bosses on the regs, or something about *you* “prompted” him to do it (and I so very much don’t mean “something you did”, but possibly “something you are that makes him automatically suspicious…”)

    1. Grand Mouse*

      This is where my mind went. The language about OP being arrested for a minor traffic violation in a conservative area sounds a lot like what happens to Black and Latinx people. And if OP does belong to those groups, or is percieved to be, there is an icky layer of trying to “catch” her. Especially if she is Latina.

  50. Jennifer*

    First off, it’s ridiculous that you spent the night in county lockup for that. I’ve had a similar snafu and I got a ticket and had the car impounded. Can’t stand overzealous, “conservative” police departments like that. But I’ll get off my soapbox.

    This kid is out of his mind. Seriously. This is none of his business. The company didn’t think this was a big deal because they hired you and kept you on all these years. The theme for the day must be young men that need a good tellin’ off. Tell him in no uncertain terms that this was none of his business, completely inappropriate, and that you never want to hear about it again.

    I know that a lot of people snoop, whether it’s right or not, so if he happened to come across it in a normal google search, it’s a little more understandable, but he still should have kept it to himself. But the fact that he PAID for it is just outrageous. He must be fun on first dates.

    1. Artemesia*

      People google. This is more. The fact that he TOLD her he did this and then demanded she justify the information to him makes him dangerous. He needs to be fired.

  51. voyager1*

    I am saying this upfront. He should be fired

    I am going to go against the grain here and say, the problem isn’t the background check it was him confronting the LW.

    I think if I were to take this to HR that is the angle I would go with first and judge the reaction, if pushed I would go with also that he did a background check is a boundary.

    Here is the thing though LW. You really don’t know for sure how he did this unless he tells you. Maybe he used a pay for site or maybe be spent a Saturday afternoon with Google.

    I am onboard with him being fired though.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I kind of agree with you, with a few caveats. I have Googled many people, including current and future bosses, and I’ve found some things that aren’t great. But I keep that information to myself and use it only to inform myself. For example, I was interviewing with a company, Googled its CEO to learn more about him and found a recent arrest record for a crime that wasn’t horrible but wasn’t great. I never mentioned it to him, never mentioned it to any of my interviewers, I just took that info and factored it into my impression of the guy. The problem isn’t the curiosity, it’s what you do with it.

    2. mcr-red*

      I will readily admit I can be nosy and have looked into dates, friend’s dates, exes, friend’s exes, etc. I agree with you, he could have just as easily spent a Saturday afternoon on Google, LW might not have deep-dived as much as he did. If he did run a background check, though, that just seems like a bridge too far. And I definitely agree telling LW he did it is especially creepy!

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, I agree.

      The BGC is weird and concerning, but the fact that he brought it up as (IMO) a very obvious power play is what makes me think he’s really not a good candidate to continue working there. I don’t know what the OP’s industry is, but very, very many jobs require some sense of discretion and not looking for or acting on information that is, technically, available to you.

      To draw an imperfect analogy, I and all my licensed coworkers are listed on BrokerCheck, with information publicly available about any complaints that may have been made against us by investment clients. By design, that info is right out there and free and easy to get to. It’d still be weird AF and would probably get me in hot water if I went to my boss like “hey I see Jane Doe alleged you were front-running against her 5 years ago, what’s up with that?”

    4. Moocowcat*

      I see your point. It is legal to run a background check on the person who’s your manager if you’re so inclined. Odd as heck, just not criminal in nature.

      But just what the goodness heck was Scott expecting as a response in revealing this information?

  52. irene adler*

    Gotta wonder: Beyond the why, what’s he doin’ with the information he digs up on co-workers (and others, presumably)?

  53. StaceyIzMe*

    The guy who ran the background check and asked about it? Well, he can run all of the “checks” that he wants. There’s no reasonable likelihood of stopping him. That said- he’s an idiot and he’s given you some very useful information with respect to his judgement or the lack thereof. These kinds of “checking in” activities don’t flow UP unless some behavior or very unusual circumstance warrants it. I’d manage him down and out with the utter certitude that nobody who displays this much brashness and inability to ascertain norms is worth bothering about. Let him draw his own conclusions and move on, preferably to some other team, company or planet. I just don’t think that it’s anywhere in the normal range of “how things are done” to check up on your manager for no good reason and then try to inquire on the circumstances of an arrest. If he had the arrest data, he had the details and the conversation was creepy, unnecessary and a useless mind suck of the focus needed to get things done. If you do decide to talk to him, drilling down to NSFW conversations like questioning your boss about his love life, one time misdemeanor arrest or personal finances should be on the list of “don’t ever do this again because otherwise people will conclude that you are the King of All the Jackasses”.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yep. Paying for a background check for his coworkers and manager is weird, even if he planned to keep the info to himself. But confronting people about it sends it into the weirdness stratosphere.

  54. Shay*

    Employee’s expectation of clarification from you and the thought that more details are owed is so wildly inappropriate!!

  55. Reality.Bites*

    What Allison said. Only I think I’d turn on bold and type in all caps for that one!

  56. beckysuz*

    I darn near just fell out of my chair. The unmitigated gall of this dude. What in the blazing hell made him think he had any right to “clarity” regarding a private matter in his boss’s life from a decade ago?? This man is not to be trusted. There is nothing normal about this and if I were you OP I would be in HRs office today. Beyond not ok

  57. OysterMan*

    It makes me wonder if he has a friend in HR who turned over your BGC results. Either way, Alison’s advice applies, and HR needs to know. If they have an internal leak, they need to track it.

    1. Kimmybear*

      This had not occurred to me but seems like the most solid reason for contacting HR. In that sense, it’s not about you at all but rather about protecting the company and even the most clueless HR person should be able see the need to address this.

  58. Mayor of Llamatown*

    OP, please update us on how this all goes down. I’m really interested to hear what his defense is, and what your manager and/or HR have to say on this.

  59. Alex*

    I see a lot of comments about sexism in this post and addressing the letter writer as female. I have seen other threads where the commenters latch onto a specific gender for the letter writer, but I cannot see any obvious indication in the post. Am I missing something or are inferences being made based on word choices and phrasing?

