I just found out my great employee lied on her resume

A reader writes:

We recently hired an employee for a non-professional position who told me after she was hired that she lied on her job application. She said she had her high school diploma when she doesn’t, and if she had answered that question in the positive, the online application would have booted her from the application as it is required for the position.

She is a hard worker, a great team member, and really needs the job, so I am not sure if I should ever bring this up.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How to tell candidates that the position they’re applying for is unpaid
  • I gave an interviewer a salary figure, but then got a raise at my current job
  • I want to take a week off in between jobs
  • Can I hold people’s paychecks until they turn in their time sheets?

{ 466 comments… read them below }

      1. Liz*

        “if she had answered that question in the positive, the online application would have booted her from the application as it is required for the position.”

        Words matter. The sentence as written says the software would have booted the applicant out if she’d said she *had* a diploma. She said after she was hired that she *didn’t* have one. Does she have a GED, or did she simply never finish?

        1. ShanShan*

          Words matter in a lot of situations. They don’t matter in this one, where the meaning is perfectly clear from context.

          I promise you that no one in the history of the world has ever written in to an advice column wondering if they should fire someone because they claimed to have a high school diploma but actually had a GED.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            I wouldn’t bet money on that promise. There are a lot of judge-y employers who don’t see them as equivalent and who would in fact hold a GED against their employee.

            1. Liz*

              The military doesn’t consider a GED the same as a high school diploma. You can try to get a waiver, but it’s not guaranteed.

              1. soon to be former fed really*

                That’s because it’s not. No way does four years of study equate to a several hour exam. People like to act like they are the same but they are not.

                1. KitKat*

                  It might not be exactly the same, but the amount of info you are expected to learn is pretty close. At least in my state, the math and writing requirements are the same as for a diploma.

                  The program around here has a single teacher that hangs out in the class to provide guidance and assitance, but the students pretty much teach themselves out of a workbook, take a short test to prove they understand the concepts, then move on. They didn’t have to waste time waiting for slow kids to catch up or worry about falling behind if they get stuck. If they pass all the practice tests they get a voucher to take the real GED test for free.

                  Also, the real test is super secure. You can’t leave the room during the test, and you can’t have a phone, watch or even a water bottle. If you fail a test, you have to wait several weeks before you can retake it.

                  My sister was terribly ill through her high school years and ended up getting a GED. She’s now studying medical laboratory technology in college and has a solid 4.0. Don’t assume someone is a bad student or uneducated just because they have a GED.

                2. selena81*

                  Exactly: that kind of DIY-approach to learning can benefit both fast students (who may lose interest when waiting for the other kids to catch up) and slow students (who are otherwise dragged along in a haze of barely-understood knowledge)

                  I tend to think it reflects positively on people: they are able to teach themselves from a book, they are motivated to learn without a teacher breathing down their neck.
                  Surely that more than makes up for the fact that they failed taking ‘the standard route’ for whatever reason?
                  (also i’m in IT where you are pretty much required to get a string of certifications from Google/Amazon/Microsoft/etc, most of them in the form of self-study and a 2-hour on-site exam)

          2. Maria Lopez*

            From the letter it’s not clear if she has a G.E.D. either, and no, it is NOT clear from the wording what is meant.

        2. Another Millenial*

          I understand that, however: “She said she had her high school diploma when she doesn’t, and if she had answered that question in the positive, the online application would have booted her from the application as it is required for the position.”

          Contract that to: “She said she had her high school diploma when she doesn’t, and…it is required for the position.”

          It is very clear based on context what LW meant, so this feels unnecessarily nitpicky.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I don’t think it is unnecessarily nitpicky tho? It’s not a question of grammar or style, the letter literally says the opposite of what LW intended and I was initially confused because of that.

            Alison has said multiple times that she edits letters to make them more clear, to correct blatant errors, etc. This one got past her, which is fine because she’s one person publishing content on this site daily but it is the sort of error she’s corrected in the past after having it flagged in the comments.

    1. CJ*

      I figured rather than misusing the word positive, she’d made a typo that came out *had* answered in the positive when it should have been *hadn’t* answered in the positive.

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, it’s a typo. In the context of the overall post, it seems pretty clear this is effectively the story:
        1.) She does not have a diploma or GED equivalent.
        2.) The online application asks if you graduated high school. Saying you failed to graduate high school instantly kicks your application to the dumpster.
        3.) Knowing/assuming that an honest “I did not graduate high school” would kill her candidacy, she lied and checked the “I have a diploma” box.
        4.) Candidate was hired, is now a stellar employee, and admitted that well actually I dropped out.

    2. Liane*

      That sounds like a question for the You Can Report link just above the comment box. Click that link & there will be a report a typo option.

    3. BasicWitch*

      I am in the same position as this employee. I didn’t finish high school. It’s a great source of shame, deepened by feeling I have to lie about it to survive. But lie I did, and I have proven countless times that I’m perfectly capable to handling everything thing from a cash register to a major fundraising event for a nonprofit. Had I been truthful, I never would’ve gotten in the door.

      I’m not saying it’s right. It isn’t. But nor is a high school diploma a yardstick to judge people by. I left high school as a junior to get an early start on college… and because I was so devastated by trauma from years of abuse that I didn’t have the wherewithal to survive if I didn’t make a change. I do wish I had been more diligent about the paperwork that would’ve let me graduate a little late, but in the fog of depression I didn’t have the energy for anything but work and classes.

      I’m articulate, intelligent, hardworking, and everything I’ve accomplished has been rooted in a lie. I mostly try not to think about it.

      1. selena81*

        I can understand that companies really really want an easy not-a-complete-moron indicator in their application proces, but obviously there are lots of valid reasons for perfectly-capable people to drop out of highschool.
        There is no obvious solution, all attempts at correcting the issue (‘lets not demand a diploma from our afro-american candidates’) just lead to other groups being left out.

  1. Lena Clare*

    OMG LW2, just write that it’s a volunteer position! Why the secrecy? What a waste of everyone’s time.

    1. Atalanta0jess*

      Yes, this is such a weird question. How do I tell them it’s a volunteer job? You tell them it’s a volunteer job!

    2. Felix*

      I love how they used the word “volunteer” in the question, but couldn’t figure out that they should use it in the job ad.
      I see job postings all the time (maybe even a majority) that don’t mention anything about salary. It’s assumed there will be one to be negotiated later.

      1. Viette*

        Based on how they worded the rest of their question I’m almost surprised they were willing to say “volunteer” even once — the phrasing and tone all comes off like, “it’s not a lightweight volunteer position, it’s a real, substantial UNPAID JOB” as if that makes the work more significant? It may just be me but I get the impression that they at least in part don’t want to post it as “volunteer” because they think they’ll get people who aren’t very committed or who think of it as frivolous and don’t treat it with the importance the LW wants. But if you want someone committed to the position just like it was a paid job, you have to pay them.

        1. CJ*

          Yeah, I noticed that the OP that they work for a nonprofit, not that they volunteer for a non-profit, which is actually the case. Sure, it’s sometimes phrased do volunteer “work”, but that’s how not how you’re going to take it if you’re reading what looks like an ad for a paid position.

          1. Allypopx*

            Yeah I have a paid position at a nonprofit and we also have volunteers. They volunteer. We’re super clear about that. They call themselves volunteers. I don’t understand why this distinction is hard to just…say. Plenty of people do paid work for nonprofits it’s not unreasonable that job seekers assume a “job listing” is for, yknow, a job.

            1. many bells down*

              Ditto. I’m paid at one nonprofit and I volunteer at another. And each organization has both paid and volunteer staff. LW needs to make the ad clear what kind of position they’re filling.

            2. DarnTheMan*

              Same same. We have a role in my non-profit called ‘fundraisers’ and it is a paid position so I can see why people are getting confused if the ad doesn’t make mention of the word ‘volunteer’ anywhere.

        2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          I got that vibe, too. That OP is looking for a way to signal to some select type of people that their dream volunteer position is available. It’s not shady how much OP is trying to disguise the fact that they want an energetic and outstanding philanthropist to walk in the door and take over, it’s naive. You are advertising through normal job means hoping that everyone will read between the lines and realize that it isn’t a job, it’s a vocation. You want Melissa Gates, but you don’t have an in with Melissa Gates and you think that by leaving off salary people will realize, “OH, this is a position for an independently wealthy person who wants to run a business but doesn’t need the money.”
          Those people don’t look at want ads.

          1. Viette*

            I’m glad I’m not the only person who got that impression. I was having a hard time pointing to specific phrases, but it really feels that way to me.

            I think that “naive” is the kindest way to look at this situation. The OP seems to want to tell applicants, “this is no mere volunteer position, it’s a real job!! that we don’t pay you for,” but then seems baffled that people don’t *want* a real job that doesn’t pay them anything. Which… who does? Does the OP know a lot of independently wealthy people with enough free time to hold down a full-time job? Then she should call them. The rest us work at a job for a paycheck, and volunteer in our off hours.

            1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

              I think that “naive” is the kindest way to look at this situation.
              Thank you for noticing. I was trying to be diplomatic (particularly in light of today’s earlier letter where we all said OP should not assume malice) about OP’s genuine shock that people would not infer that a position at non-profit is a non-profit position. But honestly, I am.

            2. selena81*

              You remind me of how the first lesson for a successful GoFundMe campaign is to realize that those begging-sites are not frequented by millionaires looking to throw loads of cash at whoever makes sad puppy-dog eyes at them. You got to advertise yourself: mobilize friends, try to get interviewed by the media, etc.
              And throughout that all you will be competing with people whose dying child is even cuter than yours and whose story is more heart-wrenching than yours.

        3. selena81*

          The whole letter reeked of ‘if we advertise it as non-paid than we would lose out on all those great candidates who are writing in for a paid job’
          Well, yeah, that just won’t fly: nobody is going to think ‘you know what, i thought i applied to a paid job but you made me so enthusiastic about this volunteer work i will take that instead’. The fact that you lied to them actually makes it _less_ likely that they want to volunteer for you.

          (and it absolutely is lying, or at least deliberate misdirection: leaving out info about payment is generally understood as ‘we will work out those details later’. If they didn’t know that already the misdirected applications should have clued them in)

    3. littlelizard*

      Yep, “This is an unpaid position.” is a super standard thing to include when you’re looking for volunteers/unpaid interns.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      Also on the website list it as “volunteer opportunities” and don’t make it look like a “job” ad?

      “We’re currently looking for volunteers for the following areas:”

      If they’re posted in job format or under a “jobs” title, that’s going to really make people confused.

      1. Crabby Patty*

        “If they’re posted in job format or under a “jobs” title, that’s going to really make people confused.”

        Yep. Good call.

      2. Jedi Squirrel*


        Plus, they’ll probably get people who are actually interested in being a volunteer and understand what that entails. It will be a far more efficient process.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I mean, who the heck applies to what they think is a paid position, and on learning it’s not is like “Oh. Eh, money doesn’t matter.”

          Something that came up a while back is that even people who love their job, if they didn’t HAVE to work they would keep the job but approach it differently–go part-time, shed the parts they dislike, etc.

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            “Well, I was going to pay all my bills instead, but I think I’ll do this interesting thing for free now.”

            1. selena81*

              I was mentally picturing the angry letter at AAM from someone applying to this so-called job: ‘..so in the second interview i worked up the courage to ask about salary, and they told me IT WAS VOLUNTEER!!! WTF!!!! I walked out in shock and disappointment and ignored their emails. WHY DO PEOPLE THINK IT IS OKAY TO WASTE MY TIME LIKE THAT!!!’

      3. Orange You Glad*

        Yes! I volunteer for a nonprofit in an administrative role. We list any openings as “volunteer opportunities” and officially refer to everyone as “volunteer staff”. We make it very clear no one is getting paid there.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        Yup. When the letter mentioned “it doesn’t say anything about salary” I was thinking….most job ads don’t, but if it’s listed under jobs or careers, people still assume there’s money involved. It needs to be listed under “Volunteering” on their own site and clearly not a job AND preferably would also say “this is an unpaid position” in the description too.

        1. Clisby*

          And that’s very common for nonprofits, in my experience. After all, there are plenty of people who’d like to volunteer for a nonprofit, but have zero interest in getting a paid job there.

          1. selena81*

            Or they may hope to gain experience and eventually get hired at that or a different non-profit.
            In any of these cases people would want to know upfront that it is a volunteer position (and if relevant: if it ‘pays’ in the form of f.e. leadership-experience).

      5. Ego Chamber*

        “If they’re posted in job format or under a “jobs” title, that’s going to really make people confused.”

        Anywhere from confused to deeply resentful, yeah. Last time I was looking for work, I had four different interviews that ended up being for unpaid positions but this wasn’t disclosed in the job ads. At least 3 of them probably weren’t legal (the for-profit companies used remote unpaid interns to build and run their websites and social media, I’m sure it was fine though) and Indeed had tagged them with an estimated salary. -_-

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      I think LW2 might not realize that even when it comes to nonprofits, even smaller ones, the default assumption about any job posting is that it’s paid unless it says otherwise. Stating outright that it’s a volunteer position is necessary to avoid confusion. You could even title the entire page or section “Volunteer Leadership Positions” rather than just “Leadership Positions.”

      1. MayLou*

        Yes, I work for a small charity. We have one volunteer and a dozen employees. The volunteer knows that she is not doing a paid job. She doesn’t want a paid job. The rest of us do!

    6. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “Lately, I’ve been receiving resumes from people who seem to be looking for paid work”


      1. Quickbeam*

        If I even saw manager or lead worker (volunteer)…I’d still think it was a paid position to supervise volunteers. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work and never in response to a job ad.

      2. Heidi*

        It is oddly phrased, like it’s somehow presumptuous that people are expecting money in exchange for labor.

        If this is the type of position that requires skills and experience and a significant commitment in time, offering pay might be the only way to really access the kinds of candidates they’re looking for.

    7. bluephone*

      In a perfect world where every job ad has the salary listed up front, one could get away with NOT listing the salary and assuming that candidates would know it’s an unpaid/volunteer position.
      Since we will not be in that perfect world until the 4th of Neveruary, OP 2’s job descriptions should begin and end with “VOLUNTEER/UNPAID position” *and* liberal use of the words “volunteer” and “unpaid” sprinkled throughout the body text.

    8. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Is there 1) a good way to show this on our site, and 2) a good way to let people know that it’s volunteering when they contact us?
      Yes, there is a good way to tell potential applicants to a volunteer position that the volunteer position for which they are applying volunteer.
      The default/understood/implied information in a job ad is that it is a job. Salary is implied. If it doesn’t have a salary, THAT is what you state clearly.
      OP, how can you be this naive or shocked that people apply to your job openings thinking they are jobs? You are presumably spending time crafting descriptions that entice people to apply, why would they equate that with a flyer on a grocery store bulletin board.

    9. Massmatt*

      It was especially odd that they cited “despite there being no mention of salary in the ad” when we just recently had a letter and discussion about how many employers don’t put salary information in the ads for their paid positions.

      Please stop being coy and make it explicit that these are unpaid positions, you are wasting everyone’s time, including your own.

    10. Champagne Cocktail*

      Why on earth would a non-profit not have a specific section labeled Volunteer Opportunities on their own website? My gob is smacked.

      Non-profit doesn’t mean people don’t get paid. Sheesh. And expecting volunteers for leadership positions? Yeah….no.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Well, some volunteer positions are in leadership – that’s not odd – but a full time position in volunteering, or one that involves considerable hours per week, is.

          1. Champagne Cocktail*

            I’ve worked for a few non-profits and haven’t been in that situation. Today I learned….

    11. Hey Nonnie*

      Also: why are LEADERSHIP POSITIONS unpaid in the first place? Not-for-profit doesn’t mean your staff goes unpaid.

      Couple this with a bait-and-switch and I probably wouldn’t ever consider giving ANY kind of support to that organization ever again.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I assume board members or evangelists, maybe – those are often unpaid but require way less time commitment than a full-time job.

        1. Clisby*

          That’s all I could think of. I certainly wouldn’t expect the director/CEO of a nonprofit to be unpaid.

        2. DarnTheMan*

          I work for a not-for-profit and indeed our board members aren’t paid. However despite the high level of the position, the time commitment is much lower than all our other senior positions (usually about 1 day every quarter) and for most of them, it’s a prestige position to hold.

    12. Xarcady*

      During my last job search I saw an ad for a director position at a non-profit that involved managing employees and volunteers, running the department, managing the budget, etc.

      In very, very small print at the bottom of the ad, it clearly stated that the position would be on a volunteer, non-paid basis for the first six months and then if performance was satisfactory, you might be hired as a paid employee. Because I was looking for a job because I needed to pay rent, I passed on their stellar opportunity.

      But at least they were upfront about the pay situation.

      1. Viette*

        They were upfront, but they still tried to minimize it, which is so ridiculous to me! Putting that it’s unpaid for SIX MONTHS “in very, very small print at the bottom of the ad”, as if, what? People will read the ad and get so freakin’ excited about the job that they’ll go ahead and apply anyway even though they see now that it doesn’t come with a paycheck for half a year?

