new hire with a criminal record, backing out of a job offer, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Should I tell my boss about our new hire’s criminal record?

A couple months ago my company posted an administrative support position and last week we made an offer. As I’m involved in a lot of our operational functions, the hiring manager forwarded me the email indicating that the employee had accepted the offer because they had a few questions about how to set them up in our system (note: I am not in HR). I was curious about who was selected and what their background and experience were so I googled the new hire. I quickly discovered that several years ago, this person was charged in a rather high-profile vehicular homicide case. They ended up being acquitted on that charge but were convicted of several misdemeanors for reckless driving and served time in jail. Additionally, there are questions in the case about mishandling of evidence, which led to the state not being able to secure the more serious conviction and it appears that this person very acted recklessly. They were also fired from their job.

Should I have googled this person? Probably not, curiosity got the better of me. However, now I’m torn on if I should say something to my manager. I don’t want to look like a busybody or make my boss question whether I can handle confidential information (I have told no one) but at the same time I think he should know.

Can you get more clarity for yourself about exactly why you think your boss should know?

There are a lot of legal restrictions on how employers can use a person’s criminal record in hiring decisions. Federally, anti-discrimination laws require employers to factor in the nature and gravity of the crime, how much time has passed, and the nature of the job (like where it’s performed and how much interaction the person will have with others). Quite a few states go further than that and require that for a conviction to be disqualifying, it must be relevant to the job in some way (for example, a bank might be able to disqualify someone for a theft conviction but not for a drug possession conviction). So depending on your state and the job itself, it’s possible that your employer wouldn’t be able to factor the info into their hiring decision. It’s also possible they already know about it and chose to hire the person anyway.

Unless the job is one where the nature of the crime would pose a risk, I would figure they’ve served their time and now they need to make a living like everyone else. Which is not to say that I don’t understand why you’re struggling with it — I do! — but unless there’s a clear job-related reason your employer needs to know, I’d leave it alone.

2. Should I back out of this job offer?

I’m trying to decide if I should go back on a job offer. I’m a recent college grad and I’ve been working retail in my college town since last summer, applying to a lot of other jobs with no luck. My partner just got into grad school in another larger city with more opportunities, and we’ve decided to both move there this summer. I applied to this job in November, and a few weeks ago they offered me a different position than what I initially interviewed for (with less pay). The whole interview and hiring process has felt really disorganized, starting with them taking a 20-minute phone call during our interview, communicating inconsistently, and not giving me a lot of information despite my questions.

I accepted their job offer because it would be better for me than working retail, but they didn’t tell me until last week about their very extensive background check that also involves me asking for letters of recommendation, not just references, from previous employers, and setting up several appointments. I realized that with all of that I’ll only work there for 3-4 months before we move, and I now regret accepting the offer, which I admit was my mistake in accepting it too quickly. I feel like I can only choose between disappointing them now or in a few months when I move, but I feel really torn about it. Should I turn them down now?

Probably! Not only is that a lot of work to go through if you’re going to quit in three or four months, but future prospective employers are unlikely to put much/any weight on a job you were only at for a few months anyway. If there’s something significant you’d get from the job during the few months you’re there (like a lot more money or badly needed health care), that would change the calculus — but otherwise it’s hard to see a ton of advantage in moving forward with it. (And as far as disappointing the employer, they’ll be a lot more disappointed if you leave right after they’ve spent months training you than if you just back out now.)

3. Running into a fired coworker

I work at a small nonprofit organization that is associated with serving a particular community. Recently, a colleague who had only been working here for a few months was let go for performance-related reasons. I was on perfectly friendly terms with them, but we weren’t close and didn’t work together much in our respective roles.

The firing was sudden, and I don’t know any of the details. But it’s a very small world, both professionally and in the local community. I have reason to expect I’ll run into them. What does one say in such circumstances?

“It’s good to see you! How are you?”

In other words, you don’t need to address the terms of their departure at all. Just greet them the way you would someone else you know a little bit and have general good will toward.

4. My boss doesn’t want to pay me for work where I made a mistake

I am a hourly worker and work from home. I do data entry and clerical stuff for an insurance broker. I made an error on some forms that were sent to be signed by clients. It was caught and I had to resend and delete the forms with the errors. My manager thinks I shouldn’t be paid for the time sending the original (erroneous) forms and be paid half time for fixing the error and resending the forms. I don’t think this is correct. I would greatly appreciate any advice you could give.

Your employer is required by law to pay you (and at your normal rate) for all of that work time. Employers cannot legally dock people’s pay for making mistakes, since mistakes are a normal part of doing business. An employer can of course discipline or fire a person for mistakes — but they need to be paid for their time working, even if the quality of their work isn’t what the employer wants.

Try saying this to your manager: “I take this mistake very seriously and I’m doing ___ to ensure it doesn’t happen again. I want to make sure you know we can’t legally dock employees’ pay for mistakes. The law says we have to pay employees for all time worked and can’t change anyone’s pay rate retroactively. But I hear your concern loud and clear and I’ll be more careful going forward.”

{ 494 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, please don’t jump on letter writer #1 for googling her new colleague in the first place. Lots of people do that just to see who they’ll be working with and what their background is, and it’s not the point of the question. Thank you.

  2. Observer*

    #2 – I totally agree with Alison. Tell them that you realize that you will be moving shortly after the whole process to get you cleared is going to be done, so it just doesn’t make sense to take on the job.

    1. Cold Fish*


      Also, there is no reason to sugar coat that a last minute extensive background check and reference letters is an imposition that they just don’t want to do. (If that is bothersome to them. I know it would be for me.)

    2. Here we go again*

      Back out now. From an employers point of view it costs them money and labor to do a background check and have people on board and train you, and they can still reach out to other candidates who applied and interviewed around them same time as you. From your perspective they offered you a job that you didn’t apply for, and it was for less pay. I don’t think you’d be happy in the long term.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Agree – the different job and less pay would be the meat of the issue for me. The burdensome background check and reference gathering are just overflowing side dishes, making the whole thing inedible.

    3. TG*

      Yes back out now and explain it – they might be initially grumpy but in the long run you’re doing them a prop.

  3. Observer*

    #1- Why exactly does your boss need to know what you found out? And why are you assuming that they are not aware of this?

    I’m serious. You don’t have to be best buddies with this guy, but it doesn’t sound like what he did was of a nature that one would want him to be a pariah in society. So, unless there is more to the story or there are aspects to the job where this might be relevant (eg the job required a lot of driving where this could be disqualifying) it doesn’t actually sound like your boss does have a need to know.

    1. TransmascJourno*

      Exactly. I can understand the impulse to randomly Google a candidate to some degree—albeit one borne from idle curiosity—but it seems like either there’s some missing context here. Regardless, this struck me first: if the hiree’s past is so easily Google-able, why wouldn’t the LW assume the hiring manager didn’t already have this information?