    1. Blossom*

      I’ve no idea, I read this LW as male. (I mean, they could be female, I just unconsciously pictured a man).

  60. Brett*

    Should the LW also question Scott on how he obtained the information?

    Although the LW did not find the information readily on google, it might be that it is indexed somewhere else that is readily discoverable. There are a lot of sites out there that publicly list arrest records (including expunged records) and then charge people to have them removed. Google purposely does not index those sites because of their extortion tactics. But other search engines do pick them up (as well as many of them being pretty well known even without google indexing).

    Given that, there might harmful and misleading information out there that the LW is not aware of.

  61. almost empty nester*

    This is not a case of validating whether the boss’ background is suitable for their role, as OP suggested was commonplace. This is industrial level stalking and should immediately be reported to HR and this guy written up post haste. Not okay behavior on any level, and you should be very concerned. Under no circumstances would I have this guy on my team one more day! Good luck OP, and keep us updated.

  62. Atlantis*

    Good grief. I actually had to deal with a similar thing this past year. Wasn’t nearly as bad as what this employee has done, but still. The people (college students) involved in my situation were frustrated with my colleague Z and I guess just tried to look up public info/records for their own…validation(?). I don’t even know. I found out about this secondhand, and immediately told Z just so they’d be aware. It ending up being a complete non-issue, and they didn’t cross any other boundaries like paying for the info or using it to try and report Z but it was still such a gross thing to do.

    Definitely on board with everyone else that at a minimum you need to have a have an immediate conversation with him about the inappropriateness of this. I would even take out the word “here” in Alison’s last sentence. This shouldn’t be something he does to a peer or manager or anyone at any workplace, not just the current one. I also second in looping in HR, and especially if he doesn’t seem to understand the severity of his actions in your meeting. I’d also be watching him closely from here on out. I’m guessing this isn’t his only instance of crossing boundaries.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      That sounds like some spillover of online outrage culture where the group starting “doxxing” your colleague. Glad they didn’t take it any further!

      1. Atlantis*

        Me too! Luckily my colleague handled it well, and thankfully as immature as those students were for even going down that path, they at least had the foresight to never attempt to do anything with that information. I can’t imagine the chaos that would have erupted should they have tried that.

  63. LurkerVA*

    Is there any chance he was researching for some type of license he needs to add you to? I ask because I have to order background checks on our corporate officers fromt time to time for that purpose. If it’s not that, then it’s absolutely a huge boundary violation and I’d report it to HR.

    1. Reality.Bites*

      He works for her. Even if this was a simple administrative task that he takes care of for the workplace, the words “I need this for your teapot inspector certification” would have meant we’d be reading a different letter now.

      1. LurkerVA*

        I completely agree – I always tell people when I order them. I just wondered if it’s possible he did this for a real reason and didn’t tell the OP/OP wasn’t aware of him doing this sort of thing. You never know. Chances are though, he’s just a snoopy stalker.

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        Also, as someone who frequently vets background checks at work for people higher than me in the company… you don’t talk about this stuff with people. I cannot DREAM of a conversation where I say to my manager, “I saw your background check yesterday, and I have to ask: why in the world did you take out that big of a home loan in your neighborhood? Did you get a bad deal on your house?”

  64. RUKiddingMe*

    Oh hell no!!! That’s all I have for now, but I’m sure I will have a whole lot more feels about this after I finish my coffee.

  65. Observer*

    How do I let go of my weirded-out feeling

    The answer is “You Don’t”. The Gift of Fear gets mentioned here often, for good reason. A key thing he talks about is listening to your gut. You are feeling weirded out because Scott did something VERY weird! You SHOULD be feeling weirded out.

    Loop your boss and HR in, and have the conversation that Alison recommends. And, watch him like a hawk. At best, he has terrible judgement and boundaries, at worst he’s a harasser.

    1. atalanta0jess*

      YES. THIS.

      Whatever you thought you knew about him, you now know something BIG that contradicts it. Unless he has an astonishing lack of social skills, I think the reasonable conclusion is that he brought this to you so that you’d know he knows, and is digging deep into your background. That’s bad. It’s weird. It’s worth noting and it’s enough to fully revise your opinion of/comfort level with him, honestly. Be on guard.

    2. Properlike*

      Someone else commented about doxxing above, and this is worth thinking about: Lock down your credit report now. Strengthen your internet security. If there are consequences to his EXTREME overstep, then there’s also the chance that he’ll retaliate in equally creepy ways.

      Does writing into Ask a Manager qualify as “document *everything*” for the inevitable police report?

  66. Morning reader*

    I agree that this is bizarre behavior. However, I am less certain that he necessarily paid for a detailed report, if it is believable that he was unsure what state something happened in. An official arrest report would include that info. Also, the fact that you couldn’t find the same info on a free search is not conclusive. People have different approaches to searching that can yield varied results.
    The two alternate possibilities might be more troubling. One is that some recent (or recently made available) online source is using your name in a report. Maybe some blogger talking about police harassment of out-of-staters in Ye Olde Conservative County. Or something similar regarding someone with a name similar to yours.
    The other is that your employee has a hobby or habit of cruising crime report sites and plugging in the names of people he knows. If so, he might be doing it to more people than just you. Did Ye Olde Conservative County’s site just put up online access to its public records database? He might have searched you and all his coworkers.

    Either way, you will need to have a talk with him. You may also want to consult one of those online reputation scrubbing services, or at least get that record expunged if you can figure out where it is. (I didn’t know arrest reports with no convictions were public info, but they might appear in “police blotter” type news reports, for example.)

    1. Jennifer*

      I just don’t understand why he would lie about paying for a background check? That’s MUCH creepier than coming across some information by chance on a free site. Plus she said this information is not google-able.

    2. Observer*

      if it is believable that he was unsure what state something happened in

      Why would you consider that believable? One this is clear here – this was not a legitimate request for relevant information.

      The truth is that it doesn’t matter if he paid for the report or not. What matters is that he spent time and resources on finding this totally not-relevant information, then he made sure to let the OP know that he knows about it. BOTH of those things are out of line. And because of the second item, it’s totally not reasonable to give him any benefit of the doubt on his motivations.

      1. Morning reader*

        I didn’t suggest any benefit of doubt. I suggest that the whole thing might mean he is doing something worse.