        Sure, if you post that the job is unpaid at the top of the ad, many many people will immediately turn away, but they will anyway when they find out it’s unpaid later! Some things are just hardcore, no questions about it dealbreakers, and a job that doesn’t pay ANY money is one of those things. It seems like people like the OP and the folks posting that job ad think that “not getting paid at all” is something that the applicants would be able to get past if only they saw how great the job is, which is so out of touch that it’s absurd.

        1. Liz*

          I graduated in 2008, and found a surprising number of “new grad” job ads that were actually for unpaid internships. “Work for us for free for 3 months, and we’ll consider hiring you for a paid position.”

          In 2010, a big Boston law firm made the news after they advertised a first-year associate position with a salary of $10,000.

    13. Is butter a carb?*

      Weird too that one would think people shouldn’t think job advertisements don’t involve…jobs.

    14. ArtNova*

      There is nothing worse than pouring your time and heart into a job application, getting a response, getting your hopes up, and then finding out that the position was a red herring. Non-profits list paid and un-paid positions all the time. You trust that they will tell you which ones are which. Preferably within the title of the job. And then reiterated in the job description, which should include the duration of the volunteer position (date to date, 2 months, on-going, as needed/on-call, etc.)

      OP#2 I would suggest that if you want to be extra clear, create a section that says, right in the header “Volunteer positions.” And then a separate section that says “Careers” with a blurb that says “nothing available at this time.” That way you have two sections ready to go, that separates the two job types that makes everything extra clear. But if nothing else, put volunteer in the job title.

    15. boop the first*

      Such a waste of time! Not only that but being intentionally secretive about pay in general, and worst of all, not letting hires know about the awful schedule they’re going to get until after some poor employee has to train them. Now, they’ve wasted the time and energy of TWO people.
      And tell people what the business is! Omg, this is a public transit city, I can’t apply to a job if I don’t even know if I can get there or not. And it’s hard to write a cover letter if I don’t even know what you do.

  2. Sean*

    LW #4: I took a week off in between starting this job and ending my last job, as it was the first time I had ever taken a new job that did not require moving to a new city. It was such a wonderful thing to do. I highly recommend it to anyone who has the option and the means.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      I took almost 3 weeks off between jobs and gave my employer 4 weeks notice – was over the holidays and the new job had a lot of people out over that period so it made sense but even in a more normal time period its worth asking.

    2. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I (and others) call this “funemployment.” Currently unemployed, but for a discrete amount of time that you planned for.

    3. Massmatt*

      I agree with Alison that this is normal but I wouldn’t get into details what you are doing or what your plans are, just tell them you can start in 3 weeks. There’s always the chance an employer could be unreasonable and judge the new hire, or hector them to start early because “you don’t NEED that 3rd week”. They don’t need to know your vacation plans before you work there.

        1. Six Degrees of Separation*

          For sure! I was suddenly no longer under consideration (about a decade ago) when I asked for three weeks. I was told, “Two weeks is standard.” I agreed, but I received a rejection the next day. Maybe it had other negatives I would have discovered later, but at the time I was in a toxic environment and would have welcomed another job.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I have had employers actually suggest this, or have had them assume it to be my plan before I ever said anything. And I have always assumed this was a highly likely plan for any new hire, and have suggested it myself, or have inquired whether they wanted to take a week off between.

      Especially when I am taking a new job, because it often took a year for me to qualify for any vacation, and I was not able to take vacation at my old job (because I was leaving).

    5. IV*

      And I was pushed into starting a new job without a break (due to their stock option grant cycle) and it was a nightmare. I left several weeks of prepaid vacation ununused at my old job but started with a tiny allocation of prorated vacation at the new one. By the time the end of the year rolled around I was already burned out (and it was a needlessly rough start to a great job). Lesson learned, if I need a break I need a break and not taking one doesn’t to anyone any favors.

    6. Jason*

      I requested nine weeks off before starting my new job. I was so glad I did, and my new company didn’t bat an eye at the request. I was totally prepared to start earlier if they needed to, but it worked out perfectly for them and for me. You never know! It never hurts to ask.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      I did this last year as well.
      (The only bummer is that I missed an all hands meeting that would have been helpful.)

  3. No Regerts*

    LW#1 – What a great opportunity to use whatever resources you have (educational reimbursement, training budget) to help your employee get her GED. I (for many, many reasons) didn’t finish my bachelor’s degree the first time I went to college. Instead of judging me for it, my current boss went to bat for me internally and did everything she could for me to finish my degree a mere 22 years after I started it. Not a big investment of money on their part (I had nearly 100 credits) but pretty life changing for me. Even more life changing for your employee, I bet.

    1. Amber T*

      This. I don’t have the statistics, but I would bet that the *majority* of people who don’t finish high school could not because of the reasons Alison listed, not because they’re lazy or bored. Especially if she’s a good worker! It sounds like, if she has a good job, she’s probably getting to a good place. I’m sure it would mean a lot to your employee if you could assist her.

      1. Elizabeth Proctor*

        Also most people who didn’t finish high school made that decision when they were a child.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          From a family of older folk who had to drop out to help on the family farm. My grandfather only had an 8th grade education. It’s often not the child’s decision!

          1. Triumphant Fox*

            My grandmother was one of the sharpest women and loved learning, but only had an eighth grade education. Her dream was to have a house full of books and she succeeded, but education has been a really coveted thing in my extended family ever since.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I have a bit of a jealous streak in me for those families, the ones who went from “I didn’t get an education, so this next generation is going to chase those higher education lights!”

              That’s not our extended family though. We’re the “It worked for me, I didn’t get no education, you think you’re better than us?!”

              My parents at least were of the mindset of “you’re a child, you go to school and learn yourself something.” but only the “Free” schooling, no to higher education, that’s too expensive to even dream about and don’t go into debt, just save your scraps and maybe you can go when you’re 40!

              1. Rainy*

                I’ve an aunt whose mother pulled her out of school in, I want to say, grade 10, to watch her younger siblings. She never even got a GED.

                When her eldest son married a girl who’d graduated high school, she was absolutely sickly jealous, and told everyone that cousin-in-law only had a 7th grade education.

              2. Quill*

                I’m so glad I’m one of the third generation of women in my family to go to college.

                Granted, my grandmother went to a semireligious college, and my grandpa went to world war 2 instead, but education has been pretty normal for us.

            2. Tina*

              Not on anywhere near the same scale, but my grandmother always wanted to be a lawyer, and she would have been a fantastic one, but where and when she was growing up, the money for college and then law school simply didn’t exist – so she went to secretarial school and became a PA for fifty years.

              She worked her ass off to make sure none of her kids or grandkids would ever have to pass up an educational opportunity for lack of money. Most of my aunts and uncles have multiple and/or higher degrees. I have a higher degree. My siblings have degrees. A cousin is in seminary. Another went to drama school. The rest aren’t up to college yet.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Very true. One of my good friend’s mother was pulled out of school in 3rd grade to work sorting coffee beans and another’s was pulled out in 5th grade because the parents felt that when money got tight it was better to pay school fees for the boys and not the girls. Education=/=intelligence much less capability, ambition, work ethic, etc

      2. many bells down*

        My daughter didn’t, due to a combination of being hospitalized for illness, and untreated ADHD. She did get her GED a year later, so it hasn’t affected her long- term.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      Yes! OP, I hope you can help your employee earn her GED and if not directly, please at least give her the flexibility to do so.

    3. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      I agree, encourage her to get the GED. I have that, acquired at 20. I dropped out of HS due to some family issues, so I get this. Also, thank you Alison for your compassion. Modern Life is not that kind to those who were kind of pushed off into an alternative path.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Definitely agree with this. I also agree that many times, education requirements for a job are not really what the job needs. I’ve had many office jobs that required a 4-year degree. While I do have it, not much that I learned in college would have helped me on that job. What is required is computer skills and knowing how to work with other human beings. Many people learn how to use computers in college, but a lot of my knowledge on computers was self-taught. I read library books, did those computer project books they put out on Microsoft Office, etc., all while I was temping so I could test higher at the temp agency skill tests. If you could ace those, you got the higher paying office jobs.

          1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

            The first admin assistant job that I had, I was there for almost 14 years. When I left, they posted the job, requiring a bachelors. Just ridiculous. Completely unncessary, but the administrator was very much a by the book, mainstream corporate man.

        1. Quill*

          Almost nothing I learned at college is relevant to my current job, but my knowledge from past jobs in the industry that did require college training has been an asset.

    4. Daffy Duck*

      Oh yes! Help/encourage her to get a GED. Even just flexing her work hours so she can take the test without a loss in pay would be helpful. This will garner lots of goodwill, not only from the employee but from others as well.

    5. T. Boone Pickens*

      Before advocating on helping the employee get their GED I’d like to know how well known is your team member’s secret? If everyone already knows about than I’m all for using resources to help the team member get their GED if that’s what they want to do. If however, only you and the team member know I’d be much more leery and I’d want to know a whole lot more about LW’s organization before I ‘outed’ the team member about their lack of a GED. While being well intended, you may inadvertently blow their cover and put their job at risk.

      1. Clorinda*

        If that’s the case, OP might strongly encourage the worker to get her GED before anyone else finds out, even if OP can’t use employer resources to help it happen. People can be and have been fired for this kind of thing, so looking away and pretending it never happened might lead to trouble for both the worker and OP.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup. I hope that if the employee decided she wanted to get her GED that the letter writer was kind enough to let her flex her time at work to study or take practice tests/the actual exam, but I wouldn’t think asking the company to help pay for it would be a wise idea for the reason T. Boone Pickens stated.

        2. selena81*

          My guess is that worker told OP specifically so that she could follow up with ‘sooo, what if i want to get my GED, could you maybe help me with that in any way?’
          Depending on how well-known this secret is OP should make either an covert or overt offer of help with any study effort that worker might be planning for.
          (if i am wrong and she isn’t interested in schooling than he should keep her in this job anyway, but warn that this will keep being a problem and he isn’t going to lie about her credentials if she wants a promotion or some such)

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes! That’s the kind of response that earns loyalty.
      If some higher-up balks at removing the requirement, a compromise could be ‘hs diploma, GED, or willing to work to get a GED within 5 years (here’s how the company can help).”
      By the way, same goes for college degrees in many cases. The computer wizard who was hired away from school is a stereotype for good reason….but if kid wants to move up, the missing degree can be a roadblock. Reimbursement for tuition is SO USEFUL!

        1. D'Arcy*

          The exact wording can really make a difference — I technically don’t have a high school diploma or a GED, I have a state equivalency test. In my case, it hasn’t been a career issue because I passed said equivalency at age 14 so that I could take full time community college courses instead of normal high school.

          But if I was filling out an application that was strictly inflexible about the wording, I could be in trouble.

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    This could be due to my very specific experiences talking but #1, that woman has already proven herself. Yes she lied but it’s not about advanced education but this wasn’t to get a higher paycheck pretending to have that advanced degree. It was so she could literally survive.

    Do you have any programs available or authority to help her obtain her GED? We have done similar things for folks over the years. We don’t actually require a high school diploma because it’s really not necessary for most of our positions, so if someone comes to us in a vulnerable position and proves themselves to be a great asset to our company, we retain them by assisting them in advancing in life. Yeah she may then get to leave later with her advancement. So what, this isn’t about that, this is about giving that kind of very minor leg up in the world to someone who could really use it and upgrading our workforce in the end.

    It may not be an available option for you but some places do offer “If you don’t have X certificate, we give you Y time to obtain it to keep the job.” So maybe you could think of that route as well in terms if there’s wiggle room for it as well.

    1. MarsJenkar*

      Agreed. If the new employee had kept the secret and you found out the lie through other means, no doubt the advice would be different. But as I read it, they confessed early on, and had a good reason to do it…plus, it wasn’t a lie about specialized skills, but a prerequisite that, it turns out, is mostly arbitrary.

    2. Shabang*

      I have an Employee who claimed to have a GED. Employee went to schools and obtained many certifications for the job, all of which required a high school diploma or equivalent. All of the applications Employee submitted to sit for the exams had claimed GED.

      And then Employee went for a certification in a related skill, and was required to provide a copy of the GED… and suddenly couldn’t find it and the issuing authority no longer existed, etc… Employee was HIGHLY encouraged to either find the previous GED or obtain a new one. After much prodding, Employee studied up and got a new GED.

      Did Employee actually have a GED in the first place? Maybe, but if you can’t prove it, maybe not? Could they get in serious legal trouble if they actually didn’t? The answer would be YES.

      In my line of work, all of our raises have a significant bearing on Certification levels – and if an Employee isn’t eligible to gain certification, they will not be able to advance (bad for them AND for me). To keep anything like this from happening again, all new applicants need a HS Diploma or equivalent that I SEE before they are considered.

      Please don’t check that you have an official education level or certification that you don’t…

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Your situation is very specific and different from the read I get on the OP. There’s nothing that says that this is an issue for certification levels. That’s a horse of a different color.

        The vast majority that want you to check the HS completion box is just for fun and decoration. It’s not because it’s required by any means.

        Next time check your employees if it really is that crucial to your setup. Stop assuming strangers, who are desperate to feed themselves and keep themselves sheltered are going to not try to get into a job even if it means lying about that kind of thing.

        We ask for proof for things that require certain levels of education for that reason. Otherwise, we don’t care and don’t require it because it’s just a job that doesn’t require anything sensitive or extensive.

        It’s unfortunate that you just write this person off as a possible liar, when lots of records have been lost over the course of time. It reminds me of Hurricane Katrina and how people could fake their own deaths because so much was lost. Or turn into Gypsy Rose Blanchard with their falsified docs due to the disaster. Come on now.

        Nobody is suggesting lying is right or the way to go about things but sometimes it happens. It’s really not that personal.

        1. voyager1*

          I am sorry but I am going to have strongly disagree with this. I was a HS dropout who dropped back in to alternative program to get a diploma not a GED. At the time the military did not take GEDs for enlistment. I was able to work with the recruiter to get into a program and then successfully enlist. That enlistment allowed me to serve 4 years in Air Force. When I got out I went to community college and then a 4 year school. Graduated with good grades. I have a good job now. I would be outraged by someone lying about a HS diploma/GED to get a job over me after all I have done. Now if I was a manager and they came to me, I would try and see if something could be worked out like you posted about getting the diploma. But in the end I would not burn a ton of capital on someone who lied about a HS diploma/GED. I got mine, they can get theirs if it is important to them.

          1. Derjungerludendorff*

            That seems pretty dismissive of people’s actual reality.
            Most jobs wont just put you through a supplementary program if you don’t meet their requirements, they will just reject you. Even if their requirements are pointless. And most people don’t want to join the gorram military just to get basic education.

            You present it like everyone can get it when they want, but the fact is you got lucky that someone was willing to pay you for studying when they didn’t even employ you yet. And that they offered financial support for your education after that. Very few employers do that.

            Also, it’s a high school degree. Most jobs don’t need it or require specialized education, and the rest won’t need 80% of what you learn anyway.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            As a boss wouldn’t your investment in someone else be paying forward what you received?

            While I agree that we should not help people who do not want our help, I don’t think we are talking about unethical/lazy people here. In OP’s example the employee is a proven hard worker. Something you exhibit yourself. Probably at this stage of the game, you have enough specialized knowledge that not too many people without a HS education would be considering the same jobs as you anyway.

          3. Parenthetically*

            “I worked hard to get a diploma, therefore everyone who didn’t just isn’t prioritizing it as well as I did” is a pretty bad hot take TBH.

            1. winter*

              Or “Just because I had to work with unnecessarily harsh circumstances everyone should have to do so”. Why? Isn’t the great thing when we can correct things that are wrong? Why double down so everybody is equally as miserable?

          4. selena81*

            I get what you are saying: i came from a not-very-good background but after some work and also quit some luck i finished college as the first of my family.
            So it actually works against me if employers are like ‘we want to give disadvantaged kids a chance, starting by scraping the educational-requirements for them’ .

            Of course everybody’s situation is different: for me it works best if they keep education, but scrape all the stuff about ‘must have gone soulsearching in Australia’. Whereas other people may have made the choice to forego formal education and put whatever little money they had in a huge globe-trotting multi-year tour.

        2. k*

          Not to mention that clearly it is not actually required for the position; otherwise someone who didn’t have a diploma wouldn’t be able to be a great employee. So the actual liar here is the person who wrote an application claiming that it is.

        3. Shabang*

          Hi Becky – You seem to be assuming I am against the employee. I was saddened that this took place and did what I could for them to get this situation resolved. They, insisting that the issuing authority no longer existed, chose to go through the classes and sit for the exams – which I offered to pay for and give paid time off towards that goal.