      1. TransmascJourno*

        *like there’s some missing context here. Oy gevalt, I need to stop commenting here on my phone

      2. Dutchie*

        I always assume any hiring manager is googling me when I interview. So I would 100% assume the same is true in this case and the boss knows.

        1. StellaBella*

          I google candidates social media presences because if they are scary/aggressive/promoting conspiracies/attacking people/etc on social media in some fashion, they probably are a nightmare to work with. I also steward my social media carefully for this reason as I assume hiring managers do this for me, too.

        2. Tuckerman*

          Me, too. Also, right before reading this I googled a new employee at my job because I needed to know her credentials to refer to her correctly to the students (Dr. vs. Professor). Google isn’t always used to snoop!

      3. MisterForkbeard*

        The hiring manager might not know, but HR certainly should. And HR is the group that would understand the legal liabilities, perform the background checks, understand employee confidentiality, and so on. If he’s going to contact anyone at all about this, it should be them.

        Even then though – I’d just kind of assume it’s none of your business, particularly if all the problems were a long time ago.

        1. Esmeralda*

          And HR probably does. I haven’t seen an application ever that didn’t ask about criminal convictions.

          1. JohannaCabal*

            I’ve worked at two startups where I just submitted a resume and cover letter without completing a job application. Neither conducted a background check except one did call three references that I gave them.

            Both are startups so that may have something to do with it.

            1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              Yup, and one of them later needed me to work in a bank that required a background check. There was no problem with the check, so it wasn’t a big deal, but I couldn’t help thinking that it was maybe a mistake to hire all your field service people without even bothering to check, given that we worked in financial, healthcare, *and* government verticals.

          2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            There is a movement to remove that question from applications because it makes it harder for people to rehabilitate into society.

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              Exactly. It’s called “Ban the Box,” at least in our area. The box they are banning is the one a person has to check off on the application that asks if they’ve been convicted of a felony.

              The things people most need when returning to society from incarceration is housing and a job in order to continue any efforts of rehabilitation that they start while on the inside. Our society makes getting those EXTREMELY hard for those with a felony record (they cannot apply for subsidized housing and many employers will automatically bin applications that have that box checked).

              Society wants people to do better once they’ve served their time, but then takes away most of the programs and opportunities to do just that. We have to decide: Do we want help people returning to society and keep us all safter, or do we want to keep punishing those who have made mistakes in the past, which increases their likelihood of recidivism (thus making our society LESS safe)?

              1. Momma Bear*

                And we may not have all the nuances from a google search. I know a young woman who was convicted of being an accessory to a crime. She was in the car with the wrong people. She served her 4 years and deserves to just move on with her life now.

                I would just pocket this information and assume that HR knows from a background check. I google/check LinkedIn profiles for every potential interviewee. I think it’s pretty normal to do so now.

                1. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Agreed. OP doesn’t know the circumstances of the case. The judge and jury did, and issued the appropriate sentence, which has been served. Unless there’s a particular reason why this job needs people with a squeaky clean driving record, there’s no need to bring it up. Time served, move on.

                2. Burger Bob*

                  And that’s before you even get into the fact that some people are wrongly convicted, or charged/sentenced more harshly than their actions deserve. It happens.

              2. PSA*

                Thank you, I came down here to say exactly that. I don’t think googling people is the concern so much as the implication that because this person may have a criminal history, they should be reconsidered on that basis alone. I know someone with a felony record who was hired at much lower pay than coworkers with same title and even though this person was blowing everyone away in terms of dedication and professionalism and earning certifications, every time this person asked about advancement, “Y’know, hum-hedge-cough, your circumstances….” was the answer. Finally, after 3 years, this person asked “Could you please give me a timeline as to how long I have to prove myself before my work record becomes more relevant than my felony record?” Within months: advanced. So, LW1, that’s really a good question for you too: What’s the timeline for a person with a criminal record where their work record becomes more relevant than their criminal record.

                1. Ace in the Hole*

                  You said this far better than I could. I also find this particular statement from LW concerning:

                  “They ended up being acquitted on that charge… Additionally, there are questions in the case about mishandling of evidence, which led to the state not being able to secure the more serious conviction and it appears that this person very acted recklessly.”

                  If the state acquitted because evidence was so badly mishandled, why would you think you know better than the state? You weren’t a witness. You weren’t even close to the events. You’re hearing what boils down to the juiciest, most salacious, most gossipy version of events because that’s the version that makes it into news stories and social media. But the state actually had access to all the available facts and decided there was not enough evidence to say this person was guilty of vehicular homicide. End of story.

                  LW, I encourage you to reframe this in your mind. Right now it sounds like you think they committed vehicular homicide and got away with it because of a technicality. But that’s really unfair given the limits of your knowledge about the situation. For all you know the charges were trumped up, or someone had maliciously tampered with evidence, or they weren’t sure they had the right person, or evidence had been lost/destroyed that would have proved your coworker didn’t behave as recklessly as claimed, etc.

                  It would be much better to think of it in a way that is compassionate towards your coworker: they made a serious mistake while driving that caused a serious accident in which someone died, then had to go through a long and arduous legal process afterwards and faced serious consequences for what happened. It’s fine if you don’t want to get in a car with them knowing this, but you shouldn’t make their professional or social life harder by spreading around gossip or insinuating they should not have their current job.

              3. OfOtherWorlds*

                I thought those efforts had mostly petered out due to what follow up research uncovered.

                Essentially, when you ban asking about previous felony convictions 0n employment applications, “the box” is replaced by racist assumptions about who is and is not a former felon. Locations in the US that banned to box saw huge decreases in the unemployment rate of white former felons, but the unemployment rate for black men without criminal records increased.




            2. AJ*

              There are generally still background checks though. The question isn’t on the application to prevent early bias, but the employer still will likely run a check as part of the hiring process. The idea is that people are less likely to hold it against a candidate if they have had a chance to get to know them first.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Very few companies actually run background checks. They’re expensive, especially if you’re running them on all potential candidates. And good background checks take weeks, at least. That’s a lot of time for both the company and potential employees to sit around waiting for a job that might not pan out.
                Unless you’re working in certain fields (handling large amounts of money, dealing with children, etc.) there’s no need. And most companies don’t like spending money they don’t have to.
                Many companies will claim they run background checks, or will state that they reserve the right to do so. But few actually do it.

                1. Managing to Get By*

                  My organization runs a background check on every person who accepts an offer. I know this because it can cause a delay in their start date if they lived in multiple states or out of the country in the last 5 years. There are somethings that would disqualify a person, based on the nature of our work.

                2. The Starsong Princess*

                  My organization runs a background check on everyone who accepts an offer. That offer is contingent on passing the background check and takes about two to three weeks. Since anyone with a brain doesn’t give notice at their previous job until they passed background check, it add significant time to when you get the hire in the seat. We had one that took close to two months and it was for a rehire. The company doing the background check could not verify that she had a community college certification she said she had and felt that she therefore failed the check. . The head of HR eventually over ruled them – they had taken the classes together, funded by our company, and graduated together so she knew the rehire was telling the truth. It was months before the community college acknowledged the error.