  67. Audiophile*

    Wow and the rest of us are over here sweating about looking at managers’ and colleagues’ LinkedIn profiles.

    I would never even fathom doing this.

  68. CatCat*

    Scott is creeping me out. Regardless of whether this was some sort of bizarro power play or total cluelessness about the extent of the OP’s aggressive office culture, if he is going to still be around, I would be very blunt that it was such an overstep that I question his judgment, sound judgment is critical for anyone hoping to advance, and that this will be a setback for him professionally in this office until he rehabilitated his reputation.

    And yeah, I’d let other managers and/or HR know about his behavior in case he tries to move to another team so that the other managers are fully informed of what this dude pulled.

  69. Anita Brayke*

    I think this “Scott” is WAY, WAY, WAY out of bounds. This reminds me of a stalker. With all due respect to Allison, I would say that *if you feel safe,* then say “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you didn’t realize you violated a (HUGE, GLARINGLY OBVIOUS (emphasis Anita Brayke’s) work boundary here. But I want to make sure that going forward you know that this was inappropriate, everyone you work with deserves privacy, and this is not something you should do again to anyone here.” I apologize if this is an inappropriately large reaction, but like I said, stalker stood out to me in a big, fat hurry.

  70. Attorney - Background Checks - Reg Poster, Anon*

    I am an attorney specializing in background checks. This is incredibly concerning, and should be addressed moving forward. Now that he works for the company, he absolutely cannot run background checks on fellow employees and coworkers. He is an agent for the company. Assuming he is not in HR, this presents several legal risks for the company. I recommend you raise this to your HR leader and / or lawyer about this ASAP. I would tell them that he did this; that you’re aware that there are legal considerations around background screening; you want to give them an opportunity to counsel him appropriately; and that you are concerned about this as well. This is serious. This is wrong. He is way out of touch with the many legal risks he would expose the company to.

    1. Not me... the other guy*

      Really? What implications of one coworker doing a background check on another coworker is there?

      As long as he did via legal means what legal risks could the company face?

      1. Close Bracket*

        Yes, I’m genuinely curious about what the risks could be and would also like to hear more.

        1. Stepinwhite*

          It really depends what jurisdiction he is in, but yes there ARE laws about employer background checks, and yes he IS an agent of his employer. SHRM has a bit of information on the subject that is easily searchable.

          1. Close Bracket*

            To be acting as an agent for his employer, there needs to be an agreement in place authorizing him to act on behalf on his employer. He wasn’t acting on behalf of his employer to do an employer background check.

            1. Stepinwhite*

              Nope. You can be considered an agent without agreement — companies don’t agree to let you be an agent if you sexually harass someone, but you still are. If companies could get away from agency by saying “nope! we didn’t agree to let them do that” they totally would. All the time. There are legal parameters, of course, around when someone is acting as an agent for employer liability purposes — but when you background check a coworker and confront the coworker about it, that’s kind of a big a no no.

      2. Observer*

        Interesting question. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m totally guessing here, but this is what I can imagine. If Scott finds out something about someone and gossips about it, and them some negative thing is done to the employment situation of his victim, I could see the possibility of the victim claiming that the company did a background check without their consent and based employment actions on this report without informing them of the specific information and the ability to correct the record.

        Now, normally I would say “Well, you can’t foresee every stupid and crazy thing an employee does. so the company shouldn’t be held responsible.” But at this point someone in a supervisory position DOES know that he’s pulling this kind of garbage. So I could see this making the situation even worse for the company,

        1. Attorney - Background Screening*

          You’re right too. I cannot change what he does in his free time. He is, however, bringing this into work. The risks are numerous:
          * His information could be unreliable. It could be about the wrong person.
          * He may use this “info” to avoid working on projects with others, to interfere with promotional opportunities, and a number of other things. These are personnel decisions. There are several bounds in place for ensuring info accuracy when employers conduct these checks, look-back time limitations (depending on industry), confidentiality requirements, consent requirements, dispute processes, and EEO considerations.
          * As an employer, I am worried that this could look like data breech of our screening requirements. Did he misuse his access to confidential employee information to run this check?
          * Several states have laws on the types, and timing of background checks. He needs to understand the timing of these screenings, particularly in Ban The Box jurisdictions with applicants. (Obviously, this doesn’t apply to a new employee who does this screening post-employment on their manager. I am worried he’d do it on an applicant.)
          * He is not in a position to determine whether the criminal offense is job related. I don’t know if he distinguishes between arrests and convictions.
          These are some of the many considerations. I realize it is also common for people to google others. Even when that occurs in the employment context, there must be guidelines about appropriate information, and it’s use in the employment context.

    2. BradC*

      Thanks for mentioning this. Lots of discussion about escalating this to HR, but I think you’re the first to mention bringing in the legal department, if the company has one.

    3. Not Me*

      I don’t see how he’s an agent for the company in this situation. The company did not give him that authority. How does running the background check make him an agent for the company and make the BGC the companies?

      1. Attorney - Background Screening*

        This is something that attorneys would argue about during a lawsuit. People may be considered legal agents in all kinds of employment contexts. For instance, an employee could sign a service contract against employee policy. They may be considered an agent of the employer and the contract is binding. Another commentator spoke of sexual harassment above.

  71. HailRobonia*

    “The arrest was because I was implicated in the disappearance of a nosy employee.”

  72. NW Mossy*

    Oh, OP! Don’t beat yourself for being unprepared in the moment to respond to Scott – what he did is so out of left field in the first place, and followed by his conversational hard swerve to tee up his big revelation, it’s no wonder you were left reeling. This is not how professionally well-adjusted adults operate. You’d no more anticipate this kind of conversation with a subordinate than you would him riding a miniature pony into the office.

    I do deviate a little bit from Alison here in that I’m not sure you need to give credence to any reason he had for doing this – pretty much anything you’d reasonably anticipate here is likely just a different shade of appalling. Had this been one of my employees, I can’t think of a single reason they might give that would alleviate my discomfort with the fact that his professional-behavior brakes failed to kick in at any point – not when he first had the idea, not when he requested the check, not when he saw the results, not when he brought it up to you, not after the fact. That’s a series of events that led to a major breach of trust, and he needs to know that right now, he doesn’t have your trust unless he immediate and completely course-corrects on this.