          Did I make an “assumption” that they lied ? Maybe they did lie, maybe they didn’t. I have always acted as their story is true and correct – to the point of pushing the same story to those above me who were looking for the completed certification and questioning the delay. Sorry, but my opinions or assumptions are irrelevant here. If you cannot prove that you have a HS Diploma or GED or equivalent, then you do not have them. If they are required, and someone cares, it might be a problem (loss of other certifications you already have, criminal charges for applying for government certifications with false information, etc…)

          As far as your comment: “Next time check your employees if it really is that crucial to your setup.” This employee was internally transferred from another department, so all the normal checks were not there at that time. In fact, I believe that the entry level job the employee originally had probably was a position such as you mentioned – a starter job that it would make much of a difference.

          And for some reality – now that we do have this check – that employee wouldn’t have been able to move to my department without that proof. That paper. And they would miss out on the opportunity to move into a higher paying management job because of it. And I would have missed out on a good employee.

          So far, I have been involved with getting 5 employees through a GED process. Some from other departments so that I can get them to my department when a slot opened. I also did the research to find a GED for another employee in the same circumstance when they wouldn’t do it for themselves.

          If anyone out there does not have a HS Diploma or a GED, I hope that you will seek one at the soonest time that you can. I know it is not easy to fit it into an already busy schedule, or maybe financially it would be difficult.I wish the best to everyone who works towards anything to better their situation, and I think most can agree that having a HS Diploma or GED definitely helps with employment opportunities and advancement within the workplace.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I would hire a lot of AAM if I could, truly. It’s hard as EF to find people.

        But a lot of y’all don’t want to work for us because we’re that small business and I have to constantly remind people to stop saying “Like family!” because of the tone of “dysfunction” it has taken on thanks to people out there that are why the saying “This is why we can’t have nice things.” was made.

  5. halfwolf*

    for the first question, i’m curious to hear people’s takes on lying about education* if the employee in question wasn’t that great, or was even struggling in the role. would it be worth considering the lie more seriously in that situation, or is it still not that relevant?

    *by “education” i mean either a high school diploma or the requirement of a bachelor’s degree in general, not an important degree related to the field like medicine or law.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Honestly, everything is circumstantial in my personal world. So yeah, if they weren’t cutting it, then I’m letting them go for that. I would probably let them go for that before I even knew they didn’t have their proper education.

      I’m kind of curious how they found out this woman didn’t have her high school diploma…that sounds like someone slipped up and mentioned dropping out or something? And then you’re assuming they don’t have their GED. That’s rarely anything I’ve ever had proven. I say rarely because the first time ever was when I enrolled an employee in a program and they indeed did require proof but job wise, nobody has every said “But show me that diploma first!”

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Nevermind to that second paragraph, selective reading wins again…and this isn’t even ONTD. Sorry. I see she admitted it afterwards.

      2. halfwolf*

        yeah, i’m inclined to agree with you. i think in this specific case, it also speaks a lot to this person that she admitted it pretty quickly, without even being asked, so i don’t think it poses any real integrity issues. mostly i think employers should stop requiring a degree when it’s not actually necessary!

    2. Felix*

      I say the lie still isn’t relevant. There are people without diplomas who would be great at the job, and people with advanced degrees who would be terrible.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Still not that relevant, really. It feels like when Allison gets letters all the time where the manager focuses on some weird ancillary problem despite the red flags being waved elsewhere in the letter that are things that actually need to be addressed. If you have a poor performer, manage the poor performance, not the fact that they checked a box on your application software that enabled them to complete the process.

      But I’m also definitely of the opinion that most education requirements exist to say “we want to hire someone who is at least 22,” so I’m less inclined to care about this (and would probably be annoyed it was listed as a hiring requirement anyway if I were the hiring manager in a field where degrees aren’t critical).

      1. KHB*

        I can see how it can happen, if it’s a role where performance is mostly subjective. It can be hard to know what to do with “Camilla’s teapot designs aren’t as elegant as we’d like them to be.” But “Camilla lied and said she had a BA in teapot design when she does not” is an objective, demonstrable fact – and it’s an easy justification to hang a firing on, if you happen to be looking for one.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Oh I can see how it can happen too, but it just seems like the time-honoured “take the easy way out rather than actually managing your employees” option that we see letter writers hoping for all the time. I get why people do it, but at the very least that’s also never going to help you grow and develop as a manager. Being able to explain to Camilla why her teapots are inelegant is probably a skill worth learning and gives her an opportunity to improve her work via feedback. Firing her for lying about her BA in teapot design is easy but neatly sidesteps the actual problem, and isn’t going to be much help if you hire someone who genuinely does have a BA in Teapot Design but is similarly unskilled in a particular area (“Fergus is great at designing cubist teapots, but he’s struggling on this new project that requires something less angular”).

          1. KHB*

            “Being able to explain to Camilla why her teapots are inelegant is probably a skill worth learning and gives her an opportunity to improve her work via feedback.”

            That’s true, and if you want to keep Camilla on your team (because you see promise that she’ll improve with practice), you should do that. But if you’ve already determined that having Camilla in this role isn’t going to work out, I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world to let a resume lie be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, in the interest of expediency. I don’t think you’re obligated to pretend that the lie didn’t happen, just because it would build your managerial skills to construct a whole new case for firing her.

            1. Talia*

              The problem I see with that is that if you do that and later have an employee who did something similar who you want to keep, you can very easily wind up with a discrimination lawsuit over the inconsistency– after all, if that’s suddenly not a firing offense, “this was an excuse to fire me because I’m an X” is not exactly an unreasonable assumption.

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        One place I have been applying for jobs frequently has postings listed as “High school degree + 5 year’s experience or Bachelor’s degree + 1 year experience.”

        OK, so you have a particular age in mind, not skill set. Just admit it.

        1. panic everywhere including the disco*

          I think they’re assuming that the bachelors provides experience in the thing.

          Personally, I would assume the person with 5 years experience is more experienced than someone with 1 year and a bachelors degree.

          1. Derjungerludendorff*

            Likewise. I would assume a Bachelors counts for 1 or maybe 2 years of experience, plus a foundation in theory. So for many jobs the 5 years of experience would be more valuable.

    4. Amber Rose*

      I’d argue it’s still not really relevant, since I have no idea how a high school education would change anything. I have never used anything I learned in high school aside from some basic math. That person would likely be struggling regardless.

      It’s sort of relevant in that it would make it easier to fire that person if necessary I guess.

      1. Massmatt*

        This is a great example why bots automatically rejecting applicants based on a questionnaire can cost you talent. You describe the employee as excellent yet your process would have weeded her out before you even saw her application—maybe revisit the process?

        Having a HS diploma seems like a pretty low bar to some but as others have pointed out, people who don’t have it often have reasons, are you better off excluding them ?

        For many people, HS consists of writing reports on books they didn’t read, trying to get a date without humiliation, and smoking in the bathroom without getting caught.

      2. Amy Sly*

        Really. Grade inflation and social promotion are so widespread that the only thing a high school degree really demonstrates is “I was willing to be somewhere reasonably on time for six hours a day for four years as a teenager.” I had a high school graduate manager who couldn’t put away stock without writing out the alphabet to put it in order or write words like “parade” correctly. The high school diploma really isn’t worth much.

        Now, because that bar is so low, I’d worry about someone who was in their late teens or early twenties without one might not have the discipline to show up to work. But someone like the employee, who apparently has matured or solved whatever problem that lead to dropping out, who cares? Given the abysmally ignorant college graduates I’ve dealt with (e.g. “Do you have a store in New England?” “No, I don’t think we have any international locations” the business major who’d never even heard of John Maynard Keynes, the law school offering classes on subject-verb agreement) due to the grade inflation there it’s not like college signals much more than a willingness to show up (and borrow heavily) either.

        Heck, look at the college admissions scandal! Not one of those parents seems to have worried that having gotten their “unqualified” kid in, that the kid wouldn’t be able to hack the coursework.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          There are certainly going to be some kids who drop out of high school because they just don’t care, but overwhelmingly it means that they’ve gone through some Stuff(TM), whether that’s an abusive home situation, untreated mental illness, pressure to work in the family business… A kid who had to drop out in 8th grade and has been working low-level retail or under-the-table arrangements is frankly probably going to have a *better* work ethic than your average middle-class high school graduate who’s maybe done a few babysitting gigs for pocket money.

          1. Amy Sly*

            Agreed. (Hence my correction that a diploma proves that you were willing *and able*) My high school dropout former classmates were generally of the “I’d rather stay home and smoke weed” type, which is a difficult prejudice to get over, but when I taught, I know that some of my students were “we need you in the family business” or other sticky situations. But I think it’s still important to be sure the cause of dropping out has been resolved — after all, you don’t want an employee calling out because “uncle’s in the hospital and so dad needs me to work at the family business for the next couple weeks.”

            Dropping out of high school is evidence that the employee had a problem when they dropped out: no more, no less. If the job requires no more than basic literacy and work ethic and the employee has those, the lack of a diploma isn’t important. However, the employer is well within his rights to be cautious that whatever the problem was then, it is no longer a problem now.

              1. Amy Sly*

                Absolutely. I’m trying to say that lack of a diploma is a yellow flag that should say to an employee to investigate more; neither use it as a screening filter nor treat it as irrelevant.

      3. HS Teacher*

        You’ve never used anything you learned in high school except some basic math? I find that hard to believe.

        Of course, I disagree that it’s not a big deal that this person lied about her education. It shows a lack of character and ethics. I may not necessarily terminate her since she’s a good employee, but I’d keep a closer eye on how she handles ethical dilemmas.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I find it hard to believe you’re unbiased about the state of our educational system and what it teaches people given your participation in the format. Lots of people flunk or fail out of the system for a reason, it’s not because they’re stupid that’s for sure.

        2. Derjungerludendorff*

          I don’t think it really reflects on her ethics much.

          It’s pretty obvious she would have been rejected if she was honest about the diploma. And presumably she knew she could do the job, but OP’s hiring didn’t give her a chance to show that.
          So she was put in the spot of lying on an application form, or passing on a job she was able and willing to take.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          I am surprised that you see a lack of character and a lack of ethics. I see someone who is probably hungry and would like to eat or perhaps someone who is cold and would like shelter.
          She decided she wanted to eat and be warm. OP says she is a very good worker. Sounds like she is more than appreciative of the opportunity her employer gave her.

          She did not lie about a graduate degree. She lied about a HS education. It’s very difficult to get a job without a high school education. In a system such as what OP describes people have to chose between lying or having their application discarded.

        4. Chris*

          Shows a lack of character by coming clean to the boss after landing the job and excelling at it, thereby putting her livelihood at risk. Seems to me this shows depth of character.

        5. Quill*

          Problem is that every high school in the country has different graduation requirements. Or different requirements in different years – the recession hit my high school, which had fairly rigorous requirements at the time (4 courses each english, history, math, science, and foreign language, 3 courses of phys ed and 1 of health, a total of 28 courses required, meaning that you could take study hall / early release only one semester in one slot every year) and they cut programming so hard that there were juniors who had enough under the new requirements to graduate. They started trying to push any first semester seniors to graduate early, and only didn’t start on the juniors because a lot of parents raised a stink.

          Someone who dropped out in their last semester of senior year has had more schooling than those juniors would have had. And that’s what’s considered one of the great public schools in my area, places with higher levels of poverty or where public services have been disrupted by disaster provide even fewer opportunities for education.

          So yeah, there’s a WIDE range of what you actually can learn from high school and a diploma is not necessarily a guarantee of whether you learned it or not.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I think the lie is relevant if the employer is a government contractor, and must work under the guidelines of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs/OFCCP. The OFCCP audits hiring practices of government contractors, and would be very interested in learning why a company not only hired someone who failed to meet advertised minimum qualifications but kept them…and why other candidates who met the minimum qualifications were not considered. I’ve lived through a few OCFFP desk audits, and ‘minimum qualifications’ are a very big deal. We could not have hired or kept an employee who failed to meet them, no matter how great they were at their job.

      I am not saying a diploma or degree endows a candidate with specific skills, traits, or experience. You’ll get no argument from me that it’s long past time to re-think educational requirements for a lot of job functions. If the OFCCP is a non-issue here, I think the employer can and should find a way to help the employee get her GED.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Yep, public university here. If they lie, for even the best of reasons and even if I personally think many of our minimum requirements for education are worse than pointless, they will be gone. Fired if they’ve been hired, not considered for an interview if it’s at the application stage.

        For example, we ask for X years experience in Y past the masters, they answer “yes” in the automated application, I look at the resume and/or the education dates in the automated application and it doesn’t match? even if they have X years of experience before the masters? They are noped because they did not tell the truth. And it’s too bad, because if they’re a really good candidate otherwise, we can alert them to a lower level posting. If they lied, we can’t do that.

    6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Eh, if she weren’t a great worker, I wouldn’t be terribly gung-ho about keeping her on. Understandable or not, she did lie, and that’s a mark against her. As it is, it’s a mark that’s far outweighed by her actual performance on the job. But with an employee who wasn’t stellar, I’d be a lot more inclined to say — well, even if it’s an understandable lie, it’s still a material one.

    7. Quickbeam*

      I had a co-worker who was let go for lack of a 4 year degree. I’m in a profession of various (too many) entry points. She outright lied about having a 4 year degree in our field. However if she had been good at what she did it probably never would have come up. She was making really strange errors and was unable to learn expected content. They did a follow up background check and the fake phone coverage she’d had in place on hire was no longer there, the HR staff then found out about the deception.

      But none of it would have happened if she had been able to do the essential functions of the job, as in this case.

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        +1 The people I’m aware of who got fired for lies on their resume were either not doing great in the first place, which made someone check, or had lied about skills that were so essential to the position and so obvious that they got “flunked” pretty much the first time they had to perform them. (Lying about computer skills was the latter 90% of the time. If you don’t even know how to use Word, yeah, sorry, you’re not going to be able to do a lot in a job that requires Constance and advanced use of much more complicated software).

        1. Anonymous at a University*

          *constant use of software, that is. I’m sure there is a program named Constance, but not in the jobs I was talking about.

          1. Clorinda*

            I was imagining Constance as some sort of donor database maintenance software, or something else really finicky and specific, and now I am sad that it isn’t real.

            1. Derjungerludendorff*


              I did find an obscure Python library and a very specific university named Constance, but no proper software package. I’m kinda disappointed now.

    8. Alton*

      Generally, I don’t think I’d find it relevant. Jobs that require a high school degree typically don’t require any specific skills or knowledge that can only be gained by finishing high school, and I think the motivation to lie about having a high school degree is probably the same for most people regardless of whether they’re actually good employees–they need to support themselves and not having a degree makes that very challenging.

    9. KayDeeAye*

      There are certifications and such that require you to have a HS degree or its equivalent (or so I’ve heard). One example would be a certified nursing assistant. You don’t qualify for the nursing assistant program unless you have a HS degree. I think a lot of/most cosmetology schools require an HS degree or GED as well.

      But if that isn’t the case here, I strongly agree that the OP should see if the requirement for a HS diploma can just be dropped. By all means, come up with job-related criteria for this job – anything at all, as long as it’s job related. But don’t include requirements that are essentially meaningless unless you have to because of some regulation or other.

    10. selena81*

      If the job requires ‘high school or equivalent’ and the employee is not working out i would take that as an indication that they might be lacking in the ‘or equivalent’ department (i am talking about people who have passed no exam at all and simply decided to rate themselves as high-school-level on shaky proof)
      In that case the lie would be more of an issue because they presented themselves as having knowledge they do not have. But the main reason for firing would still be the quality of their work, not the lie as such.

  6. Ingrid*

    LW1: The fact that the employee came to you and disclosed the lie in the first place when she had absolutely no incentive to do so should be another check box in her “pro” column. Allison’s advice is good here.

  7. Quick Question*

    Is anyone else getting errors every time they try to open the link that there are too many redirects and it won’t load?

    1. Quick Question*

      If I search for inc.com plus the headline Alison posted I can open that from a google search, but I can’t get there with the link from the page at all

      1. Quick Question*

        Now I feel like I’m going crazy, the article I found posted today doesn’t line up with what everyone else is commenting on….what’s going on?

      1. Jane Smith*

        Adblock may be your friend, but it’s not the friend of anyone whose income is generated by ad revenue. :)

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          True, but for a while there I couldn’t even read AAM without all the ads crashing my browser. (During the popupocalypse of 2016.) I would rather be able to read the site and contribute by commenting, recommending it to friends, and buying the book for myself and others. We all gotta do what our internet connections allow. ;)

  8. Cee Cee Dee*

    LW1: Would it be out of bounds to encourage and support her to get a GED (with no strings attached to her employment)? She seems like this issue possibly weighs on her. Sometimes people just need encouragement.

    1. Anonymous*

      Is there any indication she doesn’t have her GED? Many places don’t look at those the same as a diploma.

      1. Massmatt*

        I’d be surprised if someplace treated a GED as “not graduating high school”. If this were college entrance qualifications this would be relevant but I can’t see how this matters for a job.

        Maybe it would come up if they asked what high school she attended/graduated from specifically but it’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen that question.