                3. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Every organization my spouse and I have worked for has run a background check as part of the hiring process. (Both of us work in fields where we have access to PII and other sensitive information, and many of my organization’s customers require it for anyone working on their projects.) Where I work now, they are not run on all candidates, only those who have accepted an offer. We also do degree and employment verification and reference checks. The cost of this, which is done by an outside service, is less than $100 per person.

                  It does take time to process, especially for people with lengthy career history or employment outside the U.S., and we ask people not to resign from their current positions until all their checks are cleared.

                  I’ve no doubt that there are organizations that do not run them, but, in my and my spouse’s 20+ years of working in a variety of organizations, they’re pretty standard. We also work in Ban the Box jurisdictions where employers cannot include a criminal conviction question on their applications.

                4. quill (and the bees agree with me)*

                  Depends on the industry. I’m pretty sure most of my jobs have done them, because I work in a pretty heavily regulated industry.

                5. Koalafied*

                  You know, I would have sworn my current (very large) organization doesn’t do them, but I just pulled up my offer email from 10 years ago and they did run one after I accepted the offer – confirming highest level of education, dates of recent employment, and criminal record check.

                  Since I had no criminal record and hadn’t lied on my application, and was also young and inexperienced (had only worked for two much smaller orgs before this one) I don’t think I even waited for it to come back before I gave notice at the place I was working at the time. I was so excited about the offer and starting a new job, and they never followed back up to be like, “By the way, you did pass the background check,” so I think it was easy for me to forget it had even happened since it was just one item in an offer email and I found the rest of the email content more compelling, lol.

          3. Cold Fish*

            I’ve only seen applications that asked about felony convictions. It sounds like this guy only has misdemeanors. Everyone has probably worked with a lot of people with misdemeanor convictions they have no idea about.

          4. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            I actually haven’t filled one out yet that did ask. Some stipulate that there will be a background check later though.

            Amusingly now that it’s over with, in the background check form for my current (state) employer, they asked if I’d “been found guilty of any felonies, misdemeanors, or traffic violations”, as one question, which seemed more than a little odd. Irritatingly, I’d had a traffic ticket that got filed as if my name was First Last Middle, so that delayed my hiring approval by a good week as they tried to figure it out.

            1. Dragon*

              A friend of mine had a job offer from a government contractor rescinded because of an old traffic ticket she didn’t even remember. The job itself was at a state facility, and the agency’s separate background check found it when the contractor’s didn’t.

              That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Later the state closed the facility, which was the small town’s primary employer.

          5. Anon for this one*

            There’s been a push lately to “ban the box” because it ends up meaning people with minor, long-ago convictions can’t get hired for jobs where the conviction is totally irrelevant. (Should a 20-year-old marijuana possession conviction be a deal-breaker in a state where pot is now legal)?

          6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            This maybe depends on the field you work in, because I have never had a question about criminal convictions.

      4. Myrin*

        if the hiree’s past is so easily Google-able, why wouldn’t the LW assume the hiring manager didn’t already have this information?

        This is the very first thing that came to my mind. I can understand wanting to feel like some kind of Revealer of Truth and Bearer of Justice (nebulous as that may be) but thinking strictly logically, unless everyone at that company is completely internet-illiterate, it’s incredibly likely that at least someone involved in the hiring process already found this information themselves and decided to extend an offer anyway.

      5. Richard Hershberger*

        The LW seems to be imagining a scenario where the company cares about the new hire’s criminal record but did not think to check, and will be grateful for the information. This is a pretty narrow scenario. It is vastly more likely that the company knows, because it did a background check, and decided to hire this guy knowing his record, or the company doesn’t care. In either of these scenarios, the LW is setting themselves up to be the office busybody, snooping around and offering helpful advice unasked.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          “The LW seems to be imagining a scenario where the company cares about the new hire’s criminal record but did not think to check, and will be grateful for the information.”


          Assuming that HR and the hiring manager already know, though—what should they do in a situation where they’re hiring someone with a criminal history that anyone can easily Google? It’s one thing to look someone up on the internet, find what LW1 found, and decide it doesn’t or shouldn’t matter and hire them anyway. But it’s reasonable to assume that their new co-workers will also look them up. Pre-emptively saying that the new hire has a record seems wrong, but not saying anything can lead to situations like LW1’s question. And saying “please don’t Google this person” is going to send even more people straight to their computers to do just that. So what should HR and the hiring manager do?

          1. anonymous73*

            Nothing. There’s no legitimate reason to let others know ahead of time because it’s none of their business. If employees decide to google the person, they can’t stop them, but sharing something like this that won’t affect others in any way (other than creating gossip and judgement) is unnecessary.

          2. Jaydee*

            I don’t think the employer should do *anything* preemptive. It’s reasonable to expect your employees to act like adults unless they show you otherwise.

            Sure, they might Google a new co-worker, but if they “discover” something they consider troubling, the reasonable thing to do is either ignore that information or talk directly to the hiring manager or HR who can quickly and calmly say either
            – “Yes, we were aware and that doesn’t impact our hiring decision. We trust it also won’t affect how you treat Fergus when he starts next week.” or
            – “We weren’t aware, but that wouldn’t have impacted our hiring decision. We trust it also won’t affect how you treat Fergus.” or
            – “We weren’t aware of that. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’ll take a look into the matter and trust you be discreet about this information.”

            1. Observer*

              I don’t think the employer should do *anything* preemptive. It’s reasonable to expect your employees to act like adults unless they show you otherwise.


          3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            So, I think the answer to this lies in writing a decent policy and statement of values in your employee handbook.

            Something along the lines of “Employer believes in offering justice involved individuals a chance to rehabilitate successfully, and does not regard criminal charges or convictions as invalidating candidacy and employment prospects, except where the charges or conviction are recent, and/or create issues with the employee performing their job responsibilities.”

            Thus, you have a guiding principle established and documented, and don’t need to out a new employee – when another employee says something, you can just say ‘please refer to your employee manual for our stance on this issue’ and be done with it.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yeah, except the “recent” bit. How long ago is “recent”?
              When a criminal is released from prison, they are in great danger of falling back into their previous life of crime. If nobody’s willing to hire a recently-convicted person, does that mean they have to then subsist somehow for maybe five years before being considered eligible for hire? How do they do that without resorting to crime?
              FWIW, a friend who owned a car showroom, garage and car wash, used to hire only delinquents and youngsters fresh out of prison. He hardly ever had any problems. When he announced to the staff that he was selling the business, the staff cried. Yes, a bunch of former convicts and car mechanics, bawled their eyes out. Then they got to work and worked flat out all over a long May Day weekend to finish up all the orders so that the old boss would get the money for it, rather than the new boss.