  73. Working Mom Having It All*

    I’m the person at my job who vets the background checks we do as a matter of course on all new hires. So I feel like I have a particular insight about exactly how inappropriate this is.

    Firstly, there is no way ever in a MILLION YEARS I would ever talk to someone at my company about something I saw on their background check. I routinely find out via background checks all kinds of information about people, from their middle names to what state they grew up in to whether they are divorced or how expensive a recent vehicle purchase is (if they work in accounting and get the financial background part of the check). Depending on the situation, in some cases I know about literally every ticket they’ve gotten for the past 7 years. I cannot imagine ever bringing any of this up, even if it was something super innocuous like it turns out we have the same hometown. This is before we even get to paying privately to do a background check on someone outside of a work context. Like even if this information just happened to be available to this person for a good reason, nope. Hard pass. Not OK.

    I assume I would be fired on the spot for doing this using info from our company background checks. Let alone taking it upon myself to run my own.

    Secondly… this guy must have paid the big bucks to run an extremely comprehensive background check on OP. Because even for work purposes (and in some cases we have people working with children or driving under company insurance), the background checks my extremely large and well-funded company runs stop at 7 years for most things. I cannot imagine seeing a minor criminal charge like this from over a decade ago on any of the background checks that I vet. We just don’t look that far into the past. Not to mention that the situation OP describes, even if it were within the timeframe of our search, would absolutely not be relevant at all to employment here. I can’t speak for every job at every company in the world, but we’re really not looking for minor legal snafus to do with car insurance. This isn’t even something I would flag to pursue with my higher-ups.

  74. SigneL*

    I’d like to point out that much of what is online about me is incorrect or wildly out-of-date. (That does not in any way invalidate how far over-the-line this behavior was.) Either Scott did a generic record search (which almost certainly wold include inaccurate information) or he somehow had access to LW’s SSN, which would concern me a lot.

    1. fposte*

      But his information wasn’t incorrect. Sure, maybe the full record he found included some incorrect information, but I don’t think that changes the fact that he also found correct information that the OP doesn’t have to and wouldn’t have chosen to disclose to him.

    2. Risha*

      Not necessarily. I am reasonably certain I’m the only person in the world with my specific name combination (made from three unusual but not unique names from three wildly different parts of the world). If you get a hit googling me, it’s me, no SSN needed.

      1. Princesa Zelda*

        Same here. I just googled myself and it’s all me, and my social media profiles are all locked down as far as they’ll go.

  75. Kyle*

    I used to work with someone who would lookup everybody in our company on the state’s court records system. Huge invasion of privacy but she used to say it’s public record so she wasn’t doing anything wrong. She tried to defend it as being for her own personal safety (ie: “I wouldn’t want to work with a murder.”) Management/HR never found out so I never found out if she’d get in trouble. She said she looked up on most of her neighbors and family members and had discovered one of her uncles had about eight bankruptcies that nobody else in the family knew about.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      My mom does this sort of stuff, but she is retired and bored. Though she actually did discover that two relatives’s significant others had a criminal history of domestic violence, so her instinct was right on those two at least.

  76. Not me... the other guy*

    I kind of feel like this is where I get to sit back and smugly say… “Well what did you expect?”

    I remember another comment section (have no idea what the letter was about) that majority of comments said it’s perfectly fine to search coworkers on the internet and it was no big deal. My stance then and now is that it is a big deal and it isn’t harmless.

    I’d bet this employee thought nothing of this since he’s probably been doing the same thing to his teachers, professors, friends parents, friends, etc. I also thing this is one of those legitimate generational divides* since half the workforce didn’t grow up with their lives on the internet, was raised to be protective of their private lives, and liked to maintain boundaries between work and home. All of this has been eroded in the last 10 years to the point where nobody is safe from surveillance.

    Unfortunately that genie is not going back in the bottle. So while I’m totally on the OP’s side here, what are they supposed to say? Sure they can have the professionalism/appropriate talk with the employee but it doesn’t really have much teeth when what he did is an accepted practice. Really his only misstep was to ask for clarification on what he found out.

    *Obviously that’s a generalization and should be read as such.

    1. fposte*

      Except a lot of people posting here grew up with this and do see a line here. I think you’re falling afoul of the slippery slope fallacy.

      If you want to Google the crap out of me and keep it to yourself, I’m not going to care because it doesn’t come up at my workplace. If you want to pay people/services to snoop on me, you better keep it to yourself because that shit’s out of line. If you openly bring it into the workplace and to me, I will sit back and smugly say to you “What did you expect?” when I fire you.

      1. Not me... the other guy*

        You do know I agree with you, right?

        But it’s also not a stretch to see that this guy didn’t think he was in the wrong. Others on here agree that what he did was fair game. Climbing up on my soapbox for a minute… You can’t have it both ways. Most people here think it’s great when someone is outed for participating in racist activities in their private life/history and are fired for it.* But when that line is crossed then it’s crossed. It’s now fair game to ask about all criminal activity and outside work activity.

        I know that this will get lots of ‘but that’s different’ responses, and feel free to add them, you’re just not going to convince me that it is.

        *I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this… but will. I don’t agree with racism, but I also don’t think that it’s right for people to be fired for it if it’s not a factor in their job performance.

        1. fposte*

          I didn’t know you agreed with me, actually; that’s cool :-).

          The thing is, what he did and the snooping a lot of us find acceptable has a clear enough line that we’re able to articulate it here. If he doesn’t see a line there, then, well, he’ll learn that there’s a line when he’s fired for crossing it.

        2. Close Bracket*

          You will get a “but that’s different” response bc racism and running background checks are different.

          Also, it’s fair game for *employers* to ask employees about criminal activity, and there are individuals and departments dedicated to that activity who act under a presumption of discretion. That’s not what happened here.

          The appalling thing here, as you noted and I agreed with, is not so much that a fellow employee did a pretty extensive background check (and even if they just used public record, they went deep enough to use address information from their google search to search public records) but that they then asked for information on an arrest as though they are a person who has standing to determine anything about the LW based on it.

          I am starting to think that the best response would have been, “That was in Idaho, Scott. What do you plan to do with that information?”