  9. Enginear*

    If a high school diploma was the minimum requirement then I wouldn’t worry. Tons of people graduate high school that aren’t all there lol

  10. Leela*

    LW #2 – From what you describe about your post, I would absolutely assume that it was a paid position (you’re posting it exactly like everyone else posts paid jobs), and I’d be really irritated if you called me and I found out that it was unpaid. I would definitely think that you intentionally withheld that to try and bait and switch me, and it would really sour me on whatever your organization does, and I’d be telling everyone I know not to work with you for being so shady (even if that wasn’t your intention, that’s just very much how it would read to me and in all honesty, most people).

    Please put that it’s unpaid right there in the title!

    1. Fikly*

      Agreed. Given that the vast majority of paid job ads do not list salary, the assumption is that a job is paid. You have to disclose this up front.

    2. Annony*

      Yep. Use the word volunteer liberally on your website. Make sure to use it even more in the volunteer position posting and application. Include the question “Why do you want to volunteer with us?”

    3. Ama*

      I’ve been looking at a lot nonprofit job boards lately and they all require that you identify in the posting where it falls on the full-time/part-time/volunteer/intership (pair or unpaid) spectrum. Some even have you specify whether the paid positions are permanent or temporary (i.e. contract or grant based). I know this posting is on OP’s own org’s site but the current standard in the sector is that you identify the exact structure of the position — it’s not a surprise at all that not following those standards has resulted in confusion.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I can post on some local job boards. All of them have strict rules that it’s not a JOB unless you get PAID in MONEY. No nonsense about “exposure” or “connections” or free food.

  11. Observer*

    #1 – How did you find out? Did she come to you herself, or did you ask her because there was something work related that you would have expected her to know if she had a diploma?

    If the former, Alison is right – rethink your “requirements”.

    1. Arctic*

      The LW says the employee told her after she was hired. Which is slightly ambiguous but I think means the employee came to her.

    2. Senor Montoya*

      Rethinking the requirements — yes, indeed, but that doesn’t address the issue of the person who was hired with those requirements and lied about them.

  12. Scion*

    #5) I’ve always been confused by this. If an employee doesn’t turn in their timesheet – how do you know how much to pay them?

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        And even for some nonexempt employees, it’s not actually a mystery — I have to turn in my timesheet for the computer payroll thing to happen, but my boss can safely assume they’re paying me for the same 35 hours I worked last week. Overtime is hypothetically a thing in my office, but in reality it only comes up for a couple positions once or twice a year.

        1. Alton*

          Yeah, I’m saleried non-exempt, and when I first started my current job, we were still using paper timesheets and no one told me for a while that I was technically supposed to be filling them out. I got paid no problem. These days, I don’t know if my pay would be impacted if I forgot to log hours on my electronic timesheet or not.

    1. Talia*

      Well if they’re exempt you’re paying them the same thing every week no matter how much work they did. If they’re not exempt they presumably have more motive to fill them out for that exact reason. (Though I at least have scheduled hours and if I wasn’t at those scheduled hours someone would notice that pretty immediately, so my supervisor can input my scheduled hours into my time sheet if I have failed to do so and be pretty sure that’s right. Of course, if I make a habit of doing that my supervisor will become annoyed.)

      1. Some Lady*

        There are other reasons that people track hours in addition to how much to pay. At my nonprofit, we sometimes have to track how much work we do on certain projects, if those projects are supported by a specific grant or funding source. Other jobs might require it so they can charge different clients based on how much time was spent working on that client’s project. Other places might be using it to get a sense of how employees are using their time so they can plan or make changes. Etc. etc.

      2. doreen*

        If they’re exempt, you’re paying them the same every week no matter how much work they did- but if they took off a full day for personal reasons, or if they took off a full day off or illness disability and have exhausted their PTO they don’t have to be paid for that day.

        I’m sure there are a lot of jobs where it’s very easy to pay people without a timesheet – a Mon – Fri 9-5 office job where the supervisor manager is on- site doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem. But other jobs are different – certain positions in my agency essentially make their own schedule and do most of their work in the field, not the office and it’s entirely possible that I have no way of knowing that they worked from 4pm to midnight on Friday until I see their timesheet. The only effective way I’ve seen to get some people to submit timesheets is to cut off direct deposit and hold their paycheck hostage ( I have your paycheck but I’m not handing it to you until you submit those timesheets). I’m not sure what my employer could legally do if at that point they still refused to submit timesheets. ( Yes, they could be fired or disciplined, but on the one hand, it seems like they would have to be paid and on the other I wonder how there could be a requirement to pay someone who hasn’t even claimed that they worked.)

        1. Derjungerludendorff*

          I imagine holding their paycheck hostage is an excellent way of losing them regardless of their timesheets, so your employer might be “solving” that problem either way.

          1. doreen*

            It actually doesn’t cause anyone to leave ( it’s a union job and takes a lot more than that) – but I can’t help but wonder. You would really leave a job because they refused to hand you your paycheck when you arrived at 9am and waited until you submitted your overdue timesheets at noon?

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I used to work on a government contract and we had to bill our time to the client. I got paid the same amount every time, but I still needed to track it. The solution is simple. You can’t withhold their pay but you can warn them and enforce consequences when they don’t do it, just like you would any other job responsibility.

      1. pandq*

        This. When you work at a place that needs to bill your time to a client/grant/project, etc…… this is part of your job. Of course the employer should find ways in which to streamline it but bottom line it’s part of the job and if the employer can’t bill or allocate your time properly, you may be out of one.

      2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Out of curiosity: Would it be possible to have a “timesheet bonus” (or other benefit that’s not the salary)? Say, $50 when the time sheet is in the system by 6 am Monday morning, $0 otherwise?
        Then it would not be docking pay but not paying an extra if the employee does not turn in the timesheet – if it’s an online system it would be fairly easy to automate.

        1. NJ Anon*

          No way I’m paying someone to do something that’s part of their job. If they cant do their timesheet, it should be reflected in any raise or bonus just like anything else.

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Rewarding someone for doing a part of their job is not the way to go. You’re rewarded with pay raises and promotions for going above and beyond. People shouldn’t have to be bribed to perform a pretty basic job function.

    3. noahwynn*

      When I managed hourly employees, we would always pay them what they were scheduled and then true it up on the next paycheck. Wasn’t perfect but at least they received a paycheck and we complied with the law.

    4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Time sheets can mean “which hours did you work?” or “exactly how much time did you spend on each task or project this week?”

      If it’s the former, then I agree you can’t know how much to pay them. If the latter, then yeah you pay them what they’re due, and get better processes for collecting the information you want for other reasons.

      I think there’s a grey area where it might be eg “payroll can only include overtime in Friday’s pay packet if you get the information to them by 4pm on Thursday” but you’d still pay their regular hours on time.

    5. Koala dreams*

      Presumably you know how many hours a week you hired them to do. If you hired them to work 40 hours a week, you pay 40 hours a week. Also, in many jobs you would notice if someone is there or not.

    6. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      It’s a nightmare if you have shift staff who won’t punch in, we ran into this a lot at my last job.

      Fergus is a part-time employee who works three shifts a week. Tuesday 7 pm – 10 pm, Thursday 7 pm – 10 pm, and Sunday, 9 am – 1 pm. Management core hours are Monday through Friday, 10 am – 6 pm. Therefore, Fergus and his boss Tangerina don’t see each other on a regular basis.

      Tangerina goes to approve timecards Friday afternoon and sees that Fergus has only punched in for four of his six scheduled shifts during the pay period. Did Fergus do his shift but forget to punch in? Did Fergus get a sub on his own and not tell anyone? Did Fergus turn up 45 minutes late and not punch in so he could pretend that he “forgot” to punch in hoping Tangerina wouldn’t find out he was late because he already got a written warning about his punctuality?

      Who knows! Now Tangerina needs to spend Friday afternoon systematically clicking through the other 20 people on staff’s timecards to see if any of them put in an extra shift during the times Fergus was normally scheduled, then calling and texting Fergus’s cell to ask him, and finally calling and texting the cells of the people who were scheduled to work with Fergus on the days he didn’t punch in, to see who did do his shift, so Tangerina can submit Fergus’s timecard so he can get paid on time.

      It’s maddening.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’d say a manager needs to more closely supervise the clocking-in activities.

        Or you sit Fergus down and say, “if you don’t clock in properly, we are going to let you go. It’s a requirement of your job.”

      2. 1234*

        Sounds like step 1 should be Ask Fergus about the missing time cards. Step 2 could be review security cameras if there are any to see what time Fergus may have shown up.

    7. TootsNYC*

      you’re responsible for tracking their hours. You can delegate it to them, but it’s really your job.

      There’s no one who has ever worked for me that I couldn’t re-create their timesheet on my own.

  13. Observer*

    #2 0 Why would you even expect someone to think that your “positions” are unpaid unless you explicitly say so? I’m also seriously taken aback by your saying that there is no indication of employment. What else is a “position” if not employment?!

  14. Hiring Mgr*

    Agree with AAM on the app liar, but I would feel the same way had it been a resume whereas Alison makes a distinction..To me it’s pretty much the same thing

    1. Allypopx*

      Not necessarily. I think on an application you’re often just ticking a box saying you have a high school diploma, or listing “high school diploma” as the highest education you’ve received from a drop down list, as opposed to formatting a document that includes like you’re school and your graduation year and such. It’s less of a deliberate and thought out deception and more of a squeeze past the censors.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Or ticking that you have 3 years experience using a 2 year old program, because you know the computer will screen out everyone who doesn’t say “3.”

        1. Derjungerludendorff*

          Which is an important detail.

          Resume’s are seen by humans. The application can be rejected without the hiring manager even knowing you exist.

        2. Quill*

          Or it’s a drop down that only has the options “High school, Some college, 2 year degree, 4 year degree, masters, phd” as options for highest level of schooling.

      2. MsSolo*

        Yeah, if your drop down list doesn’t have anything lower than that (I don’t know about US job listings, but I’ve seen this a lot on survey sites) then it’s the most honest thing to click even if it’s still a lie.

    2. Arctic*

      I do understand the distinction Alison is making. I think if you curate this document and intentionally are misleading on it it is a little different than checking a box to get to the next step.

      But, in practice, this wouldn’t bother me with a diploma if it was on the resume either. Not for high school.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      I agree with you. Just because I have to spend more time and deliberation to lie on a resume, it’s still a lie when I tick a box for “I have a high school diploma” when I don’t have a high school diploma. It’s an *easier* lie (just ticking a box), but it’s still a lie.

    4. Emmie*

      I agree with you too. I imagine she had to confirm the contents of her application were true. So, did she attest that she submitted valid information on her application? Submitting false information for a job – no matter the form – is still problematic. I see a lie on applications and resumes as equally concerning. Both are a part of the application process. Both require accuracy, and truthfulness.

      You will not see this lie on her resume because people do not place this information on resumes. I wonder if she completed a background check stating she had a diploma or GED. If she lied there too, I’d be concerned with your background screening practices or vendor.

      I do not want to see her terminated for this. She’s doing well. This credential appears not needed for the position. But I am still uncomfortable with her lie(s). How does this company treat others who lied on their application materials including the resume? She should be treated the same as others unless the company can justify a reason for treating her differently.

      1. Saberise*

        2 other points…
        1) While I can understand her in theory doing what she did since it wouldn’t allow her to apply without checking that box. However, she could have come clean during the hiring process and chose not to.
        2) We I work we literally can’t hire someone if they don’t meet the education requirements listed. In part because the education requirements are tied into position titles and pay. So if we say a degree is required and have an outstanding candidate without that degree, HR would require us to repost the position at a lower classification.

  15. Leela*

    LW #5 – is your timesheet software pretty straightforward? I took over someone’s manager job when they left and at the same time they switched to an awwwwwwful payroll software, let’s call it “Nightstrength”. It’s so bad that I almost quit, we had to fire an employee because he outright refused to enter his time and then threatened legal action for us not paying (but paying what? nothing was entered and his schedule is very erratic and we’re not psychic, I’m not in the US so our laws may be different), and we just lost someone because it’s so bad that the time it takes to actually DO your timesheet can be 5x longer and it STILL fails and then those people have to spend forever battling payroll to untangle what happened. The result of all this is a staff that really, really hates the timesheet software, always forgets to do it or outright avoids it, always tries to make up for that by inaccurately reporting work on days they didn’t work to try and make up for the missed time, or have literally resorted to just e-mailing me their hours after the cut off when they can’t enter anything so they just never use the system at all. It’s been an absolute nightmare but the decision makers won’t go back to the old system which apparently took up 5% of the manager’s time and currently takes 30-60% of my time on any given day.

    Perhaps there’s something about the software that makes it more uninviting/something people dread? Do you have any power to look at or recommend different payroll software?

    1. Indy Dem*

      Now I’m trying to guess the software, but I don’t have the background to make an educated guess. So I’m thinking you are either using similar terms, so the software name could be “EveningPower” which sounds odd and or a little inappropriate (like an ED medication), or you are using opposite terms, so the software could be DayWeakness which would be a marketing fail. Hmm

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Workday? I’ve used that one and it’s AWFUL. It makes ADP look user-friendly, and ADP is a nightmare.

        With both of them, they were kludgy and had a lot of scheduled downtime at times when our hourly staff were punching in and out, which meant we were constantly going through and fixing errors (like someone got paid at their old, lower paycode instead of their current, higher paycode, or their out punch recorded as an in-punch and instead of working 12 pm – 5 pm they’re down as working 5 pm to 12 pm the next day, or they didn’t punch in at all because the site was down.)

        I would say supervisor manual overrides were over 50% of the in-out punches on someone’s timecard. It was that bad.

        1. Cinnamon*

          Bad timekeeping applications is why my company literally created its own internal app for finance to use with our employees.

        2. Massmatt*

          Given how many people and employers need to use these systems, and how important they are, it’s amazing there are so many bad ones! ADP is enormous, probably a plurality if not most of my checks have come through them, though I suppose that doesn’t mean the employers used their time card system.

    2. pilcrow*

      Yes, please to simplified timesheets! I’m in a position now where I don’t have to fill them out, but in my life as a W-2 contractor*, it was quite the challenge.

      Over the years there were:
      – 5-part carbonless copy forms requiring a signature and faxed in (used these well into the 2000s – the CEO’s brother owned a printing company and they produced the forms)
      – a mangled Excel spreadsheet that mimicked the above-mentioned 5-part form but continually did not add up correctly (and we still had to print and fax them)
      – a web-based form that didn’t submit correctly half the time, so we screen captured it and emailed a graphic file (but at least no fax!)
      – finally a web-based system that worked and wasn’t too hard. Yay! Company went under 2 years later…
      – Not to mention the host of client timekeeping systems. At my last client there were 3 timesheets: 1 to my pro staff employer, 1 to the client’s contractor system, 1 to-the-hour tracking system so they could bill *their* clients

      *W-2 contractor: I was salaried and exempt and paid through a professional services firm, but my employer needed to invoice clients.

  16. rayray*

    To #2, maybe another idea would be to post on Volunteer specific websites, like Volunteers of America, JustServe, or see if you can work with local college campuses. If the ads are on indeed, zip recruiter, etc., People are looking for paid work.

    1. introverted af*

      I thought about this too, but they say they are posting them on their own site. I was really prepared to go off about it and then decided I better double check.

      Regardless, those are valuable volunteer recruitment tools and they should consider them.

      1. Rayray*

        I guess I read too fast.

        Maybe he website could be tweaked so that website visitors will click something that says “Volunteer/Service Opportunities” vs. “Careers/Jobs”.

  17. introverted af*

    #2 – Considering that you describe these as leadership positions, it also seems like you might benefit from more targeted recruiting, reaching out to and cultivating candidates for the position through connections to existing volunteers or your network.

  18. Fikly*

    I love when AAM gets letters that are essentially, Can I do x illegal thing because I’m annoyed at my employees? No, no you can’t, because it’s illegal. Even if your employees are doing something illegal, that does not make doing illegal things to them in retaliation legal.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      It’s always about your ethics and your ass that you want to cover. It’s illegal. Stop even thinking about that kind of BS. Fire someone if they’re not doing something on time and to your standards, don’t not pay them though.

      I had to pay people for days they literally just stood there and then walked off the job. Did it make me annoyed AF, sure the heck did but I didn’t even dream of withholding pay for any amount of time 0.O

      1. Marthooh*

        Dear AAM: My employees are extremely disrespectful to my very face. They’ll stare at me silently when I try to direct them, turn their backs, even walk out of the room! Can I withhold pay to force them to shape up?

        Alison: Yeah, no, my cats do that too, but you still have to feed ’em.

    2. Threeve*

      Even if it wasn’t illegal, it is terrible. Where I work, they wouldn’t actually withhold pay, but they aren’t ashamed to threaten it, and are well aware that not everyone knows they legally can’t withhold a paycheck.

      The last reminder we got was “timecards that are not submitted by Friday cannot be processed for payroll.” And then they wonder why people don’t trust our HR.