          4. The Rules are Made Up*

            They shouldn’t do anything because it’s irrelevant. And if other employees do look it up and it causes an issue (gossip, rumors, disruption) they should shit it down immediately.
            Just like all the crimes your coworkers could have done that they didn’t get caught doing, smoking or partying in college that people got to do and move on. Everyone has a past.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Not to mention, it’s not like OP had a business reason for googling the person, so they can’t really bring this up with managers without confessing to overstepping. I think it’s much less likely that OP will be thanked for finding this information and more likely that they’ll tank their own reputation with their managers.

        3. Smithy*

          Absolutely this.

          In the wide world of “I found this out about my coworker via the internet, do I share” – this one is relatively easy. Because it’s a settled legal case, that’s all information a hiring manager/HR can very easily find out on their own and then make choices accordingly. And because it happened before this person was hired – it’s not like it was an arrest that happened after an offer was made/background check run and therefore it might have slipped by.

        4. Springtime*

          This is exactly what I thought. In my state, it is illegal to discriminate based on conviction record, and, in employment, on arrest record. I would assume that HR has already handled a background check appropriately and confidentially (though I suppose the LW would know from their own experience whether the employer does background checks).

          If the position is driver, bring it up. If not, it’s just mean gossip.

      6. Alice's Rabbit*

        Also, how sure is OP that this coworker is the same person as the one she googled? Unless his name is something terribly unique, like Josiah Warbleworth III, or there’s a very good photo, OP can’t really be certain, can they? How horrible would it be to ruin someone’s career over something they didn’t even do?

        1. GreenDoor*

          Alice’s Rabbit, you are spot on. I had a boyfriend break up with me because he looked “me” up on our state’s prison record system. He found a laundry list of convictions and arrests for Green R. Door…except my name is Green M. Door.

          He was a lousy boyfriend, so no loss there. But OP should make sure they’ve Googled the right person before revealing what they’ve found. (Not that I see any reason to report this to management at all).

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Back in the 1980s, the credit agencies only searched by last name, first initial. So I had a really difficult time for 7 years because someone with the same first initial, same last name was evicted from the other side of my large apartment complex for non-payment of rent. Management got along well enough with me that they wrote a letter explaining that I was not the person who had been evicted and was a tenant in good standing when I moved out for a job in another city. Still didn’t convince a lot of people who assumed the letter was forged — that’s a heck of a coincidence.

        2. lysine*

          This. I had a coworker with a very common first name and last name combo. My old, incompetent, company did a “background” check by just googling her name. Unsurprisingly they found something, but it wasn’t the same person as my coworker (they still scared the crap out of her by questioning her about her “criminal record” as a convicted prostitute in another state though). And even if this person’s name IS unique, it’s still not proof it’s the same person unless there’s more evidence like a birthdate or a clear photo. I’m a criminal defense attorney and I have clients with the same first and last name. Sometimes even of more unique names.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I have an unusual last name… but there are others with my first name last name combo and a different spelling, and one other with the exact same name who lives in another country.
            I highly doubt there are any names that are completely unique. Even the most unusual name probably has others with similar or exact somewhere in the world.

        3. Essess*

          Agreed. Similar thing happened to a friend of mine. He was trying to get an apartment and filled out the form for them to do a background check. They suddenly cancelled his application without any explanation. He finally found out that there was someone with his name and lived in the same county that did armed robbery or something like that. But the apartment company hadn’t bothered to check that the birthday and social security number didn’t match. By the time he got that straightened out, the apartment was no longer available. He was always worried that something like that might have impacted some of his job applications too.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yeah, going forward, I’d be upfront and tell everyone the minute “background check” is mentioned!

        4. Salymander*

          This is very true. My uncle was arrested because he shares a first and last name with someone who was wanted by the police and a felon. Not sure what his crime was. My uncle is 20 or so years older than this man and has a different middle name, but he was arrested and held until my aunt and a lawyer convinced the police to at least look at the photo of the wanted man that they had in their file. The police let him go, but were not very concerned by their mistake. It was just business as usual, apparently. Or so they implied. Imagine if my uncle couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer, and wasn’t married to my terrifying and very persuasive aunt! Or if he wasn’t an educated, affluent white guy with friends in high places.

          So yeah, this new hire might share a name with the person in the article, or the info could have been sensationalized. And if there was a mishandling of evidence, maybe it was mishandled in a way that made the new hire seem guilty, and the case was thrown out because it really did lack proper evidence. Or maybe this person did do something bad. Who knows? But even if he did commit a crime in the past, he still needs to work and support himself. Unless he was hired to be a trucker or bus driver or something like that, it doesn’t seem like the Google search info is really that relevant. Also, speaking up could be risky and make OP look gossipy at work, when that doesn’t really seem to be their intention.

        5. Sara(h)*

          I always get a little nervous about background checks because of this. I have a name that is just common enough that I’ve had a few (amusing) cases of mistaken identity.

      7. Can't always Google*

        Not necessarily. We are explicitly forbidden (state system and academia) to Google candidates or otherwise acquire outside info. For us it’s a question of equity. If you judge candidates only on the info presented in the application and interview, then no one gets a leg up because their spouse went to college with your brother-in-law.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      Agree. Not only is it possible or even likely that anyone who needs to know, knows (after all, you found the information with a Google, and that means so could anyone else), but if the person has paid their debt and the crime doesn’t even have to do with the work, you don’t need to try to punish him further for reckless driving.

      It’s one thing to note the information and mentally file it away in case it ever becomes relevant, but this is not a time where you need to proactively stage-whisper to everybody that the new guy’s got a Record and we all need to watch out for him, because you just never know! Lock up your purses! Don’t be alone with him! Ask awkward and pointed questions! Side-eye him every chance you get!

      1. InASuit*

        #1 Also, it’s irrelevant that the new employee got off the serious charge because of paperwork errors.

        Defendants are innocent until proven guilty. How they got off is irrelevant.

        1. The OTHER Other*

          This. Too often people forget that innocence until proven guilty is the foundation of our legal system, and these “well, he got off on a technicality” memes proliferate.

          I know several public defenders; quite often these “technicalities” involve extensive misconduct and malfeasance by prosecutors. Are illegal searches, coerced or coached testimony, falsified documents, or intimidated witnesses “technicalities”?

          1. InASuit*

            As a more generous interpretation, if the case collapsed because of paperwork issues that tells me that the prosecution didn’t care enough about the case to get them right / fix them.

            1. Covered in Bees*

              As a former prosecutor, that’s less likely than someone (usually a police officer) screwed up in an unfixable way. Most often, they got evidence in an illegal way so it has to be excluded and there’s not enough to make up for it to support the charge.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              The prosecution is not the only generator of paperwork. The police, defense counsel and the courts also generate paperwork that must be done in a timely manner. If any of these people drop the ball the case can go sideways.

              OP, try to hang on to the fact that we are innocent until proven guilty. The best way around this one that I know of is thinking of a loved one, or even myself. Suppose something happens. Please, oh, please, dear public, try to keep an open mind that my loved one or I had experienced a horrible set of circumstances and the people closest to the situation will make the best decision possible.