    2. Observer*

      I think there are a couple of things here, though. There is a difference between a simple Google (Bing, DuckDuckGo) search and extensive digging and / or paying for a search.

      Also, it depends on who is doing the search and why. A boss doing a search before hiring could make sense. A subordinate “just checking” is another. Also, looking for relevant information (eg does person X in public facing position have any recent racist social media posts?) is one thing while “let’s see what we can dig up here” is gross regardless of who is doing it. That “digging for dirt” is definitely going on here.

    3. Close Bracket*

      “what he did is an accepted practice.”

      Googling people or reading their LinkedIn/social media page is accepted practice. LW says that the information Scott dug up wasn’t googleable, so Scott went a step further. Running background checks is generally not an accepted practice, even among younger people. It raises eyebrows even though it is perfectly legal.

      “Really his only misstep was to ask for clarification on what he found out.”

      Well, yeah. That, and *how* he asked for clarification.

      1. Not me... the other guy*

        I doubt that it’s as hidden as the OP thinks. Most states have records that are easily accessible. I’ll take their word that it’s not and won’t belabor the point, though.

        1. Nosynellie*

          The thing is, if he didn’t know what state it was in, he didn’t use the free court record access site for the state.

          I’m nosy and have used a number of them.. by state. And I don’t bring up what I’ve found.

        2. Observer*

          Those records don’t come up in Google, though. So you have to go searching. And if he looked in state databases, then he’s flat out lying about why he’s asking about it. He KNOWS where the arrest happened.

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      There’s a big difference between a quick Google search (which people do for dates all the time, and with good reason), and a background check. One might do the first one out of idle curiosity, or maybe a Linked In search to find out why your boss was promoted so quickly (Do they have an advanced degree? Did they work at Prestigious Business previously?).

      But a background check that finds a decade-old arrest in another state is something different entirely.

  77. Fiddlesticks*

    Oh hell no. There is absolutely no excuse for anything like this stunt. “Scott” needs to have his butt marched down to HR, right now.

  78. Amethystmoon*

    As a woman, I have to say, that’s kind of creepy. It’s one thing maybe if you’re dating a total stranger, but in the workplace, it’s expected that people get hired when they pass a background check. Whoever did the background check has already asked about the situation, and it was fine with TPTB.

    Also FB is the only place I use my real name online. I don’t use it to comment on websites, I use a different account, and my first and last real names are quite common in my home state. So good luck finding anything on me besides that I do Toastmasters, which I’m ok with them finding.

  79. triplehiccup*

    This would be unacceptable if he had done it to a peer or subordinate – once you’re hired, you’re hired. But the additional shortsightedness of doing it to a manager is…wow.

  80. DKMA*

    So I’m not with Alison on this one, I think HR does need to be looped in. Not because I couldn’t handle this twerp on my own for the interaction he had with me, but because it would need to be investigated whether he had been making threats, veiled or otherwise, to anyone else in the organization.

    I’d be asking for IT to look through his data to make sure he hadn’t been doing this with other employees.

    1. Observer*

      I’m going to say that I have to agree with this.

      The only thing is that he’s apparently new, so he probably hasn’t had a chance yet. But HR needs to be looped in, because this one needs watching.

      1. Artemesia*

        The OP is new; it is not clear the stalker is. I read it as new boss just came in and old hand who hoped to be promoted is trying to sandbag the boss. His acting as if the boss is accountable to him about an old arrest years ago and needs to explain himself is the reason he needs to be fired. This is an overt threat — not even subtle.

  81. auburn*

    The more I think about this the more I would not even confront him about this. I’d go straight to your boss and HR and tell them you want to fire him and ask what the next steps are. I know since you’re new you’re probably treading lightly but tolerating this would really put you in a bad position. It’s so wildly inappropriate that he felt entitled enough to that kind of information that he asked you about it nonchalantly. I don’t see how you could ever recover your authority here and establish healthy boundaries with this guy. He’s gotta go!

  82. Too embarrassed to put my name on this*

    I am sort of this person – obviously I need to re-calibrate myself.
    I do genealogy, and have gotten into the habit of searching for information about my ancestors & their descendants (descendants who are distant cousins to me). I’ve gotten sort of addicted to finding information.

    I would not do a background check on my new supervisor, but… I may have headed that way.

    OP I’m glad you wrote in – I needed a “boundaries” reminder today.

    1. juliebulie*

      You are not that person unless, upon finding some dirt on your supervisor, you approached the supervisor and said that you’d been doing some “research” (which no one asked you to do) and for some reason need to know some irrelevant detail of an embarrassing event ten years ago in her past.

      So, don’t do that. Even if you can use genealogy as an excuse!

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Agreed. I have found information about former colleagues….some funny, some odd, and some just stupid. I never told anyone what I found and I’d never dream of approaching them about it. And realistically, unless you are a current fugitive on the FBI’s most wanted list, I don’t think that most people in professional or semi-professional jobs are too keen to hide their past or be terribly embarrassed about being arrested for something silly over a decade ago.

  83. Megasaurusus*

    To do a thorough background check like the one done here, you need more info than a name. I would be concerned that he used privileged & private company info to get SS number, address, full legal name, etc., and because of that, if it is not likely, it is definitely in the realm of possibility, and other people’s personal data is at risk. It’s a huge liability issue and I’d encourage you to report this to your HR department.

    1. PBnJelly*

      Most counties have a website you can look up criminal records on, if they are public records. Some cheapo temp firms, will use this as means of ‘Background checking” candidates.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        Right. But Scott said in his question to the OP that he was wondering if this happened in “X” state or “Y” state – which means he didn’t know for sure what jurisdiction it happened in which means he couldn’t have looked that up on the kind of database you are talking about.

  84. Janet*

    I don’t believe he really cared about which state it happened in. He found a bland/dumb question and used it as a way of letting her know what he found out. Best (!) case scenario is that he likes drama or likes to play emotional games, and wanted to watch her squirm and see what she would say. Worse case is that he wanted to find a way to let her to know he has this info on her, and brought it up as a subtle sort of threat. He may think this conveyed a message like “don’t mess with me because I could spread this all over about you.”
    I’m not clear if the writer has told her employers about this prior arrest, but I’d make sure I did so immediately so that he has zero leverage. And in any event, even if I were his manager, I’d still mention this conversation to my own superior as a sort of heads up in case he tries to escalate it or in case he goes around her to talk about it to others and she is unaware.