    3. Cinnamon*

      My first thought was if this is a super small company handing out physical checks then it’s still illegal but I’ve definitely done a minor task to get my check at the end of the day. Then I read ‘well they’ll just wait until the next pay period.’ uh…NO!!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I mean we used to not handout checks until after lunch on payday because we had a history of people getting their check and then bagging off early for the day, lol. But yeah, we’d have a riot on our hands if we ever were like “Oh you irked us, so nah you can wait another week! [we were weekly at that point].”

    4. Arctic*

      And, in the US, the number of things that are actually illegal to do to your employees is so low! There is so many ways you can legally screw them over! But you have to find the few illegal ways to do it too?

    5. CuriousJane*

      That made me laugh. The worst my current company does is mark you as in leave status for the week if you don’t submit. You still get paid but you have the incentive to go back and correct it if you want your leave back.

  19. LeighTX*

    Re: LW#1, my husband has a part-time employee who was “unschooled”–she never went to an actual school and was allowed to do pretty much whatever she wanted, and now is having to go to tutoring just to pass the GED. But she is a fantastic worker and extremely good at what she does, and I hate that not having a diploma has held her back from finding a full-time job so far. (My husband is paying for her GED exams and is offering a raise incentive when she passes each section.) I’ve known other people in similar situations who for whatever reason were never able to finish high school, and I’d encourage anyone who doesn’t HAVE to have that specific requirement to take it off their job descriptions. You might be losing out on terrific employees.

      1. Giant Squid*

        Yep, ideally the person taking care of the homeschooling would fill out the proper paperwork to ensure they have one. That’s pretty straightforward in most states.

    1. Tidewater 4-1009*

      Employers assume a person without high school or GED is an ignorant loser and as we see here, that’s not true.
      Sadly, many also have such attitudes about a college degree.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Your husband sounds similar minded as the owner’s I’ve worked for and with over the years. You find those “diamonds in the rough” and you don’t just chuck them out, you polish the hell out of it.

      My owners have all had their own stories of struggle though, so that’s helped shape how they treat others. Learning disabilities holding them back and such.

      But I’m also one of those success stories though. I have my high school diploma and that was all I had when I was chucked into society, it was hard enough at that stage. I can’t even imagine starting out without even that scrap of worthless paper. Yay…I was blessed enough to have a childhood and parental structure that allowed me at that young age to go to compulsory education.

    3. Blueberry*

      If you can, please tell your husband people on the Internet think he’s awesome for materially encouraging his employee like this. :)

      1. LeighTX*

        I will tell him! But really it wasn’t even a question for him–he needed help, this young lady had the time and energy to do the work, and it has worked out beautifully for both of them. :)

  20. Annony*

    LW#3: I think it depends on how large a raise you got and whether you actually discussed salary expectations. If it was a substantial raise, you probably want to reach out and mention it. If it is more modest, then it may not even change salary expectation that much (you probably wanted a raise to switch jobs anyway). If you talked about salary expectation and you wouldn’t want the job at the rate you discussed, tell them ahead of the next interview.

  21. voyager1*

    I have been in this woman’s shoes. However I dropped back in and got my diploma through a alternative program. That allowed me to join the military. I am college educated now. I consider all that my distant past, but definitely something that helped shape who I am today.

    1. I would verify that she does not have a GED
    2. If no GED I would give her a timeframe to complete it or be fired. Assuming of course I had the actually authority to do that.

    Going around lying about the diploma just reinforces the stigma around dropouts.

      1. voyager1*

        Well the big one is “you will never get anywhere in life.” At least that was a favorite when I was in high school in the mid 90s. At that time the military wouldn’t even take a GED, it had to be a HS diploma. The program I went to had a several other folks working with recruiters so they could enlist.

        A HS diploma is literally a participation certificate. Showing up is literally 90% of the task to complete.

    1. Indigo a la mode*

      It sounds like she was honest about it pretty quickly after her hire. To me this sounds like a peril of online applications that refuse you if you don’t conform exactly to the standards, even though many, many amazing employees don’t fit exactly into the box an online application allows. I can definitely see why someone would check the wrong box in order to move far enough ahead to actually meet someone and prove you’re good for the work, which she did. That’s how it should be.

      The stigma around dropouts (HS and college) should definitely go away, but that needs to happen on the side of the employers recognizing that you don’t 100% need a degree to do the work. (Obviously there are some exceptions to this, like being a doctor or academic.)

      1. voyager1*

        When it comes to HS it isn’t just employers. Any HS girl who gets pregnant and drops our faces huge stigma.

      1. merp*

        yeah, I think if going by a sort of “do no harm” principle here, firing this person would only reinforce the standard that a diploma is for some reason necessary, and could really cause problems for this person in the process. what’s the point of that?

          1. lobsterp0t*

            It just means the qualification is irrelevant. Which means despite the work that you might have unfortunately had to do to get there – the system is broken. Not the people trying to survive it.

  22. Loon with Bassoon*

    I’m a seasoned professional that does not have a high school diploma or a GED. I do have a BA and am currently completing the final bit of my MS. When I complete on-line applications that ask if I completed HS, I lie about it. The application will not allow me to continue if I don’t. I did say I am ‘seasoned’ so I did job applications on paper for years. On those I simply didn’t answer either way and found that having my BA was what they were looking for and was rarely asked about the omission. If your employee has no additional education credentials, it would be a kindness to offer them support if they want to pursue their GED. Does your company offer continuing education benefits?

    1. Tidewater 4-1009*

      If the employee applies for continuing education to get her GED, it will be documented that she lied about having a high school diploma and she might get in trouble.
      Maybe OP could offer moral support for her getting a GED, but the employee shouldn’t let others know she lied on her application.

        1. Blueberry*

          Well, her supervisor the LW knows — they may be keeping this secret from the larger organization.

    2. Verde*

      ^^ This.
      And everyone keeps addressing the matter of helping the person get their GED or other certification, which is absolutely fantastic, but only *part* of the solution.

      The other thing that needs to be discussed is why the onerous educational requirements in the first place? As Alison points out, having a formal education might be problematic for many people for a variety of reasons, but does not necessarily preclude them from being an amazing employee. Why not change the requirements, say something along the lines of: “Certificate or Associate’s degree [in XXX subject]; or an equivalent combination of education and professional experience sufficient to successfully perform the essential duties of the job as listed.”

      As a person who only has a GED and piecemeal higher education, but holds a senior position do to an immense amount of experience and self-directed learning (which is how I learn best), this is a major thing for me. I do not care what people have, as long as they have the chops to do the work. I know plenty of amazing workers with degrees, and I’ve known a lot of really crappy employees with degrees. Repeat for no degrees. Resumes, cover letters, interviews, and actual work time will prove the point – you either got it, or you don’t. I celebrate the folks who do well with formal education, but it’s not an environment I thrive in and/or it’s not an opportunity everyone has.

      1. Loon with Bassoon*

        I have found even jobs with alternative requirements will bounce my on-line app if I answer no to the HS question. I think you are very right in that there are a lot of positions out there that have educational requirements that aren’t really needed to be successful in the job.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The thing here is that the OP can easily [well hopefully easily] update their company’s way of doing this. They can stop asking for a HS or equivalent diploma. That’s great from that company perspective.

        However, this goes beyond the OP’s range of how much they can be impactful moving this person forward in life. They won’t land in the OP’s and their like minded people’s lap every single time. So to help them get that step up with a GED would close a giant gap they see for a person right in front of them.

        Eventually, we may finally take over the world with enough of our like mindedness and demolish these ridiculous requirements but we can’t just go blindly into it thinking that our way or the highway. That’s where this unfortunate for the moment compromise comes in.

        So yes, fix your internal controls and do so with other places you land up at [that’s the story of my career as well]. While still helping others look outside the “one day if you leave here, you’re better prepared for this cruddy ass world with their stupid requirements of one another that still lingers.”

        This is why we offer training in areas that people don’t even do for us. Because no, I don’t need another accountant but you want to train in accounting, I’m going to back that and fight for you to better yourself and society in the end by tuning your skills to what’s best for you.

      3. No Regerts*

        I didn’t do very well with formal education (see also: 22 years to finish my bachelors) but I did really well with online learning and testing out of basic requirements. I finished my degree at Thomas Edison, but there are many options out there. I’m not any smarter, but I checked a box and it’s opened more doors for me because sadly there are people who are really, really fixated on that box being checked.

      1. Loon with Bassoon*

        The college accepted me based on test scores and that I only had a few classes that remained. They required my HS to write a formal ‘release’ letter regarding something about losing funding (long time ago). I was 16 when I started my freshman year. One of the only times it has been an issue was when I applied for grad school, they simply didn’t believe I had a BA and no diploma. Made me jump through a bunch of extra hoops.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This is so intriguing to me. I’m glad you shared your story and different pathway.

          I just had someone demand a high school diploma be produced by a guy who graduated 17 years ago. And thankfully his mom has it in her keepsakes so he found it pretty quickly.

          And that was just for a community college training program. My mind kept going to “What if he didn’t graduate…it’s not the kind of program that I’d assume would require any prerequisites…” [Which is good to know too because now when I sign people up for this, I have more information. Nobody told me that prior and this could be a huge issue at some point since we have people who span all levels of education and lack there of. ]

          The hoop system still continues to sour me on the high education though as well. There’s the double edge sword of finding more information. You were determined to go that route. Lots of us stop at the first hoop, I sure did.

          1. Senor Montoya*

            Haha, I applied for a job a couple years ago that wanted transcripts for all of my education, PhD on back thru HS graduation. I graduated h.s. in the early 1980s. What a pain, and completely pointless. The registrar at my high school was amused. They had to get it out of the district archives (no point in digitizing ancient manuscripts, I guess) and scan it.

          2. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Colleges are just like every other company: They want money. They use tricks, lies and manipulations to get students to take classes. They let people take out loans knowing they probably won’t get a better job with their college degrees.
            This is one of the reasons I stopped going.

        2. LunaMei*

          I did something similar for my BA, but when I applied for my MA, the program I selected didn’t even ask about a high school diploma. And this was after doing really poorly on the math portion of the GMAT. I’m got accepted into a really good linguistics program. I’m sure if it was something more STEM-based, they would have cared more about the math GMAT scores and possibly the diploma, so it’s definitely program-dependent, but some programs do not care about the diploma at all.

          My alma mater didn’t really care about not having a diploma for my BA either. By the time I was accepted, I had done some courses at a community college, so I was just counted as a transfer.

        3. Darren*

          I also entered university without completing high school at pretty much the same age. I’ve acquired all the way up to a PhD but still no high school or equivalent, and I do enjoy putting down the fact I didn’t complete high school but do have a PhD on any form that asks. Given I work in tech and tend to be headhunted instead of applying for jobs it doesn’t really come up in the employment side of my life.

        1. Loon with Bassoon*

          Not homeschooled. It wasn’t really a thing people did much at the time. I didn’t even hear about it until well into adulthood. I went to public schools.

      2. A tester, not a developer*

        Not OP, but colleges/universities where I live will take you through ‘academic bridging’ or ‘transitional year’ programs.

        1. curly sue*

          I have a family member who went through a program like that. They had to leave high school and do classes remotely due to some serious health problems, and never did end up finishing. Once their health improved enough, they bridged in to University with a couple of classes a semester until they had the rhythm of it all. They graduated with honours and have an excellent and well-paid career now, thanks to that opportunity.

        2. Loon with Bassoon*

          I mentioned that I’m seasoned and the options were minimal. I am pleased to see that there are more options now. Our kids took college classes through their HS, some others (not ours) actually went to college part time as part of their last year or two of HS.

      3. Mary*

        I did the same thing. Through a complicated situation that involved a very troubled parent, it looked like I would miss high school graduation by one credit. I had already been accepted to a university, and they accepted a letter from my high school outlining the situation in lieu of a diploma.

    3. Lilo*

      My Dad has a MD but not a college degree. He was accepted to med school early. That trips up stuff sometimes.

      1. Salmon Dean*

        Same with my Mom. She went to med school in the 60’s though, so I’m not sure if they still do it that way.

  23. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    We have an exempt employee who goes many months without filling out/submitting their time sheets, but takes regular sick and vacation leave at least once/week. The trouble with not submitting time sheets is the time off balance then doesn’t reflect those times they were out. Plus, this person figures if enough time goes by, super busy boss won’t remember when employee took time off and they then get away with not taking the sick and vacation time they actually did use. It works a lot of the time (boss does forget).

    1. irene adler*

      Super busy boss should start a log of the days off. Then, when the time card is submitted and it doesn’t reflect the log, refuse to sign it until it properly reflects the time taken.

      I ended up having to do this with my report. I had assumed he was honest and would put in the days off. At first, yes, but later on, nope. So I returned the time sheets for correction-until they matched my log. Glad he’s gone now.

  24. Cringing 24/7*

    OP2, I am… baffled at the thought process behind ‘We don’t say anything about salary, so they should assume it’s not a paid position.’ Um. What?! MOST companies don’t say anything about salary. Please, please, PLEASE state that you’re posting non-paid/volunteer positions!!!

    1. Rayray*

      Exactly. I don’t get why these people are so shocked and appalled that people think a job would be paid.

      These opportunities need to be explicitly advertised as volunteer. Sounds like the kind of place that thinks they’d be doing someone a favor by letting them do free labor for them. If you want volunteers, post on volunteer boards, or work with college or high school kids who might need some service hours or experience.

  25. Crabby Patty*

    I’ve been the liar, although not about my education. A one-off narrative:

    For a few years after high school, and before going to college, I worked a variety of restaurant jobs: busser, expediter, dishwasher, hostess, saute’ cook —> which nearly got me fired because I squealed at the flames! Nope.

    In college, I applied for a server position for a well-known, Australian-themed steakhouse, and said on the application and in the interview that I had experience waiting tables. I got the job, and, as I got increasingly experienced, I became a good, reliable employee. I took care of my tables, helped run food to other servers’ tables, did side work without complaint, MADE SURE I GOT ALONG WITH THE BACK OF THE HOUSE, got compliments from customers routinely, made excellent tips, and eventually became a head wait. Bonus: I very discreetly, and off company property, scored some excellent weed occasionally.

    I don’t say any of that to brag; it’s just that I went way out of my to keep that job because it was perfect for my then-current situation, i.e. earning my BA in history. Again, though, I did lie about my qualifications initially. About two years into the job, I confessed that to another server, who blabbed to our head manager. He was angry about it at first, I think because he felt disrespected, but I brought in high sales, didn’t call in sick, and did my work reliably well; presumably, he looked the other way because of all that. After graduation, I moved to another state and transferred with that same company as a server just to pay the bills as I looked for a professional position. My disrespected boss – because I did disrespect him by lying – gave me a stellar reference.

    Point is, I had done everything else BUT wait tables prior to being a server, and ever since have believed it’s pretty easy for most people who have been in a similar situation to step into a related role without much complication.

    Meanwhile, Alison is spot on in her response, IMO. My mom doesn’t have a college degree, but she’s well-read and so you’d never know that about her in talking or working with her. Keep your employee, LW, and, as others have suggested, see if your company has resources to help her get her GED.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      After all the vindictive bosses we hear about, it gave me a pause while reading your story and praying that your manager didn’t lash out at your in the end when you went for the transfer! Phew.

      I’ve had plenty of moments where I’m like “Well I wish you hadn’t did that…that makes me feel foolish because I got lied to.” but then the next thought is “but I didn’t get burned because you’re awesome, shit happens, our circumstances don’t define us.”

      I’ve been burned by falling for lies before. The ones who interview so well, say they have it all and their background seemingly backs it up. Only to have them fail so hard. Again, still in the power position though and I fire them and grumble a lot to myself/other managers and then we just pick it back up and go towards the next one.

      I’ve seen enough frogs turn into royalty over the years, so I guess these stories of people fibbing about something that ends up being insignificant in the end that I am better at not taking this stuff as personally anymore. At least not enough to grind an axe, just a few cusses under my breath and a grouchy night here and there. Then it’s back to the grind because things happen. People happen.

  26. Carlie*

    OP1 – if you are helping your employee research high school completion programs, be sure to look outside the term “GED”. Some states have alternative tests that they use instead, and some have adult learner programs that lead to an actual high school diploma instead of the alternate certification. It might even be, looking into it, that the employee wasn’t missing any classes but had some kind of paperwork problem with being awarded the degree (overdue library fine etc.)

    My only concern about the situation is if OP1 could get in trouble higher up for witholding the information from their employer. I don’t know what the advise would be then.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Community colleges offer a dual HS degree/AA degree. If you complete the AA degree, you also get a HS degree with it. That might be a great opportunity for the right person.

      1. voyager1*

        I am a graduate of an alternative program (mid 1990s). If the person is young and a dropout, check with the local military recruiter (assuming this is in the US). Sometimes the recruiters can get folks into programs for no cost because the graduate will be enlisting. That is what I did. And if you don’t make it through MEPS you will still have your diploma.