              We really have to get back to judging others the way we would want to be judged. If the situation were reversed, OP, what would you hope your cohort would do?

              I read somewhere that NY is working on a law to seal or expunge older misdemeanor charges. And right here is part of the reason, people can never rise above that circumstance, they are marked for life. Companies won’t hire them or they will fire them once they find out. I am not clear on how we give people a chance to do better if there are no platforms for them to show us.

              1. Beehoppy*

                I will go further and share that my mother was a victim of vehicular homicide. Just reading the words makes me feel ill. I’d feel uncomfortable if I found out tomorrow one of my close colleagues was involved in one. But I STILL don’t think it should have any bearing on hiring this guy and I don’t think the information should be shared. We all deserve second chances and to learn and grow from mistakes.

                1. Salymander*

                  It speaks well of you as a person that you can be so fair minded about something that has been such a source of trauma and heartache in your own life. Much respect.

              2. Turingtested*

                In Pennsylvania you can have certain misdemeanors expunged after 7 years without any convictions. At 19 I got arrested for underage drinking and public intoxication. I’m not proud of what I did, but I wasn’t driving, fighting or otherwise putting other people at risk. I’m very grateful I was able to have that expunged and not have it follow me the rest of my life.

                It’s possible the person in letter #1 really deserved to be acquitted. People are generally not as bad as their worst mistake or as good as their best deed.

                1. Splendid Colors*

                  And the incident could’ve been a wake-up call that they need to fix whatever problem got them into the situation. (Drinking too much and driving drunk, anger management and road rage, whatever.)

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            Further addition: This information is from “Google,” which likely means from the general media. It is a very good rule of thumb that stories in the general media about legal matters are usually wrong. Most reporters don’t understand how the law works, most media outlets don’t have (or aren’t willing to use) the resources to get the story right, and there is a strong bias toward the lurid. I routinely read stories that don’t quite make sense. Sometimes I can guess what they are getting wrong, but it is not unusual for them to be total gibberish. I certainly wouldn’t make any important judgment about a legal matter based on a general media story.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              OMG yes. We have a reporter here who routinely messes up every article they write on legal matters. I don’t read anything with this reporter’s byline. The reporter gets calls from attorneys often.

              1. quill (and the bees agree with me)*

                Legal reporting and science reporting: in a general interest publication they’re both usually garbage.

                1. Extra anon today*

                  Medical reporting, reporting on statistics, history,… as soon as you find out about a field, you realise how badly that field is reported. It’s not even, really, a dig at journalists – few places can hire dedicated experts, and most reportable things are complicated.

                  I trust the football scores.

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Look up an article in any major publication on a topic about which you’re an expert (or at least very knowledgeable). How wrong is it? How many little details are off? How many incorrect conclusions does the author draw?
                  With very rare exceptions, that’s how accurate the articles are on most topics. Unless written by an expert in that field, most articles are full of misunderstandings and factual errors.
                  I, myself, have been written about in more than 2 dozen news articles, for various reasons from volunteer work to public interest stories to personal tragedy. Not a single article got my name right. And none of them had even half the facts correct. It definitely destroyed any remaining faith I had in the media, to be so blatantly misrepresented.

                3. Dragon*

                  A while back I read a magazine article about a then-new, nonsurgical technique for eliminating uterine fibroids.

                  I know enough medical that I noticed the article said insurance companies were reluctant to cover this treatment, but not why. Was it more expensive than regular surgery, perhaps because of the equipment involved and possibly could be more time-consuming? Short of a hysterectomy, fibroids can grow back.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              I remember the first time reading a newspaper articlon a subject I am fairly knowledgeable on and just going “What? WHAT? Nooo, what? That’s not how any of this works!” internally, lol. It’s certainly taught me to take articles on subjects that are even mildly technical with quite a few grains of salt.

              (I don’t quite fault the journalists. They’re not experts on whatever subject – it’s like me trying to talk about stuff I read about the immune system in these past two years – at least it will be clear from my use of “I think I read that the T-thingy-cells…” that I don’t actually know wtf I’m talking about)

              1. Zephy*

                I think the quirk of human psychology where we’re just really, shockingly bad at having very much perspective at all is funny, but in a depressing, if-you-can’t-laugh-about-it-you’ll-have-to-cry sort of way – the fundamental attribution error is a great example (when I screw up it’s an accident with this or that external factors, when you screw up it’s because of who you are as a person). But there is also this thing that we do, and it happens to literally everyone at some point, where you tend to trust what you read/see/hear about unfamiliar topics but all the flaws and inaccuracies in media about familiar topics stick out like sore thumbs. Logically, if News Source X got all of that wrong about Familiar Topic, how could you possibly trust what they had to say just last week about Unfamiliar Topic? But you lack the framework to evaluate what News Source X was saying about Unfamiliar Topic, and looking into their sources and the sources’ sources and “dOiNg YoUr OwN rEsEaRcH” as the common refrain goes is way too much work for a topic you’re not even really interested in. (To say nothing of how it’s basically impossible to “do your own research” as a layman with a Google account, unless you really, really know what you’re doing, since the algorithm will show you different results than it will show me for the same search string).

              2. Richard Hershberger*

                I somewhat fault the journalists, and somewhat fault the system they are working within. The systemic problem is that newspapers are stretched thin and deadline pressures result in sloppiness. The journalists themselves are at fault to the extent that they lean into this sloppiness, not bothering about basic facts. Add to this a cultural resistance to the idea of going back to that expert you interviewed with a draft of the article to make sure they got it right. Partly this is that deadline pressure but I have seen it defended in terms of journalistic independence, which apparently would be compromised by a follow-up discussion.

                1. Observer*

                  The systemic problem is that newspapers are stretched thin and deadline pressures result in sloppiness.

                  Deadlines are one thing. The “stretched thin” is an excuse, and a clearly false one at that. These problems are not new to the current decade, or even century.

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  And it’s not even just technical articles that get stuff wrong. I’ve personally been interviewed for more than 2 dozen articles on everything from my volunteer work to a near-miss with carbon monoxide poisoning.
                  Not a single article got my name right. None of my quotes were correct (and some were twisted grotesquely). And no journalist got even half the facts right.
                  These weren’t terribly complicated articles, either. Nor long enough to take much time to write. But they were awful! And it’s not just small, local papers, either. The CO poisoning got picked up by all the big news agencies in the state, and even a couple out-of-state papers (slow news day). None were factually accurate.

                3. TootsNYC*

                  I work in consumer magazines; every one that I have worked on has fact-checkers who do go back to the expert interviewed, and often find a different expert to vet the text as well.

                  I don’t know how large newspapers do it, but I do know that smaller papers and smaller magazines simply do not have enough worker hours available to do this kind of checking.