    1. Artemesia*

      No. She needs to bring it up to HR and her boss because it is in fact a threat and an attempt at intimidation. He needs to be fired.

  85. Jane Smith*

    I work in an industry in which not having much respect for personal privacy is a requirement for the job, and I would NEVER do something like this. As others have noted, it’s creepy and almost certainly an attempted power play.

    What I really came here to say is, OP, if you’re reading this, I hope when there’s something to report, you send in an update!

  86. CreatureOfTheCactus*

    The funniest part of this story is that the same thing happened to my brother when he started working at a particularly cut-throat, high-performing investment firm. The kind of place where there are surveillance cameras and mics everywhere, and if you’re judged too “nice” or “passive” compared to your colleagues, you may find yourself sent home…

  87. Former Retail Manager*

    Self-professed casual snooper here and what I find most interesting is that he told OP that he did this. That makes me think that he is either totally clueless about professional and social norms that involve snooping or he genuinely thinks it’s okay. Is the culture of the office one in which, if anyone else found out what he did, wouldn’t think it was odd?

    Also, I realize that OP suspects that the employee paid for information obtained, but I have to say that I’ve come across similar information without paying (I’m too cheap). I had an old boss that wouldn’t tell anyone much about their past, at either the large org we worked at or their personal past. The org was so large that no one in our immediate orbit knew anything about this person and they behaved very coldly toward everyone for a very long time. It was pretty strange that they played it so close to the vest, so after exhausting all acceptable options to learn anything at all about this person, several of us took to Googling. I managed to find information of a caliber (i.e. nothing major) similar to what the employee in OP’s letter found. It’s really not that hard, especially if you can piece together bits of info from different sites. So, I just don’t know that I’d immediately jump to the conclusion that he is spending $20-$50 to acquire dirt on you for some nefarious purpose later. If that were the case, I wouldn’t imagine laying it all out so openly would be in his playbook, but I guess you never know. Alison’s suggestion is great as always.

    1. Jamie*

      I had an old boss that wouldn’t tell anyone much about their past, at either the large org we worked at or their personal past. The org was so large that no one in our immediate orbit knew anything about this person and they behaved very coldly toward everyone for a very long time. It was pretty strange that they played it so close to the vest, so after exhausting all acceptable options to learn anything at all about this person, several of us took to Googling.

      No snark, genuine curiosity … why was their past something you all wanted to know about.

      This made me think of how little I know about many people with whom I work, and honestly I cannot imagine caring enough about any of their personal lives to even bother to wonder, much less research.

      Fwiw I agree you can get the kind of info the OP mentioned without paying for it, if you know how to piece different site info together and search.

    2. Kim*

      Did you miss 5e part when she wrote that she tried to find it online and was only led to pay for sites? A decade old arrest record is casually found on the internet with only googling? We’re talking an arrest from – no charge or conviction. About lapsed car insurance, I assume.

    3. Bertha*

      My job is basically digging dip for info, and I often find myself going down the deep end for data — and if you look hard enough, or now how to search, you often don’t have to pay. I’m in a department of researchers and honestly, we are all like this, it’s probably part of what attracted us to the job after all — one of my friends who worked at a job trying to hunt down people who were behind on my debts said I was so good at finding people, I should go into that field! I admit it’s a little weird, but it’s hardly pathological (though yeah, I wouldn’t ever confront/tell someone about what I found about them like this guy did — whatever his motives, I agree with you that Alison’s suggestion is great.)

  88. UKDancer*

    Yes this is definitely creepy and weird. I think it’s fine to be curious about your co-workers and I do check people out on LinkedIn when I meet them but this is a whole different ballgame.

    I would definitely flag this to HR as it comes across as excessively intrusive. The whole way he asked about it, sounds like he was looking for something he could hold over you. It comes across as very creepy and unnecessarily intrusive in my opinion.

  89. Anon4This*

    As a woman, I’ve been creeped on by some colleagues and supervisors. I’ve done the simple background checks on them when it’s clear that they won’t stop despite being told to many times.

    I have my reasons for being cautious. A male colleague once showed up at my house. My address is unlisted. His behavior was frightening and the police had to come. I later found out he has a record of violence that he acquired *after* he was hired. BUT…

    I would never tell a colleague I ran a check on them, nor would I question them about it unless I was a manager who was told by my employer to get the other side of the story.

  90. TootsNYC*

    The other point I would kind of like the OP to make to Scott the Snoop:

    An arrest is not a conviction. An arrest only means that the police office in front of you decided to arrest you.

    It doesn’t mean anything.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      If a current or potential employer wants an arrest without a conviction to mean something, then it will mean something.

  91. all the towboats*

    This is seriously stalker behavior. Yikes.

    With this and the other employee, any chance of a year’s worst employee along with the year’s worst boss?

  92. Damit it Hamlet*

    Removed per the site commenting rules.

    There’s zero indication here that he’s neurodivergent, and it’s really problematic to associate asshole behavior with neurodivergence.

    – Alison

      1. Mel*

        Funny how nobody ever uses “but maybe she’s autistic!” as an excuse when a woman behaves badly.

    1. Marthooh*

      No, I’m sorry, the comment section issues Infinite Bad Behavior passes to hypothetical autists only

      1. Mayflower*

        I can’t be sure if Tinker’s comment is based on a story I posted here on AAM a few months ago but my story did feature a co-worker whom I once saw methodically take a bite out of each donut from a large tray of donuts in the conference room. And if you like that mental image, I have a bonus for you: the same guy would go into the bathroom stall, take ALL of his clothes off, fold them neatly on the floor, do his business, and then re-clothe himself. For reference, white-collar office job in NYC. Good times!

  93. Remote Worker and Dog Lover*

    I’m glad the OP is the boss in this situation because like Allison said above in a comment, they have all the power. They can set the tone for what is appropriate and what is not.

    To echo everyone, this was completely out of line!! Based on what you said, I wouldn’t recommend firing him, but instead being very clear with him that it was not okay to do, let alone share, and he should never do anything like it in the future if he wants to keep his job.