        1. Jenna*

          Not everyone can/want to enlist, though. Whether that be for health reasons or conscience/religious reasons.

    2. RecoveringSWO*

      I was about to say this. Re/learning certain subjects for the GED can be incredibly challenging and negatively impact your employees work and home life. Programs that offer students credit for prior classes are so helpful for parsing down the amount of information/theories/subjects a student needs to learn in their off time.

  27. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    On the paycheck question, my organization (a mix of non-exempt and exempt workers) went the route of gradually phasing in departmental penalties for a pattern of failing to timely approve employee time-sheets — essentially a modest fine paid from the departmental budget. The issue were supervisors failing approve employee-submitted time/time off by the deadline (and in some cases at all). This change came after lots of coordinated communication and hands on work with the departments most chronically delinquent in their timesheet approvals, truly as a last resort. The result is that time-sheet approvers are much more accountable for the overall process, ensuring that employees submit their time, and that they are approved by the deadline. I’m not always for penalty approach, but here it is mostly the option of a penalty that did the trick of getting supervisors to better own and track this responsibility.

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Sounds good!
      I am for sure sometimes guilty of not getting in my timesheet on time – sometimes (rarely) I forget, sometimes a process issue (new project not in the system by Friday but hours already worked on it) and sometimes a software bug – our system is quite nice on the front end, but there’s a bunch of fairly brittle batch jobs in the background that tend to break *after* the frontend has given me the green light, so the only way to make sure is to look up my timesheet again next day to verify. Ugh.

  28. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #5 – why would the solution be any different than an employee not doing any number of their job duties? If filling out a time sheet is part of their job responsibilities, then you hold them accountable and enforce consequences when they don’t do it.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I never said part of the consequences should be withholding pay. I’m talking about the normal types of consequences of not doing your job – warnings, write ups, etc…

  29. Tidewater 4-1009*

    I’m unemployed and looking and I applied for a job that’s a pretty good match at a well-respected organization.
    Their system automatically rejected me because I didn’t finish a college degree.
    This organization is also missing out on a great employee! with more than 8 years applicable experience.
    I’ve lost interest in that organization. It’s huge and would be a tough commute from where I currently live, though I want to move next year. There are lots of other jobs in my big city, where I would be appreciated.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      One company I’ve applied to a few jobs at, has really strict screener questions. If you don’t go back to the ad and read it as you’re filling them out, they’ll throw out your application.

      So say you have 6 years’ experience as a llama trainer, and the job posting says they want 3-5 years’ experience as a llama trainer. You’ll be asked to select a)1-2 years experience, b) 3-5 years’ experience, c) 6-8 years’ experience. If you select C, because you have 6 years’ experience, you will get thrown out for not having 3-5 years’ experience. Even though you are likely a good candidate for the job.

      It’s maddening.

      1. Rayray*

        That is absolutely ridiculous.

        I hate hate hate the x years of experience thing on job postings. Someone told me once they were applying for some sort of programming or coding job, and the listing required x years of experience on a certain language, and that language hadn’t even existed that long.

        It’s also dumb because someone could easily have a more value two years vs someone else’s five.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have going on two decades of extensive experience and I am automatically rejected from systems who require a college degree.

      I feel the same way you do. I just go “okay, your loss.” at this stage.

      Some places wouldn’t even hire me to just do AP or AR positions that are years removed from what I do and would be a major step down because they require at least an AA, they don’t believe in “or equivalent experience”.

      If they’re this tunnel visioned in their hiring practices, I don’t want a thing to do with them. So at least they let me self select out so much easier and saves me the time.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Absolutely! I completely agree and it’s their loss on both of us.
        How stupid is it to think a degree is more important than experience? *eyeroll*

  30. Liz*

    LW#1- My first reaction would be to ask if the woman in question has a GED. If not, I would have a chat with HR about my options. If she lied about her education, what else would she lie about?

    I have an AS in a field that is rapidly adopting the BS as a minimum, even though about 50% of people in the field had a diploma or AS. I have a BA in another field, and neither tie time nor the money to pursue another degree. I have 10 years of experience, but a surprising number of doors are closed to me because I don’t have a BS. I’ve considered lying about it, but with my luck I would be found out and summarily fired.

    1. Filosofickle*

      I’m a little surprised that the response was that the lie was understandable and should be overlooked. Before anyone jumps on that, let me say this: I personally don’t care about this lie, and believe degree requirements like this are arbitrary and often counterproductive. I’m fine with the response! But based on past letters and comments, I expected to see something more along the lines of “what else would they lie about”, despite the good performance otherwise.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Forgot to note: If this had been a lie about having a college degree, would anyone’s response be different? Just curious.

        1. Lilo*

          Depends a bit on the degree. Lying about having, say, a civil engineering degree would be a HUGE deal. There’s a spectrum for sure.

          1. Amy Sly*

            Yeah. Lying about a degree that is necessary for a professional certification? Absolutely not acceptable.

            Lying about a degree because someone decided that their bank tellers/insurance agents/office admins need a degree to prove they’re properly “professional”? Who cares. It’s a relic of the days when a bachelor’s degree was a rarity and said something besides, “I borrowed a bunch of money and showed up.” Of course, even then, there was the gentlemen’s C. Now grade inflation has turned that into the gentlemen’s B+.

        2. panic everywhere including the disco*

          I feel “not having a high school diploma” and “not having a college degree” are very different things in the US today. Not having a high school diploma = high school is mandatory until a specific age = something happened in your life, the system failed you, the school failed you, someone got sick, your family needed you to work to help pay bills, *something happened*.

          No college degree = didn’t go to college or finish it. College is still seen as an extra or unnecessary. High school is seen as a baseline. Not having a high school diploma is a sign, to me, of things around the person failing. Whereas no college degree is an extra they didn’t get.

          1. RecoveringSWO*

            Exactly. To me, there’s a distinct difference in whose at “fault” for not having the degree and the stakes a non-GED/hs diploma applicant is facing when making the choice to lie to software screener. What percentage of jobs can a non-hs educated applicant get that provide health insurance? These circumstances call for a more compassionate response.

            1. Quill*

              Exactly. There’s also a deep well of circumstances regarding age, access, and disability that make a huge difference to whether or not a person was able to get that high school diploma.

              Hire a 60 year old (who would have finished HS in the late 70’s)? They had a very different highschool education than someone who finished high school in 2018, to the point that it’s basically not the same requirement to begin with. Different districts at different times have had different graduation requirements. Not all schools have been accessible to disabled students for very long – the ADA only passed in 1990, and there’s still not a lot invested in helping students graduate despite temporary disabilities or illness (many schools have an attendance requirement for graduation…)

              There’s a lot of circumstances where it’s easy for someone who doesn’t have to make the choice to lie or not to say “lying is always immoral” and the person lying has to find some way to provide for themselves in an unjust system.

              TLDR; we need education and employment reform.

      2. Blueberry*

        Perhaps LW knows the employee reasonably well and can see that this is a one-off particular lie and not the tip of a submerged iceberg of untruthfulness.

      3. Senor Montoya*

        I agree with you. I feel terrible (for both me and for the applicant) who can’t get their application looked at if they tell the truth, even if they meet every other requirement and then some — but if they’re lying, that’s a problem.

    2. Just a Person*

      Same here. I understand that this employee has been an asset and the lie was made of desperation but still, they lied about a requirement for the job. Yeah, a HS diploma isn’t ‘worth’ what it used to be due to a number of factors mentioned (social promoting, teaching to the test, etc) but it still generally indicates a basic level of achievement and skill. There are jobs that don’t require a HS diploma (granted, they’re not usually that great) so it’s not like this was literally her ONLY option.

      Plus, for me there will always be a question of if they get desperate again, what else might they lie about?

      I actually work with students trying to earn their HS diploma after dropping out. And yeah, I can see a marked difference in the students in our actual college level classes and the students in our HS program, their reading, writing, and comprehension skills especially aren’t nearly as strong (although they do improve greatly by the time they finish…..if they finish). So I’m really hesitant to say that just because THIS employee is doing well, that the HS requirement ‘isn’t needed’ and therefore, the lie was ‘irrelevant’.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        This employee isn’t a unicorn. There are plenty of folks with decent skills and a good work ethic who didn’t finish high school. And a bunch of knuckleheads who have.

        Do they need certain skills? Give a skills test. Interview, check references. There are lots of jobs–good jobs, even–that don’t actually require a diploma.

  31. Verde*

    LW #1: This is how we word our education requirement on job applications:
    “Certificate or Associate’s [or Bachelor’s or Master’s] degree [in XXX subject]; or an equivalent combination of education and professional experience sufficient to successfully perform the essential duties of the job as listed.”

    LW #5 – Add something to all job descriptions about doing the internal admin duties, including completing all payroll responsibilities. Then, it’s warning time, then it’s on a review or a PIP, and so on. You can’t withhold their pay, but you can sure as hell fire them for not doing their job. I know it seems like a minor thing, especially to the folks who don’t do it, but it’s also about how you treat your colleagues and understand the importance of their work, and how not doing it impacts the organization as a whole. I’ve dealt with this before, and as the person responsible for showing that we are documenting things, treating staff equitably, following legal requirements, and who has to prove all of this during our annual audit process, this is my job and it’s required or WE LOSE OUR FUNDING (nonprofit land). Then the issue goes away, because then there’s no money to pay anyone with whether they complete their time sheets or not.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      It’s such a big part of your job managing, though. These admin duties really are essential and are really anxiety-inducing for your subordinates if you don’t do them on time (can I take that vacation?).

  32. Bopper*

    Time sheets: We have “keeping up with Timesheets” as a goal for our Performance Review….
    1) Make sure they get time charging codes in a timely manner. can’t fill out your time sheet if you have no codes.
    Have an automated reminder go out weekly.
    2) Have a report weekly on who hasn’t done their time sheets…send out a public email that “The following people have not done their time sheets: John, Pat, Chris
    3) have it be a goal that their evaluation is tied to
    4) Show how they met that goal and tie it to raises.

      1. Allypopx*

        Yeah, incentivize managers to manage. There are ways to force people to fill out their time sheets without withholding pay. If they aren’t doing it then it’s a performance issue. Treat it like any other performance issue – which you presumably wouldn’t solve by withholding a paycheck.

  33. MissDisplaced*

    #1: I don’t think it was right to lie on the application. But you’d have to measure some factors here. Did she lie only on the online part (but not on the paper application/resume)? What is the level of the job?
    I do feel this matters much more for higher level jobs that require a college degree, but a lot of this depends on the work/duties.

    Possible solution: Now that you know, provided they are a good worker and can handle the duties, can you give them a grace period (6 months to 1 year) to obtain their GED? If that is indeed a requirement for the job or company.

  34. Lilo*

    I think I feel very very differently about a high school diploma versus other types of education. If someone said they had an undergrad degree in electrical engineering and didn’t or a master’s in psychology and didn’t that’s a big deal. Lying about experience in a relevant field is a huge deal. A high school diploma is not. And if she has a GED or equivalent then that’s REALLY not important.

    1. Rayray*

      I agree. What if they dropped out and they were only missing a couple credits? So they missed a half credit in physical education, and didn’t do all four years of social studies, and 15 years later they’re not worthy as an adult to be a good employee?

      1. Quill*

        Or they didn’t graduate because they physically couldn’t do a required course. (Phys ed, but I’ve also heard stories of people who were almost denied graduation over driver’s ed… because they had a disability that prevented them from driving.)

        I’ve also read news stories of districts trying to deny graduation over unpaid lunch or library loan debt, attendance, number of detentions / suspensions, parental non-payment of registration fees…

  35. Oh No She Di'int*

    LW 1: Although I definitely agree that it seems worth it to keep this employee and move on, I’d still be a bit more cautious about scrapping a requirement–any requirement–based on this one case. You will absolutely get a very, very different pool of applicants for future positions if you stop requiring a high school diploma. I’m not saying there won’t be qualified people in the mix; I would just caution that you’ll have to work harder to separate those who will be able to thrive in a business environment (assuming that’s what we’re talking about here) from those who won’t.

    As a business owner myself, the reason for having requirements like this is because hiring is an insanely expensive, labor-intensive, risk prone process. Requiring a high school diploma just helps to mitigate the risk. Does it mean that 100% of people with a high school diploma are qualified and 100% of people without one are unqualified? Of course not. But a requirement helps you slightly tip the odds in your favor.

    It’s a bit like finding out that someone drove down the highway and arrived at their destination safely, and it turned out they didn’t have a driver’s license. I would not conclude from that that driver’s licenses are irrelevant. YMMV.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Yes, but sometimes requirements like this can be used to screen out people of a particular socioeconomic or racial class. Basing your requirements on experience is a far better way to go. I mean honestly—how useful is that high school world history class going to be you on a factory floor or prepping vegetables in a restaurant?

      1. Human Decency Haver*

        Screening out people of a particular socioeconomic or racial class is EXACTLY what a “business owner myself” means when they warn about getting a “very, very different pool of applicants.” Doesn’t your heart just bleed for the poor businessownermyself, enduring all the “risk” of reading resumes and scheduling interviews. Unlike those no-HS-degree-having layabouts, who as we all know live a life of candy and rainbows.

    2. Blueberry*

      I have two questions:

      1) The theoretical. One could make a case that hiring women is more risky than hiring men because women may get pregnant and need time off or leave for that. But we have, for very good reason, made it illegal to discriminate against women in hiring. I’m not saying that high school degrees are irrelevant or the same kind of quality, but I am pointing out that the risk vs fairness equation may not come down on the side of avoiding risk, depending on the person, the job, and so on.

      2) The practical. Would it be useful/practical to say, “high school degree or X continuous years of employment in Y field” to help screen out people whose lack of a high school degree would indicate inability to thrive in a business environment? Or some other equivalent requirement that could be substituted for the degree with reasonably reliable results?

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        #2 is spot on!

        Plus, I know a lot of folks with HS diplomas and college degrees who couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag. Degrees are one thing; the knowledge and skills that are supposed to come with them but often don’t are quite another.

  36. Jam Today*

    LW#1 is a perfect example of why programmatically excluding people is a bad idea. If your resume system had booted her based on a single variable, you would never have found this excellent employee that you value so highly.

  37. Lilo*

    I’ll also point out online forms can be extremely confusing. I would never accuse someone of lying based on an online check box.

  38. anonymous slug*

    I’m always shocked when employees DON’T take time off between jobs! Yes, it’s in our best interest (and maybe theirs from a financial/health insurance perspective) to have them start ASAP but when I start looking for another role, I’m planning on taking as long as possible off between gigs!

    I’m wondering if there is a big difference between being a more entry-level employee vs senior level (where I’m at). One week wouldn’t be nearly enough time to decompress and simultaneously get pumped up for a new role. I’d need weeks/months!

    1. Grand Mouse*

      I felt “naughty” as an entry level employee by wrapping up my two week notice in time to avoid the worst days on my schedule, and have a few days off between jobs. i INTENTIONALLY left at a busy time because I knew my health couldn’t take going through that again (Black Friday and lasting holiday madness). So yeah, I did feel guilty for not working out those last days right up my new job, but I have to admit also that having to go through any more of those horrible shifts and kick back was so, so nice.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Hah! When I quit the shoe store — I’d been there full time for two years, then did two years as a weekend only part timer — I made sure my last day was the Sunday before Black Friday. It’s amazing how much happier one can be at Christmas if one doesn’t have to be at the mall.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      At one point, I wound up with about six weeks between wrapping one job and starting the next. That was too long! I was climbing the walls and absolutely crazy with cabin fever by the time my new job started. It wasn’t a problem financially — I had a nice severance package — but it was just too darn long with not enough to do.

  39. Oh No She Di'int*

    LW 1: I do feel compelled to mention someone we mostly seem to be forgetting about here. Someone filled out that form honestly, did what they thought was right, finished high school or got a GED and was out there trying to get a job. That person didn’t get the job because they were passed over for someone who lied on the application.

    I just want to point out the moral hazard we’ve set up here.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, honestly, this seems to be a bit of an exceptional case — employee lied on the application but is an excellent employee. As opposed to — employee lied on the application, turned out to believe lying is okay if they really really wanted to.

      1. Blueberry*

        I think by being an excellent employee the LW’s employee has earned at least some consideration before summary firing, and I think that decision can be made about the specific employee without setting a precedent that honesty is unnecessary. If the employee were described in any less than glowing terms *and* had not been the one to tell LW about this deception (which I think indicates their general honesty), I’d be much less on their side, but I think in this particular case applying the rule “lie and be fired” with complete strictness might do more harm than good.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeah, I don’t disagree that in this case, there are significant mitigating factors. But it’s good to keep in mind that they are mitigating factors, not precedent.

    2. panic everywhere including the disco*

      I disagree, especially because “high school diploma” is often used as a filtering mechanism (which you admit above to doing), not as something that is meant to show expertise or experience. It’s not like I tried to get hired for a nurse position without knowing anything about nursing. What was that person meant to have learned in high school that makes any difference for this position?