            3. Missy*

              Yes. Very much. When I was interning with the DOJ the difference between what the case actually was and what was reported in the media was HUGE. Like, sometimes they completely got the charges incorrect, not to mention the details.

              Just thinking about this situation, I could see the media reporting something like “the defendant was driving 120 miles per hour and ran a red light” which might have been accurate, but then it turns out that the car was malfunctioning and the accelerator became stuck so they were unable to stop. That may not make it into the news as prominently.

              1. Butterfly Counter*

                I am always shock that, when I know even just a little bit about a news story, the way it gets reported is often so very, very wrong.

                I was a sophomore at my university when one of our fraternities got into major trouble for having beer at a party attended by underage people. Somehow, it was a MAJOR news story in our area. One reporter actually got the name of our university wrong. It was similarly named to a university about 50 miles away (like, South State University vs. South (State name) State University). But, like, did that reporter not look out her window as they were driving the van to the school?

            1. Kal*

              Agree. “Lawyered up” aka exercised their legal right which is clearly bad because it means the cops/prosecution/etc. have to do their jobs well and establish the case within the bounds of the law and no one wants that. Serious sarcasm if it wasn’t obvious.

              I don’t know how often the term is used in real life, but cop/legal dramas always making out like defence lawyers are the scum of the earth for making sure that legal processes are followed and any suspect to exercises their right to a lawyer is clearly guilty have seriously skewed perceptions of how the system is supposed to work.

              (My other main bugaboo is the trope that any sort of internal affairs-type investigation into police conduct is all about being backstabbing traitors stopping cops from doing good police work – I would think if you’re doing your job right it should be able to stand up to outside scrutiny.)

        2. Jillian*

          And unless he has an incredibly unique name, or a newspaper article had a picture, you can’t be 100% positive it’s the same guy. Even the same name in the same industry can belong to more than one person. Give him the benefit of the doubt. And even good people can make bad choices.

          1. Rake*

            In college my friends and I thought it would be funny to search our own names on Facebook and I found a girl with my same first and last name who even looked somewhat like me and also worked at the same fast food chain I did. If it weren’t for the fact I was in the Midwest and she was in the Pacific northwest I could easily see someone mistaking us in a Google search. But then again people move and I’m in southern California now…

        3. Temperance*

          In a court of law. You could still very well have factually committed the crime, and you’re morally responsible in that case.

          The new hire killed someone while driving recklessly, maybe while drunk. He was lucky enough to escape culpability because the system failed. Doesn’t mean he didn’t do it.

          1. InASuit*

            The system worked as intended.

            It sets a very high bar for the prosecution to meet.

            They couldn’t meet it.

            1. Texas*

              The system working as intended doesn’t automatically equal justice being done, and like the LW we have no idea if the system worked in this situation as we have even less information than them. (Which is why we and the LW can stop making assumptions about the case and just move forward.)

              1. JSPA*


                Unless LW’s job title is, “Agent of Karmic Balance / sword of Devine Retribution,” and employer, “universe / deity,” its way out of line for them to take on assessing (let alone rectifying) that balance.

            2. Rolly*

              “The system worked as intended.”

              The American legal system around road violence is designed to protect drivers from responsibility over what they do to other people. That’s the intention. We don’t have to accept in our daily lives. Just because something is legal does not make it right. Just because someone can avoid prosecution for something does not make it right. At least for me.

              In my state you can easily see a pedestrian in the road with plenty of time to avoid them, but if they were jaywalking simply hit them, say you didnt’ see them in time, and you will not face criminal prosecution. This happens over and over again. That’s the system. That’s how it works.

              1. EmKay*

                “The American legal system around road violence is designed to protect drivers from responsibility over what they do to other people.”

                um. wow. that’s a BOLD claim.

          2. L-squared*

            The system didn’t fail. It sounds like some people in the system didn’t properly do their job. That doesn’t mean it failed.

            Also, this is why you say “not guilty” instead of innocent. In the eyes of the law, they couldn’t, for whatever reason, charge him with that. Therefore, shoulda woulda coulda doesn’t matter, only what the courts actually charged and convicted him for matter.

            1. Clisby*

              Is there evidence anyone didn’t do their jobs? The OP’s letter says:

              “I quickly discovered that several years ago, this person was charged in a rather high-profile vehicular homicide case. They ended up being acquitted on that charge but were convicted of several misdemeanors for reckless driving and served time in jail.”

              If someone is acquitted on one charge but convicted on others, it means they went through a trial. No indication whether this was a jury trial or bench trial, but yes, this is how the system works. The fact that someone is tried and acquitted does not mean anyone didn’t do their jobs.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            I REALLY wouldn’t hang a presumption of guilt on someone based on claims of paperwork errors. Any dismissed case could lead to aggrieved parties muttering about how obviously the person was guilty, don’t need a stupid trial to determine that, but because of a paperwork error somewhere the case was dismissed.

          4. Esmeralda*

            Agree with your first paragraph.

            Your second paragraph is a lot of speculation. And this is exactly why OP 2 needs to button it up and not gossip.

          5. RagingADHD*

            Wow, you’ve already decided the person was drunk, too?

            Even with all the speculation and overreach in the LW, they didn’t go so far as to make up a DUI.

            That’s some gold-medal long-jumping to conclusions, right there. I’m impressed.

          6. Jennifer Strange*

            The new hire killed someone while driving recklessly, maybe while drunk.

            Or the person who was killed was the one driving recklessly, and their family just happened to be rich/powerful enough and/or have good enough connections to turn it around on the new hire. Let’s not pretend like police officers, prosecutors, and judges are paradigms of virtue and that innocent folks are never convicted.

          7. Observer*

            He was lucky enough to escape culpability because the system failed

            As noted, the system worked as designed and intended. As a society, we should never want someone to get locked up without the proper evidence. And if someone – prosecutor or police – messes up the evidence, then we can’t convict. Because often enough, the “mishandling” actually is attempts to tamper with the evidence.

            Doesn’t mean he didn’t do it.

            Also, doesn’t mean that he did do it.

            1. nonegiven*

              Where did I hear it, “I’d rather 99 criminals go free than one innocent man be convicted?”

          8. Generic Elf*

            Maybe the person he killed was ALSO driving recklessly. Or maybe also drunk. We have no idea if either of these things are the case. And yeah, a ‘court of law’. We have a standard by which things are ideally measured, and guilt wasn’t found. I am aware it sucks and is full of bias and incompetence, but it’s what we’ve got and its not reasonable to judge beyond that without knowing anything else.

        4. Rolly*

          “Defendants are innocent until proven guilty. How they got off is irrelevant.”

          No. It’s irrelevant in terms of the court system, but our daily lives need not be governed by the rules of courts. I can think of a famous TV character, who drugged and had sex women and is free at this moment because his conviction was overturned. it’s totally legit for me to consider him a rapist and it would be totally legit for co-workers to feel creeped out having to work with him.