  94. NotTheSameAaron*

    Actually paying for a background check on a coworker is setting off red flags all over the place here. I dig up even more revealing things all the time, but that is for genealogy, where all those people are safely dead. You need to let him know he crossed a boundary.

  95. Washed Out Data Analyst*

    So I understand the temptation to google someone (though not run a whole background check). But when you do this, it is understood that you would be too embarrassed to admit it to ANYONE. I’m really wondering what this guy’s motives are.

  96. phedre*

    This is really, really weird and it should be treated as a serious offense. Look, I get curiosity – I’m nosy myself. But part of being an adult in the workplace (and also an adult in your personal life) is recognizing that just because you might be curious about someone doesn’t mean their life is any of your business. It would be strange enough that he did an in-depth google search (I’ve never googled any of my bosses or coworkers – why would I?), but it’s extra creepy that he actually paid for a background check. I would loop in your boss and your HR team, and have the conversation Alison suggested with your employee. This is so not ok.

    If he’ll do something like this that is so egregiously out of the norm AND see nothing wrong with disclosing what he did, what else will he do? Will he snoop into private employee files? Dig up confidential salary information and performance reviews? This is a huge red flag.

  97. Nicole*

    HOLY. CRAP. If I were in your position I would be looking to fire this dude right away!

    I honestly cannot think of any possible reason he would do this that wasn’t nefarious. Was he looking for dirt on you to try to get a leg-up at work? Is he stalking you like some sort of psycho? I don’t know your gender but based on his behavior I’m automatically assuming you’re female based on how straight-up WEIRD this is.

    The fact the he paid money to get this information creeps me the hell out. I honestly feel like this should be mentioned to HR in case he gets even weirder in the future.

    I am so mad on your behalf!

  98. Aheahe*

    This person side-stepped appropriate professional behavior and *made it a point to inform you* of it. This is absolutely a situation that HR should be aware of even if they can’t do anything about it. If anything, you may be corroborating details/helping connect dots that they already have heard from other team members.

  99. Zipzap*

    I think OP’s focus should be about how out-of-line and totally inappropriate it was for the employee to TALK TO HER about his “background check” AND especially to expect that she answer his questions about it! She owes him NOTHING and he owes her a huge apology. Yes, he was wrong to do it in the first place, but if he had kept his mouth shut and not mentioned it to her or anyone else (which he probably has by now), then no one would have been the wiser and the OP wouldn’t be completely creeped out, which she has every right to be.
    I agree that HR should be informed – who knows how many other employees he has done/would do this to if he’s willing to do it to his boss!

  100. Noah*

    I was arrested at a protest when I was in college, some windows were broken at a campus armed forces recruiting office. I was nearby and the police rounded up a group of people near the windows that were broken, The only paper that ran a story about it was an alt-weekly. I paid $200 restitution and my record was expunged. Later that week I interview for (and was hired at) an internship in city government (where the staff tends to skew pretty liberal)
    All of this happened in March. That summer as my internship was ending (and was one of 3 that stayed longer than a few week of the 20 interns who started), the internship coordinator (he helped depts hired interns, but did not supervise them) for the city intercepted me as I walked into the building. He cornered me in an elevator and said he wanted to ask me about “troubling information” he just found out. He told me that he knew I had been arrested and while everyone in my department liked me and was doing great work, he never would have hired me if he had known I had been arrested. I was dumbstruck and have since thought about some good responses but at the time all I could muster was “the charges were dropped and my record has been expunged”

  101. Anono-me*

    I would strongly urge you to contact HR about this. We’ve been discussing this as if you are the only one that Scott ran a background check on. We don’t know this. A lot of the internet background check organizations offer inexpensive memberships and bulk discounts.

    What if he’s run background checks on everybody in the company that he considers arrival? Or on everyone on company?

  102. Marthooh*

    “That happened in NOPE DAKOTA, my man!” Floor slides open under Scott, who plunges screaming into the underground piranha pool.

  103. WontbebeatenbytheMan*

    This is why privacy matters. Even though this is public record, think about what your coworkers can obtain from your online data about your life 20 years from now.

  104. Lily*

    I think we should make a reality show with that guy and several other aam “celebrities”. First, they wouldn’t annoy harmless people any more. Second, imagine the scenes: “I read you were arrested for banging in an employee’s door” “So what? I still need you to leave a note on a grave, minion!”

    1. Amethystmoon*

      A series of skits actually might be kind of useful to teach people what not to do in the workplace.

  105. Fulano de Tal*

    OP: Good luck and PLEASE keep us updated on this one. I think we’re going to see more cases like this in the years ahead.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      I know parents who pay for a yearly service where you have unlimited background checks. They run children’s friends parents before the kids can go over on play dates. Run potential baby sitters and their kids teachers.
      I wouldn’t doubt they run their bosses and coworkers through for grins and giggles. My one friend does it for potential dates.

      Anyone can run a background check on anyone. The only difference between the above people, and OP’s fool is he actually said something to her.

      My teacher friends know the parents routinely to recon on social media. On friend has her social media on lock down, but the parent weaseled in through relatives Facebook page.

      So, I’m not surprised the worker bee did it, I’m shocked he had the brass ones to tell it to her face.

  106. CM*

    To me, the main thing we learned about Scott is that he has really bad interpersonal skills. His motivation for doing the background check probably wasn’t friendly, but he also didn’t really demonstrate any finesse in how he tried to bring it up. If he was digging for dirt on the OP, he did it in a really unskilled way. If he was trying to make conversation, he did it in a really unskilled way. If he was trying to intimidate the OP, he also did that in an unskilled way, though I guess it may have worked.

    So, as his manager, I’d be on the lookout for other signs that the way he’s interacting with people is causing problems and maybe offer some coaching on that if it is.

    In the meantime, I also think it’s fine to express to him that what he said made you uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t try to frame it in a hierarchical way. More like, “Hey, so I wanted to tell you that I was really startled by our conversation the other day, and I walked away from it feeling attacked” (or however you felt). I think there’s an impulse sometimes, when you’re in a more powerful position, to try to use that to intimidate the person who hurt you (like, “Watch out, you’re going to be in trouble if you speak to me like that again!”) and I think it’s usually better not to give into that impulse. The reason he should care that he hurt you isn’t because you’re going to take retribution — it’s because it made you feel bad and people who have a normal level of empathy for others care about the impact of their words.