      What does “finishing high school” mean to you, as a business owner? And what does lying about it mean other than that someone needed a job? It didn’t come up at any other point, the person can do the job… why does it matter? I really don’t see any moral hazard here at all. You can’t assume that someone was cheated out of a job or whatever, it wasn’t that person’s job to begin with! It wasn’t anyone’s job, and now it’s this person’s. The hiring manager made a hiring decision.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        This column is routinely flooded with job-seekers frustrated over why they didn’t get job X even though they thought they were perfect for it and did the process exactly as it was meant to be done. I’m comfortable telling that person, maybe someone else was a better fit or maybe someone else had more experience. I’m not comfortable telling that person, maybe you didn’t get the job because someone else lied on the application and that’s ok because they really wanted it and besides they turned out to be really good at it. That’s the moral hazard.

        1. Arctic*

          Well, no one has asked you to tell anyone anything.

          This person was a good candidate and is a good employee.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          But that’s not how cause and effect works. In your hypothetical situation, whether or not the person hired lied has no impact at all on the person who didn’t check the box for high school diploma. They were going to be screened out regardless of what the hired person did.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Sorry I think I misunderstood your hypothetical and you meant someone that *did* have a diploma. But that’s an even worse question IMO. If someone else was passed over for this job then it was because they thought the person hired was a better fit. And that’s apparently still true.

    3. Jedi Squirrel*

      This is in no way equivalent to the college admissions scandal. In those cases, a less qualified student was given admission over a more qualified student. Here, the high school diploma is just a baseline, as in “you must be this tall to apply for this job”.

      did what they thought was right, finished high school or got a GED

      Wait—so you’re making a moral judgment that not finishing high school or a GED is wrong? People have all sorts of reasons for dropping out of school. (FWIW, my mother had to drop out of school in seventh grade because of socioeconomic issues, not because she decided not to do what was “right,” so this statement kind of rustles my jimmies.)

    4. Jedi Squirrel*

      That person didn’t get the job because they were passed over for someone who lied on the application

      You honestly don’t know that, though. Take out the question about the diploma, and this applicant could have easily been the best candidate. And apparently was, because she got the job.

      Throw in that question about the diploma, and she’s out right from the start. That question, honestly answered, would actually have eliminated the best candidate.

  40. Jedi Squirrel*

    the online application would have booted her from the application

    You gamed the system. She played your game, and won.

    Rethink your requirements. Is this requirement because you think a high school diploma is absolutely necessary to do the job, or because you think it will keep out the riff-raff?

    I like this employee’s moxie. And she’s good at her job. I’d be giving her a promotion, and quick.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        I meant they gamed the application by putting in an irrelevant requirement, presumably to keep out the perceived riff-raff. Lots of online applications do this.

        (Potentially related: In the 1970’s, at the peak of the energy crisis, a survey was done to see how many people were actually trying to conserve energy. One of the questions asked was “have you installed a thermidor in your car?” Lots of people answered yes, which is odd, because thermidor is a method of cooking lobster. They were just trying to see who was lying on the survey. The shibboleth question has a long history.)

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I don’t see how “complete basic education” is gaming the system or irrelevant. Sure, you’re going to occasionally find someone who can do the job without that requirement, but it isn’t like asking for a degree in underwater basket-weaving in order to be a receptionist.

          1. fposte*

            Right, it *is* the system; it’s not gaming itself.

            I think there are lot of reasons to keep this employee on despite the application discrepancy, but I also think it’s overall a bad direction to make it out to be the employer’s fault for merely asking the question, because then you end up with employers requiring high school diplomas.

          2. Oh No She Di'int*

            I think Jedi Squirrel is just trying to say that they’ve made the system into a game. Something along those lines?

            1. Jedi Squirrel*

              Kind of. They put a question in that would deliberately kick people of a certain class out. It’s a weeder question. The applicant saw it for what it was, figured out how to answer it to her advantage, and then got the damn job and did well at it.

        2. Quill*

          I keep seeing applications in my field that I now know are de-facto screening out disabilities even where accomodation would be easy. Once something like “must be able to sit/stand continuously for 8 hours” “must be able to lift 50 lbs” “must have high school diploma” becomes standard boilerplate for all jobs in an organization it seldom gets questioned if a role actually needs that. (And it’s also hard to tell if the job requires you to stand for 8 hours! Or if you’ll ever need to lift 50 lbs unaided! In these ads I keep seeing there’s a huge range of job duties for, say, plant QC, and some places will deny you a stool for the lab bench while others will have you doing data entry on your samples 50% of the day… and you could just, you know, buy me something to sit on so I could do my job…)

          *sigh* online applications are yikes.

  41. Fiona*

    I agree with the advice on #1, but I think the LW needs to be a little careful about the last part, about how the employee “really needs the job.” That probably shouldn’t come into play. If she’s a great team member and a hard worker, then it’s clear the high school diploma part was just needless gatekeeping and everyone should just carry on. But that should be the thing that LW focuses on, not the need element. It’s empathetic of you, but you don’t want that coloring your perception of her work.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yes, this is important. Lying doesn’t become okay when you really really need the outcome to be a certain way — okay, so I really really need to not get in trouble with my boss for missing a report, so I’m gonna lie to him about it! Nah, that’s an ethical problem.

      The fact that the employee spoke up right away, and that she’s been excellent, speak to her overall quality, and I think the better answer with regard to that is something Alison has talked about before — the rules can be a little different for very high performers, and that’s okay. She’s a high performer. The rules can be a little different for her, in that she’ll be kept on without the HS diploma requirement.

  42. Beancounter Eric*

    LW1: To be brutally honest, the individual in question should not have been hired, as your vetting process should have caught the lack of a high-school diploma.

    What should be done now? There appears to be a great deal of sentiment here for letting it go. I am going against this, and will argue the individual should be terminated for lying on their application. Further, I would go so far as to say any future reference given regarding this individual must make mention of this fact.

    Integrity matters.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      It’s easy to have integrity when you also have privilege.

      If this is how you reward honesty, then your organization is full of people who are keeping things from you.

      1. Windchime*

        Exactly this. It’s easy to pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have boots. Many times, all a person needs is a chance to prove themselves. Maybe the employee will now have a chance to get her GED now that she has an income.

        I feel like the US (where I live) has such a rigid societal structure. People who didn’t finish high school are not automatically losers or liars. Sometimes they are just people trying to survive.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        So we shouldn’t expect people without privilege to act without integrity?

        I mean this seriously, not sarcastically: is it ok for people without privilege to allowed to be less honest, because they don’t have privilege? What are the consequences (good and bad) of answering this question “yes”? Of answering it “no”?

        Is it ok for people *with* privilege to be expected to be more honest, because they do have privilege? What are the consequences (good and bad) of answering this question “yes”? Of answering it “no”?

        I’m leaving out the issue of whether a h.s. diploma is necessary for the job, or meaningless, or will not be included in future job postings, or is different from a college degree, etc. I’m leaving out the consideration that the worker in question is good or bad at their job.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          Argh. Should be: So we shouldn’t expect people without privilege to act WITH integrity?

          Brain farts…

        2. Jedi Squirrel*

          No, but I think a lot of folks here are looking down the nose at this applicant, because they have never been in their shoes. Of course, we would like all people to act ethically. But we exist inside a seriously damaged system where people put up ridiculous barriers to employment, and sometimes you have to sneak around the side to get past them.

          Instead of expecting some people to have integrity and some people to not have integrity, we should build a system where you don’t have bend/break the rules just to get your foot in the door.

          I mean, what does not having a high school diploma even mean? You could have dropped out in sixth grade or you could have dropped out the week before graduation. And what use is it in this job? They could have asked for actual experience, which would not have required the applicant to breach her ethics.

          Also, watch/read Les Miserables

          (And, as Beancounter Eric pointed out, if a high school diploma were so important to this position, then the rest of their screening process should have caught that. And as others have pointed out, if it’s so important, they should ask for a high school transcript. The requirement, in and of itself, is ridiculous because it’s meaningless to the job requirements.)

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect candidates to have completed a basic education, nor is it looking down anyone’s nose at the applicant to point out that yes, she did lie about it, and lying on a job application is not generally the mark of someone you want to employ.

            1. Jedi Squirrel*

              I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect candidates to have completed a basic education

              There are many ways to complete a basic education. High school is but one of them. Expecting that everyone that applies has the same white bread, picket fence, middle class experience as the employer is just classist and elitist.

              nor is it looking down anyone’s nose at the applicant

              A lot of commenters on here are acting as if the applicant is something they found on the bottom of their shoe after a walk through the dog park.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I encourage you to think of this in the light of those who will ask “is it okay to steal to feed your family?”

          Of course you shouldn’t do it, of course it’s wrong, of course we’re taught that it’s punishable stuff. But in reality, there’s times you don’t get the luxury of doing things the exact perfect way that society wishes you would.

          Society made these often arbitrary rules and benchmarks to keep people impoverished and in these predicaments in the scheme of things. It’s to keep a class system in place so that precious few can flourish. So yes, sometimes we have to do dirty things that in a different situation you wouldn’t dream of doing.

          1. Liz*

            In a recently published a review of my local co-op market on Yelp, the writer blasted the store for banning him after he was caught shoplifting. He’s homeless and vegan, therefore he apparently had no other choice than to fill his backpack with food and walk out without paying.

        4. Gazebo Slayer*

          I feel like people with privilege have a greater moral obligation to act with integrity, because of their advantaged position and their abundance of other options.

          That doesn’t mean I expect people with less privilege not to act with integrity, though. In fact, I’ve heard of studies showing that wealthy people tend to have less empathy and be less honest.

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            studies showing that wealthy people tend to have less empathy and be less honest

            Honestly, I think we’re seeing a lot of that in the comments here, alas.

    2. fposte*

      I think you have to be working in some pretty intense security positions before an employer considers it worthwhile to require high school diplomas.

    3. panic everywhere including the disco*

      Who’s integrity? This person admitted they lied. It was a system that wouldn’t let them through. They clearly did not value the “high school diploma” requirement enough to check on it: every time I’ve applied for a job that really needed a degree, guess what they did? Required you to provide a transcript.

      Integrity is involved if someone cheats their time card system. Integrity isn’t involved with someone fighting with an online application system and entrenched prejudice in hiring.

      1. not at one*

        This is great information. I happen to be a woman of color. I feel like I’ve now been given permission to do all sorts of things I hadn’t considered before. I feel like all my lies are now pre-approved! Thanks y’all!

          1. not at one*

            Haha! Your feeling is inaccurate. Obviously, this is just my cheeky way of disagreeing. I am a person of integrity and I don’t really think my lies are “pre-approved”. I was just being sarcastic.

      2. Liz*

        “Integrity is involved if someone cheats their time card system. ”

        But what if they really, really need the extra money?

    4. Blueberry*

      I disagree, because I think doing as you advise (especially in making certain that this follows the employee throughout their further attempts at gaining employment) is setting the rule as more important than the person, and I think people are generally more important than rules, that rules are there to help people. (Plus the other very good points other commenters have raised about unfair screening and classism involved in this particular requirement.)

      There is a school of thought that rules must be followed, even if they are overly stringent or even unfair, until they are changed. I think that a more flexible approach tends to work better in practice. (I also know that people can twist flexibility into unfairness and lawlessness very easily, but addressing that is a matter for something much longer than a comment.)

      1. Beancounter Eric*

        Perhaps it’s how I was raised, perhaps it’s because I work in Accounting, but I am of the view that breaches of integrity are absolutely unforgivable.

        About 15 years ago, the CFO I worked for and I were going over my annual eval, and we came to a question on the company standard evaluation report on integrity – simple question, “The associate displays integrity”. CFO looked across his desk at me and said “There is only one acceptable answer for this question in our profession – a perfect score”.

        I tell people joining my team we can be flexible on just about everything. Need a schedule change – we’ll see what we can do. Need to work from home – let’s chat with higher up. Going to run late – send me a text so we don’t send out a search party. Screw up a report – let’s get together and correct it and work to avoid future problems. But lie to me – I’m not interested in the reason, I don’t care that you otherwise walk on water; on this subject, there is no redemption – leave now, and never, ever come back.

        1. Blueberry*

          I see your point, especially since you work with money, but I can’t agree that a lie is *always* indicative of a lack of integrity. Often, usually, maybe, but I can’t say always. A work related example from my experience: when I worked at a school I knew a few secrets that some of the students’ parents didn’t. Fortunately this did not happen to me, but I decided that if one of the kids confided in me that they were queer and not out to their parents, if their parents asked me any kind of leading question about their child’s sexuality I would definitely lie rather than out the kid to a potentially hostile parent. I know teachers and others who have indeed made that choice, and I would not say that any of them lack integrity for having done so.

          1. Quill*

            Lies that keep people safe (including yourself) are a whole different category from lies for personal gain, (far more moral / integrity having to chose to NOT DO HARM by following a rule) and overall I think some of the commentariat is trying to place the Diplomaless employee squarely in the second category.

  43. KMC12191219*

    QQ: Alison, was this really a new letter or a repeat? Normally you let us know when you’re re-running your greatest hits, but it may have been a coincidence that this is almost word for word the same as the question asked and answered in February 2016. Just curious.
    Inc (Feb 2020):

    AAM (Feb 2016) – Letter # 3:

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s a repeat from the archives — there’s a note in the post right above! It says, “where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago.”

  44. cmcinnyc*

    My company has a not-great online portal that a bunch of college students gamed to apply as interns and hats off to them. They were honest about their credentials in interviews, got hired, are great team members, etc. (Of course there’s the occasional dud, this is life.) With more and more activities starting with “Please jump through these digital hoops” we’re all going to have to lie our way past an algorithm someday if we haven’t already.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      we’re all going to have to lie our way past an algorithm someday if we haven’t already


      I cannot agree enough with this statement. Such is our wondrous, modern life. My hat is off to the folks who can outgame the gamers.

    2. Liz*

      I applied for a job online, got an e-mail a few minutes later saying I was disqualified because of education, then got a phone call 2 months later to set up an interview.

  45. RC Rascal*

    The dropout rate at my white, suburban, middle class high school was 50%. Why, you ask? Because the school’s leader, Principal Mouthbreather, was forcing out kids he didn’t want. Needed time off from school to go to rehab to address a drug/alcohol issue or mental health problem? Go ahead and take the time, but you aren’t going to be allowed to make up the work and then you will have to drop out. Need special accommodations for your dyslexia or learning disability? You aren’t getting those either; you need to drop out. I watched it happen to many classmates, including siblings of several of my close friends. Children of the poor, broken homes, etc were more likely to be targeted. (Suburb had very mixed income levels for a small place).

    Principal Mouthbreather was sent to the penitentiary several years after I graduated, for embezzling over $500k from the school. The actual amount stolen was believed to be over $2M, but only $500k could be proved.

    Principal Mouthbreather was also suspected of sexually abusing boys, including several friends of mine. The families wouldn’t press charges, so it wasn’t pursued.

    Principal Mouthbreather hated women and girls, especially the bright ones. I got in trouble with him a personally, because I was smart. I was a good kid, too. It was unwarranted.

    How this affects my opinion on the person who lied about the diploma? I am aware that many of my classmates who were caught up in the Principal Mouthbreather Dropout Caper are now lying about having high school diplomas. Some may have GEDs, some may not. They have a very good reason to lie. What happened to them was very wrong.

    It’s been more than 20 years but my blood still boils about what happened. Fortunately, our state has since changed education requirements and now ties state funding to graduation percentage. But in the 1990s, they didn’t.

    1. Blueberry*

      Just reading about Principal Mouthbreather makes me want to give you a time machine and the trial evidence. And maybe an aluminum baseball bat. I am so sorry that you and your classmates had to endure such evildoing.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Thankfully ours wasn’t this bad but this hits close to home in a lot of ways.

      Podunk school, administrators and teachers who were awful that ran the whole thing. Lots of dropouts around 8th grade due to teen pregnancy. No you can’t come back after you have kids, we won’t make accommodations for you, you made your bed, now you gotta lay in it, kind of mentality was deeply ingrained in it.

      1. Quill*

        One of my best friends growing up got forced out of our elementary school because there was a lack of disability accomodation. Essentially, your choices were “regular classroom, no accomodations” or “special ed classroom that you must be X disabled to ride.” Said friend had partial blindness and hearing loss – what she mostly needed was accomodation in reading the chalkboard and some way to hear the teacher better.

        She ended up being homeschooled the rest of her education because there was just simply no way for her to work around our school’s one size fits all disability “access” that essentially sequestered disabled students into, in many cases, a subpar and still somewhat inaccessable education in the special ed classroom, where the same accomodations were provided despite the wide range of disabilities present.

    3. RC Rascal*

      My Mom and Dad are the kinds of people who saved every paper they were ever given. Every check stub, every cancelled check, every receipt, you name it. When he came under indictment they went through their cancelled check hoard and turned a bunch of stuff over to the prosecutor’s office. Some of their checks were stamped with Principal Mouthbreather’s bank, meaning those funds had been embezzled. Their document handling habits helped convict him.