          The court system is by no means perfect, and this is particularly true in cases of drivers killing people, where it’s very very hard to convict. Ditto a lot of forms of anti-women behavior like stalking is often not taken seriously. If we have good info (not just a quick Google search) that someone has a pattern of stalking women, the fact that they have not been convicted of a crime does not prevent me from viewing them with contempt (and even thinking it could be relevant at work).

          Conversely, the legal system is way over-tough on low-level drug users who are poor and/or brown, so someone being convicted of that does not bother me in the least).

          I’m not saying this is any of OP1’s business, but it’s just not true that because people are innocent until proven guilty *in a court of law* (or guilty in a court of law) we have to follow that standard in how we treat them in our own lives.

        5. Observer*

          efendants are innocent until proven guilty. How they got off is irrelevant.

          This is absolutely not true. Not morally, not practically, and not even legally.

          If someone was credibly accused of a serious crime and an employer totally ignored that in a situation where it was relevant, and then that person committed a related crime again, the employer would be facing liability. eg In case like this, if the person were going to be doing a lot of driving, then it DOES make a different how and why the person got off. And if the employer ignored the whole situation and then the guy hurt someone by reckless driving, the employer would definitely be facing liability.

          1. Generic Elf*

            It’s absolutely true that people are innocent until proven guilty in the American system. (???) Unless they plead guilty, I guess?

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah, I’d be wary of getting a ride home from work with him but no more than that.

    3. The Dogman*

      LW is perhaps an example of the modern “puritanical” thought process in action?

      I suppose they haven’t considered it possible to ever be rehabilitated, and they must think prison should be an “in only” system where society warehouses criminals and the seriously mentally ill?

      And what about the fact they do not have all the actual facts? The prosecutors might have mishandled the evidence but that does not mean the person is automatically guilty of further crimes, just that the AG stuffed it up!

      1. Mockingjay*

        Agree. Google also does not tell OP1 anything about how he spent his time post-incarceration, whether he’s truly remorseful, sober, working with advocacy groups to help others avoid terrible incidents like his, or studied skills so he could become a contributing member of society again, and so on…we simply don’t know.

        OP1, you don’t have to welcome him with open arms. Just treat him cordially and professionally, let his supervisor manage his performance, and let him establish his own reputation and work product.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yes this is not an all or nothing thing. OP can stick to the rules of basic civility and go about their work day.

      2. Smithy*

        I think part of this modern puritanical dilemma goes back to the question around what does/doesn’t get disclosed at work and to our coworkers.

        With the article on asking for time off for therapy, there’s often an interesting line between wanting to destigmatize mental health care and regular therapy in the work setting – but also just having that more human interaction with your coworkers. Then there’s the viewpoint of having boundaries as firm as possible where you’re just asking for flex hours or PTO and disclosing nothing that it’s about.

        And in many ways, I think the puritan dilemma has an impact on both takes. Either one of trying to change those norms or coming from a place where personal information tied to illness or healthcare, failings, or mistakes is inherently very personal in a way to be guarded as such. And while this applies to ourselves, it also applies to others and if we know that they’re in therapy or have previous convictions we’re entirely unable to not let that impact our judgement of their professional selves in the present.

        I hope the OP ultimately gets to a place where they can find a balance of knowing this information while building a professional relationship with this person.

      3. TootsNYC*

        It’s quite possible that this person has really changed–they did jail time; they faced the fact that they killed someone.
        They might well now be the most prudent and cautious driver on the road.

        Most people that I know would change that much, I think.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          A friend simply threw away her licence after she hit and killed a young girl, she has never driven since. It was traumatising for her and she could never forgive herself. She wasn’t prosecuted, but there was really no need, she punished herself quite severely enough.

      4. Splendid Colors*

        In my county, we have many, many cases where people are over-charged (say, with vehicular homicide) to encourage them to plea-bargain it down to a lesser charge (say, reckless driving) to save the state the cost of a trial. (This typically happens to people who can’t afford to sit in jail for months or years waiting for their trial, by the way.) It’s completely possible that this person was over-charged AND stubborn enough to go through with a trial, at which they were convicted of the charges that were actually provable with the evidence.

        And he may have learned by this experience he needs to drive more carefully.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          Oops! I got confused and forgot that OP #1 says they were not found guilty at trial. Please ignore the last sentence of the first paragraph.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      I agree, there is an excellent chance that this part of your new coworker’s background is already known to someone on the hiring side.
      Apart from that, I hope you are open to the idea that he could have learned from the experience and changed for the better.
      Years ago, my uncle ran a machine shop and frequently hired recently paroled or released people. It was rare that anything in these individuals’ pasts created problems in the workplace. Due to the use of heavy machinery, zero tolerance was given for either substance abuse or any disruptive behavior that could be a distraction. Many of his employees stayed for years and turned out to be very loyal. They appreciated being treated respectfully and having a chance to rebuild their lives. I did his bookkeeping for several years and got to know his employees fairly well. The experience taught me not to judge, and that people are capable of great change. A lot of these guys (yes, they were all men) had non-privileged backgrounds and made serious errors in judgment, but they were mostly smart, kind, and hard working at the core.

      1. Believeinsecondchances*

        Your uncle sounds like a wonderful and compassionate person. The world needs more people like him.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Seconding this. I want people to have a chance to put their life back together after a mistake. Not to mouth “need to support yourself” and then try to lade on “Obviously not at any job within 1000 miles of me.”

          And this isn’t even someone who was convicted! Anyone in here could be involved in an investigation, and then have disgruntled people whispering that the case dismissal was all due to one teensy paperwork error. (And if the court CAN dismiss the case over the paperwork not supporting it, they aren’t going to indulge you with a trial to prove your innocence.)

          1. TexasTeacher*

            Yes, there’s very much a NIMBY attitude in our society about felons who have served their time. If they don’t deserve a job opportunity with your company, with whom do they deserve one?

            1. Marie*

              After serving time people should not have to then serve a life sentence of not being able to be hired, vote, et cetera. (As the three strikes law is found unconstitutional I pray all forms of continued lifelong punishing of people ends. Puritanical from the first comment: yes: that is a right word to describe this—I understand how direct victims feel but the LW is not a past or current victim of this person right)

            2. Gothic Bee*

              NIMBY attitude is a great way to describe it. I can understand certain crimes making certain jobs off limits (e.g., this dude probably shouldn’t be hired as a driver) but if someone has served their time, they need to be able to work again, especially if we actually care about decreasing recidivism rates.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                I am so, so tired of the commentariat on Nextdoor whining about people not going to jail any more for misdemeanor thefts and why are they all homeless and still out there stealing Amazon packages and bikes, etc. And of course none of them would hire someone with a criminal record or rent to them, so how on earth CAN the formerly incarcerated have apartments and jobs?

      2. UKDancer*

        That’s brilliant.