    If he doesn’t have a normal level of empathy for others, that might also be information you’d like to learn.

    1. restingbutchface*

      I agree that any follow up conversation shouldn’t rely on a hierarchy… what Snoopy Scott did was wrong, end of, it wasn’t wrong because OP is his manager.

      Regarding this line –
      “Hey, so I wanted to tell you that I was really startled by our conversation the other day, and I walked away from it feeling attacked”

      I like the first part about being startled/shocked (because TRUE FACTS) but the feeling attacked part is super nice for someone who has crossed a major boundary. The issue here isn’t about how OP feels (which kinda insinuates that others may be totally cool with it), but Snoopy Scott’s actual actions. If I was OP, I wouldn’t even hint that I was upset/freaked out/ready to build a panic room because who knows, maybe a fear response was the goal. If I had to have another conversation with him that wasn’t led by HR it would be more about finding out why OH WHY did he think that was okay and setting the expectation that it ain’t okay, buddy.

  107. Jared*

    This sounds like a pride issue to me. Something to the effect of “I think I deserved that promotion more than you so I’m looking into your personal history to prove that my arrogance is justified.”
    I would be livid if a coworker did this to me, especially for something this trivial.

  108. mourning mammoths*

    Alison, do you do any consulting on movies or TV? Or maybe you should just make your own. You have enough great content to both horrify and make people belly laugh for ages.

  109. restingbutchface*

    This is the equivalent of a direct report going through their manager’s garbage can. Sure, it’s *technically* available information as it’s right there outside on the kerb but nobody would think it’s the right thing to do. The fact this guy even considered paying for a background check, never mind did it, never mind TOLD OP about it is actually terrifying.

    I am blinded by the red flags smashing into my face. I would run to HR, not to expect help, but to highlight they have someone on staff who is frankly, a powder keg.

  110. Adlib*

    Super late because I read this as I ran into one of a thousand meetings yesterday, but I would have fired him…from a cannon…into the sun. I mean, WOW.

  111. S*

    A coworker with kids at my previous job ran a sex offender report for 15 miles around her house, and a male coworker popped up as a registered sex offender for some particularly heinous offenses. She ended up telling other women in confidence, as in you need to watch yourself and not get stuck alone with this guy. It ended up spreading through the office but we were all wondering how this guy still had a job since you could not have a felony. This is a totally different situation because she was trying to protect her kids and accidentally stumbled on it. Deliberately running a background check onyour boss is way out of the norm, I would contact HR.

    1. L*

      Is there any chance the guy committed the heinous offense AFTER he was hired by your company? That could be a reason it didn’t pop up on a background check.

  112. Kix*

    Is this a situation where one goes directly to HR? I find his behavior far more egregious than just “creepy.”

  113. Anon4this?*

    I hope this isn’t too off topic. This also a genuine question, as I truly don’t understand. How does someone go to jail for insurance and driver’s license issue? Can you really get hauled off to jail if you let your insurance lapse or something of the like??

    1. Artemesia*

      If you can’t produce insurance at a traffic stop or don’t have a valid license, you could easily be hauled off rather than allowed to proceed to drive. Odds go up in some areas and if you are a minority.

  114. Meredith*

    In general, it sounds like this office has all kinds of weird boundaries – or completely lacks boundaries, so it was almost inevitable that eventually, the wrong kind of person was going to take it this far.

    Some of the crazy stories about other people’s work places really make me thankfully for my work environment, let me tell you.

  115. Mayflower*

    OP, if you need additional ammunition when you go to HR, please read some primers from EEOC and FCRA. There are rules and procedures that must be followed when an investigation that involves a background check is conducted, and I very much doubt that your “ambitious young man” followed these procedures.

    (As just one example, a lot of commenters here brought up the possibility that “Scott” may have run background checks on other employees – but it may be problematic if he hasn’t! You are supposed to run them equally on everyone regardless of race, gender, age, etc.)

    I am a landlord on the side, very small potatoes, manage everything myself without any help from an attorney or property manager, and even I know better than to run secret background checks on potential tenants. It’s not even possible to do that on the up-and-up: I have used 5-6 different background providers and every one of them made me check a box confirming that I had obtained consent from the person I was investigating.

    Lastly, I strongly encourage you to stop describing “Scott” as an ambitious young man just trying to fit in amidst an aggressive office culture. We use these softening words to make light of horrifying situations but then they take on a life of their own and twist our thinking away from the truth. Don’t make excuses for the unexcusable. Good luck and please keep us updated!

  116. Kobayashi Maru*

    This is something I would address with my own boss or even HR – I’d follow up that conversation with an email highlighting the points and what their response was too because having it documented in writing that this was brought to their attention may be critical down the road. Perhaps a – this happened – It’s invasive, weird and creepy- has he done something like this with others – Here’s what I did – Is there anything else you’d want me to do? Also: Please send in an update!!!!!

  117. Hummus*

    I’ve had something similar happen. It was a peer who wouldn’t know a boundary if it hit him in the face who decided to do one of these background checks and ask me about an incident on there. I was so taken aback by the whole thing that I summarized the whole event for him. At the time, I didn’t want to make it seem like a big deal; but I wish I had pushed back and said, “Actually that’s really weird that you are running background checks on me and I don’t need to tell you about anything.”

  118. Aquariumgirl07*

    WOW and YIKES!!! Totally a power play and basically advising you that regularly does this kind of thing??? What was the reason behind it? I had a boss look through my purse and office whenever I was away from my desk. Same thing, he is looking for ammunition against you for some unforseen reason. This guy is a bully and very creepy. I would be really, really, really careful of that one

  119. HRAwry*

    This isn’t normal workplace behaviour and should not be accepted as such.

    Beyond violating OP’s privacy it calls into question his integrity and judgement. Which is important if he deals with sensitive information. I would bring this forward to HR.

  120. Sansa Q. Stark*

    *Regardless* of whether the information is publicly available, confronting *anyone* with their dirt is manipulation. What other motive could he have besides harassment, blackmail or extortion?

Comments are closed.