      Go Mom and Dad!

      1. RC Rascal*

        To clarify–checks written to the district for stuff like field trips, yearbooks, class sweatshirts, etc.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yessssssssssssssss, I’m glad that they had a part in taking this piece of trash down. I’m the same way and hope that I never need to drag someone straight to hell with my illustrious paper-trail but don’t think I won’t.

  46. Chelsea*

    I know that Allison has stated that lying on your resume is never okay and it seems a real stretch to say that because she only lied on the application, rather than the resume itself, it isn’t the same thing. I can recall where people fudged job or education history and Allison’s response was that you can never trust them again, and that if you don’t choose to fire them, they should still be under a microscope.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      You are missing the context. She lied in order to not get kicked out of the online application.

      The applicant’s behaviour wasn’t 100% ethical, but that screener question is irrelevant to the job requirements. I have to question the ethics of the company at this point.

      Context matters. Please read the comments about how these questions are used to filter out people of a particular socioeconomic status.

    2. Liz*

      I had a job offer withdrawn after the employer called my previous job and found out I had been suspended. I told them I had no intention of returning to my old job. The new one said I’d lied.

    3. DyneinWalking*

      Not in the US, but my understanding is that in the US your livelihood and health and everything depends on having a job, because there’s almost no safety net. On the other, hand, there’s a trend that even the most basic jobs want some proof of general education – it’s certainly the case in my country. So what are unlucky people supposed to do? Go homeless and live on kitchen scraps?

      I’m all for integrity, but for a lot of people some kind of survival instinct kicks in when they’re in a tough spot, an rules get more bendy for them. But that doesn’t mean they’ll continue to do that once they are in a better place. And it seems like in this case, the lie was fairly harmless – lying about a specialized degree would completely different, but some general education? Since the employee is good regardless, I’d take this as a incentive to review the requirements for the job.

      1. Quill*

        Exactly. A survival lie isn’t an indicator of a slippery slope where “oh, clearly they’ll lie about doing anything else!”

        This particular case is more akin to an employee not disclosing a disability in order to make sure they weren’t thrown out of the job process than an employee lying about whether or not they have the required skills.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I don’t think Alison has been that hard and fast. Context always matters! I did a quick google search and looked at two other questions she has answered about lying on the resume.

      In this one, the person was not a stellar employee and when their lies were called out they didn’t seem to care at all or understand why it would matter, she did fall on the side of this being a major trust issue and a fireable offense: https://www.inc.com/alison-green/my-new-employee-lied-on-his-resume.html

      In this one where someone might have lied about being fired, but similar to the situation here has proven to be an excellent employee Alison gave a similar answer suggesting that if they are doing good work that you’re happy with it’s probably best to just let it go: https://www.askamanager.org/2016/11/how-big-of-a-deal-is-a-lie-on-a-resume-from-two-years-ago.html

      So I think it is definitely in line with her previous stances to say that if this woman, who seems to have admitted the truth unprompted, is doing excellent work and the requirement is not in any way actually necessary for the job–then it’s probably in everyone’s best interest to let it go.

    5. senatormeathooks*

      This reminds me of an incident with a potential employer that I had once – but sort of the opposite assumption happened.

      I worked on a temporary basis in a factory, and a permanent opening for an operator was opening up. I was invited to apply for the position. I filled out the application completely honestly, including my post-secondary education.

      A few days later, I was summoned to HR, and the woman was FURIOUS with me and accused me of lying about my education. I was super baffled. I never claimed I had any education I didn’t have. I asked her what the problem was, and she said something like, “You put down that you had 4 years of undergraduate courses, but I called your university to verify it, and they said you didn’t have a degree AND you’re currently enrolled.”

      I said, “Yeah, I never put that I had a degree.”
      Her: “But you claimed you had FOUR YEARS of college!”
      Me: *really confused* “Yes, I do have 4 years of college coursework.”
      Her: “How can you if you don’t have a degree?”

      I pointed out that the application didn’t have that question, it only asked for the number of years of education completed. I had noticed when I filled it out that it had no place to positively or negatively state if I had earned a degree, but it didn’t occur to me that it would be *assumed* based on total years. Also, I was pissed off she thought enrollment had anything to do with this (although I later learned why)- I had not actually been enrolled in classes for 2 semesters at that point, but she clearly confused my technically ‘active’ status with ‘enrolled’.

      She also didn’t believe me when I said it’s possible to have 4 years worth of undergraduate coursework and NOT have actually graduated.

      I obviously didn’t get the job, but I didn’t want to work for that moron anyway.

  47. Ridger*

    I worked for the government. If you didn’t get your timesheet in on time, payroll entered you as 80 hours of annual leave, which converted to leave without pay if you didn’t have that much accrued. You could retroactively correct it, but it took some time.

  48. That Tree Over There*

    I’ll be honest, I’m surprised at all the comments that make it sound like a number of people think education requirements are BS and should be abolished. Or because it’s “just a HS diploma” instead of a college degree, that the lie doesn’t matter.

    For all we know the HS requirement could be entirely reasonable and OP just got lucky that this employee is good.

    1. Uhtceare*

      Late and about to be long but… the thing about a high school diploma is that it’s incredibly general and doesn’t necessarily teach any specific skills. You get a diploma, not a diploma in TOPIC or FIELD. If I have my HS diploma, maybe I took AP Lit and Writer’s Craft and can recite a sonnet at the drop of a hat; or maybe I did phys ed and health and home ec and have a ton of life skills but haven’t read a book in years; or maybe I was really into pure math but hate stats and know nothing about Excel. The diploma by itself covers all of those.

      Now, if I’m hiring and a college degree is a requirement, I’m going to make sure it’s a relevant one–if I think it’s important enough to require a BSc in Chemistry, for instance, it’s because the position needs the skills usually gained during the course of studies for that degree. The skills that an HS diploma usually stands in for, when it does stand for skills, are mostly social. And although social skills are incredibly important, high school isn’t the only place you can learn them (and, lots of people who make it through high school still don’t).

      So I’m skeptical of the HS degree/GED meaning anything specific, beyond “I have achieved this marker of social standing”. (To be clear, it is an achievement and a lot of people sacrifice a lot to get there. But those who don’t or can’t, for whatever reason, aren’t necessarily any poorer candidates in terms of skills, experience, or talent.)

      1. Quill*

        Yes, also given the history of these diplomas being inaccessable to people due to disability or family circumstances, and the fact that the quality of a HS education varies so wildly across america, the requirement is pretty damn arbitrary even before you take into account how few jobs that pay a living wage don’t require it as a baseline.

        Even if we achieve a school system that’s equitable across the country by the end of the 2020’s and therefore it was ‘reasonable’ to assume that everyone got the same skills from a high school diploma and that their education would have been fully accessible, we’d still need to wait 50+ years before there wouldn’t be people in the workforce who graduated in a much different time.

    2. Blueberry*

      Whereas I’m surprised at all the comments that reject the concept of nuance, support credentialism without context, and/or build their logic on the idea that anyone without a high school degree can’t possible be able to amount to anything. So it’s a very surprising discussion!

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        See, I don’t think anyone is actually arguing either of those points. I don’t think anyone here is actually saying that education requirements should “be abolished”. And I don’t think anyone here is actually saying that non-graduates “can’t possibly … amount to anything.” I think both of those are extreme positions that no one is actually arguing. I wish that there were a better way to engage the subtleties of what people are actually saying.

        The internet is where subtlety goes to die.

  49. JohannaCabal*

    I’m leaning toward Alison’s view for LW 1 but I do want to throw out that if you make an exception for one employee this time, you may run into trouble if you hire another employee who lies but is a terrible employee and is fired for lying. From my understanding (IANAL), this could open the company up to potential legal liability.

    (Take it for it’s worth, but someone in HR told me this years ago.)

  50. Scout Finch*

    #1 – In March 1980, I quit high school 1 day, took my GED the next day and left town the day after that. I was was about 6 weeks past my 18th birthday.

    My mother’s untreated mental illnesses & addictions, coupled with no $$$ to pay for graduation fees and such, practically forced me to do so.

    I finished college in a technical field, though it took me 15 years. I was a “non-traditional” student, so I was not eligible for scholarships.

    If your employee is as good as you say she is, don’t punish her. She was as honest as she could be with you.

    We don’t know which hills others have had to climb.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Thank you for this.

      If anything, the comments on this post show a clear divide between those whose path has always been clear, and those who have to struggle due to circumstances beyond their control. What a terribly screwed up world we live in when even basic compassion and empathy are in such short supply.

      I’m going to go home and have a couple of glasses of wine.

  51. Retail not Retail*

    Regarding LW1 and vetting – if this is the kind of business that has a background check, would the lack of degree show up or is it just criminal?

    I had to do a thorough check for my NPS internship (a person to vouch for each address and job of the last 5 years but not the same one!) and I had to have 2 for americorps (home state and corps state), one for this job, and one for my seasonal job coming up.

    What are those looking for?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It depends on the background check but most are often basic and simply geared towards criminal and financial.

      That’s a security check that it sounds like you went through. One of my friends was applying to work in a local police station and they did in depth searches of their history, including needing character references many pages long from people dating back to childhood. They’re looking for your personal history and to confirm that you are who you claim to be.

      Since many places just run your birthdate and social security number to confirm that you haven’t been convicted of a crime. It vastly depends on the depths of background checks.

  52. animaniactoo*


    Prior to retirement and on an ad hoc basis since then, this is an issue that my dad has been part of trying to address.

    Once you’re out of school for whatever reason, the barriers to getting back and finishing are higher than most people are aware of. Even getting your GED costs money and requires you to do a lot more self-learning than someone may be trained or able to do in some subjects.

    We should be working to remove barriers to people finishing basic levels of education without shame, and we should be looking to remove paper barriers from preventing otherwise capable people from being able to contribute and be self-supporting.

    Yes, honesty counts for something, but it also sometimes only counts for something in context. The context here is that the employee lied about something they knew was an irrelevant disqualifier for their skills and the needs of the position they were applying for, and said so more or less as soon as they’d proven it. You now have the opportunity to kick them for that or support them in never having to lie about it again.

    1. Quill*

      Thanks for posting this. The fact that you still have to pay money (whether in registration / graduation fees, or to recieve your GED) to finish your education, which is then used to gatekeep your ability to earn money, helps create an ouroboros of disenfranchisement.

  53. Thankful for AAM*

    Re no high school diploma
    there is a fully accredited, online program for a high school diploma (not a GED) that might be offered free from your worker’s local library.
    Maybe helping her get a diploma would help and it would be a kindness.

  54. Another manager*

    LW1 – to me whether or not the degree is required is a separate concern to be evaluated. I would want to know more about the lie. Was the employee aware that they lied when checking the box? To me honesty matters. If they purposefully lied, then I would take that seriously and probably terminate the employment. Integrity matters to me, whether you have a degree or not. What else could the employee lie about in the future?

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      They came forward voluntarily and told LW about not having a diploma. That’s gotta count for something.

  55. goducks*

    For the life of me I cannot figure out what difference a HS Diploma makes vs. not a diploma. What specific skills/ knowledge does someone who graduated have that someone who left school in 11th grade not have? As a weed-out, it’s the strangest one I can think of.
    It’s not like a college degree, which at least supposes training a field (although I’d argue a non-related degree is nearly useless most of the time as an evaluator of competence).
    It really feels like a bias criteria. Like it keeps out riff-raff.
    Of course, interviewing a candidate and looking at their actual experience will tell you far more about the suitability of a candidate than whether they sat through all the credits we require of teenagers.

  56. Elizabeth West*

    The high school diploma one reminds me of something that made me REALLY angry. At OldExjob, they hired a woman to work in a warehouse position who had scads of experience, and everybody liked her. They found out she didn’t have a high school diploma and they fired her over our objections.

    That job was so stressful because of sheer bullshit that my supervisor and I both ended up in therapy. Same therapist, even. When I started seeing him, I was like, “So, Tangerina recommended me,” and he said, “You work there too? Ah.”

  57. Ana Gram*

    The high school diploma question is an interesting one to me. I was homeschooled in a state that had a variety of exemptions under which to homeschool your kids. The exemption we fell under didn’t require any formal oversight. That means, technically, I don’t have a HS diploma. My mom made me a diploma, though! I always answer “yes” to the questions about being a HS grad because, even though the answer is technically no, who cares? That’s where I fall on this. If the woman has a second grade education and does the job well, your requirements aren’t serving you. Change them.

  58. Teacher in the Family*

    Regarding LW1: I definitely think the employee should keep their job, because they’re a good employee, which is what matters.

    However, I feel like I need to speak up for High School a little bit. I feel like there is a lot of dismissal of high school going on here, as in, “what does it matter” “I never use anything” and so on and so on. I am not a teacher, but my aunt was a high school teacher and principal, and I grew up understanding the value of a high school education. The truth is that you probably use skills you learned in high school every day. You learn basic forms of intellectual argumentation and discipline, critical thinking skills, composition skills, and research skills. You also learn problem solving, team work, how to formulate a good question, and how to think with some degree of nuance and subtlety. You also learn what it means to be a citizen and to live in a democracy, and a little bit about the country you live in so you that you can understand its institutions and be an informed voter. High school is not vocational training. It’s training in how to be a productive citizen.

    Before everybody jumps on me, no, high school is not the ONLY way to learn those skills. No, no, no, I’m not saying that. There’s obviously multiple ways to learn anything. But high school IS one very good way. And if you went to high school you probably learned a lot more than you think you did.

    1. DyneinWalking*

      Eh, my read on most replies on that is not that high school is worthless in general – just that it’s worthless as a specific job requirement. A lot of things you learn at school AND need in a lot of areas of life you can also acquire in, say, a retail job or something low-level like that. Some basic math, basic language and communication skills, following orders but also working independently when required… High school is just one method to learn that, and by insisting on having gone through high school specifically weeds out a lot of people who learned the required, basic skills by different means.

      The thing is just that school is a LOT different from a specialized degree. I just finished my masters in a specialized field and would be livid if someone got in by lying – but the chances for someone doing that AND still being skilled for a job that requires my specific degree (or something related) is basically nil. Because you need a lot specific factual knowledge that you won’t pick up anywhere else except when working in this or related fields. And you wouldn’t get to start working in any of those fields without proof that you have an applicable specialized degree – because you HAVE to know some basic stuff, and you can’t pick that up just like that through life experience. That is what degree requirements should be for – to weed out for very specific knowledge. Which a high school diploma doesn’t.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        There’ve been a few replies of, “I never use anything I learned in high school, except for maybe some basic math.” I’m not a fan of that sentiment.

  59. legobitar*

    #5: what actually worked to get my developers to do their time reports (for a while, at least), was to simply show them how OFF my invoicing gets if they haven’t reported all their hours. “You’re billable for X amount a day, 5*X a week, 20*X a month – and since you’re two people, double it.” Literally made their jaws drop. They may hate time reporting (who doesn’t), but they also don’t want to make my life hard, since they actually like me as a manager, so. They do their time reporting :) Obviously won’t work for everyone but for me it was really simple and had an effect!

  60. Lindsay*

    Take this ad an opportunity to help her get her GED so she never has to lie about it again. This also gives her the message that she is a valuable employee whom you want to help advance.

  61. Quill*

    Need to know if this means she has a GED, not a normal diploma, or she was part of some other educational program (Homeschooling?) because that changes the answer a lot in terms of how much of a lie this was. (And if she doesn’t have a GED or a diploma, time to get her that piece of paper, possibly with employer help.)

  62. soon to be former fed really*

    I may hold an unpopular opinion, but I think the employee should be fired for lying on her application. Lying is grounds for dismissal in the federal service even if discovered after the fact. There are so many jobs right now that require a four year degree as a minimum qualification, but an experienced person could perform the duties of the position just fine without one. I have a relative facing this obstacle just now. She won’t lie though, even though it leaves her at a disadvantage. Employers who brush off lying are kind of saying they don’t value integrity. Performance is not the point.

    It would also be good for OP to verify education and experience claims made by applicants. One of the reasons there are so many horror stories on AAM is because unqualified people lie all the time on their applications and resumes, and the lies become evident after being hired.

    As a minority, I advocate for reviewing job requirements, especially the gatekeeper ones, to see if they are really relevant and perhaps, unintentionally, exclude minorities or other marginalized groups. In many cases, gatekeeper educational requirements add nothing to the candidate’s ability to perform the job. That said, if the requirements are there, the employer should adhere to them.

  63. senatormeathooks*

    How did OP1 find out she didn’t have a HS diploma? I was not aware that was an easy thing to verify.

  64. Camel*

    LW5 reminds me of a story from my mother about her old workplace. When you hadn’t filled in your time sheets for the previous week on Monday they’d suspend your pass (for the turnstiles) on Tuesday, physically barring you from the office until you had what I imagine as a very embarrassing conversation with facility management. Petty and passive-agressive but it got the message across.

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