        There’s a shoe repair and keycutting business in the UK called Timpsons which employs a lot of ex offenders and proactively recruits from prisons. They also now run training academies within prisons so people are ready to take up work on release. The vast majority of their staff are loyal, hardworking and don’t reoffend. I have always found this very impressive and go out of my way to use their shops when I need my boots re-heeling.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          There’s also a number of UK B corps which focus on getting ex-offenders into training/work. It’s a great way of supporting these initiatives beyond charity donations etc.

        2. SarahKay*

          Thank you for the info about Timpsons; in the future I’ll definitely be using them as my preferred shop for re-heeling and new keys.

          1. Bagpuss*

            I believe that they are also very good generally with things such as parental leave, and staff consultation on policies. .And they closed their shops when covid hit, to keep their staff safe, even thought they would have been allowed to stay open as an ‘essential service’ – they shut down and then consulted on safety measures, trialed them in a few shops and then reopened. And while staff were furloughed they paid them at 100% not just the 80% through the furlough scheme.

            I read an article of an interview with James Timpson where he said that since starting doing it in 2008 they had employed around 1,500 ex-prisoners, and only 4 had gone back to prison.

            He also said that his parents used to take in foster kids when he was growing up so although he’d had a pretty privaledged upbringing, he had a lot of contact with people who didn’t and gained experience of how childhood neglect / trauma can shape things like attitudes to authority

            (I found a quite from him “I am really commercial – don’t get me wrong – I don’t run Timpson this way to be nice. But I do believe if you run your business with kindness and trust, and support your colleagues, they will outperform. And if you recruit people who have different life experiences and come from different backgrounds, that’s a massively positive thing”)

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              They have all sort of great initiatives – they were recently in the news for offering to cover HRT for staff members experiencing menopause in England as it wasn’t free on the NHS at the time (not sure if that has since changed), they’ll dry clean clothes for free if you’re unemployed and need them for a job interview, they offer paid time off for parents to take their child to their first day of school… there’s a reasonable chance that if you go to a Timpsons you’ll be talking to someone currently on day-release. Fascinating company.

            2. sunglass*

              Wow, I had no idea about this! I already use Timpson for things like key-cutting and getting shoes reheeled, but I’ll make sure to keep using them.

        3. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Its almost as if, by supporting someone post-release/conviction, instead of writing them off as a pariah, we as a society could help. (I believe there are studies in the US that lend credence to this – previous offenders get stuck in the system when they have no support system, no employment prospects, no housing options, all of which lead to more re-offending. A support system, employment, and housing, all lead to fewer reoffenses by far.)

          We need to move to rehabilitation, not punishment, as the end result of incarceration. I get the anger and I get the rage, and believe me, there are some crimes that I’m very conflicted as to where the line should be with regard to rehabilitation vs. punishment, but the system right now is fundamentally broken.

          1. londonedit*

            There was a programme on here in the UK the other week where a popular TV presenter told the story of how he’s learning to read at the age of 51 (Jay Blades, if anyone wants to Google – it was on the BBC). He had undiagnosed dyslexia at school in the 70s/80s and was basically discarded by the school system, and it was only really through luck that he managed to get himself on the right path through life instead of falling into petty crime (and that’s not to say there haven’t been extremely difficult times in his life regardless). As part of the programme he visited a prison where inmates were working with a charity and doing the same learn-to-read course he was studying, and there was an incredible statistic that said something like 80% of prisoners in this country are unable to read and write properly. These are people who have been failed and/or excluded by the school system, often failed by the care system as children, and who have never had the opportunity to learn the basic skills that allow people to get jobs. So they end up dealing drugs or stealing things or getting into whatever criminal activity it might be, because they have no way of becoming a functioning member of society, and if they don’t learn to read and write and don’t learn some skills that they can take forward into a job, they’re going to be at huge risk of reoffending when they’re released because there literally won’t be anything else for them to do. Of course there are crimes that should see people locked up for a very long time, but so many people in prison are there because of drugs and gangs and petty theft and things that could so easily be prevented by giving them the skills and support they need – ideally from an early age, but at the very least so that once they leave prison they have some sort of support network that will get them on a better path and make them less likely to turn back to crime.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Libraries in my area have a partnership with local jails were we provide materials for their in-house libraries and have started working to include inmates in virtual library programs where possible. We’ve got the data that shows that people who have access to educational tools during their sentence are less likely to reoffend, so we’re doing what we can to help the effort. We also host programs where people who have completed their sentence can speak with legal experts to work toward purging the convictions from their records. The goal is for people to get back into the world and be able to support themselves and their families, like all workers deserve to do.

              1. Rainy*

                When I was a kid my dad spent every Tuesday night at the state penitentiary teaching an adult literacy class. He has a paperweight that his students from one class made him–a piece of the wall from the yard, which they all signed in the same color pen he used to mark their assignments and then spray-coated in the machine shop.

                Books and reading classes and other education programs are so important to offer to incarcerated people, but you’re totally right that it’s only half the job–what point is there to learn to read or learn a trade skill if no one will hire you once you’re released?

          2. I take tea*

            For me the series Orange Is the New Black was a real eye opener. Not that everyone in it is an innocent angel – far from it – but it did a lot to explain circumstances that lead to jail, the unequal sentences, the dehumanizing of jail and also how hard it is to get back on track when you are out, especially if you don’t have any support system. I recommend it to everybody. It’s hard to watch sometimes, but very well done.

            They actually started a real fund in the name of one of the fictive persons in the series, to help women in and out of prison. I thought that was a nice touch.

      3. My heart is a fish*

        Yes. My first job was similar — it wasn’t anything special, just a sandwich shop, but the owner had a similar policy. She would hire anyone who seemed capable of the work, regardless of their background, so long as they committed to working hard and staying honest. My favorite coworker was recently out of prison, and he was the steadiest and most trustworthy person.

        Having a past conviction tells you so little about who a person really is.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        There are places/arenas here that employ ex-offenders. Going one step further I have seen the men in our community be inclusive with an ex-offender in order to help that person find a better path. These men are just regular people- they are not an NPO or government agency.

        (Sometimes their efforts pay off and sometimes the person reoffends.)

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        One of the heads of an organization I work with spent 8 years in state prison (4 for original assault sentence, 4 for being the opposite model prisoner). He was a very angry person when he was young and is from a community that had been written off as irreparably broken/dysfunctional. He got a shot as a temporary hire 15 yrs ago and is amazing. I have trusted him with my safety, my organizations money, and my professional reputation and never regretted it once. The whole point of prison is to make amends to society for what you did wrong and you should be able move past it.

      6. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        Seconding Hotdog not dog. Once worked at a animal shelter were most of the kennel techs were with a program that helped paroles find work. Some of the kindest people I meet. Most had made a mistake young after failing thru all of societies cracks. Many of them went on to learn grooming or training and find better jobs. This was a non profit job and kennel techs was minimum wage type pay. Big Wig decided they didn’t like the stigma of dealing with criminals when the shelter moved to a new shiny building. The few that were left on the payrolls quickly found better opportunities elsewhere and the shelter has had problems with staff retention for kennel techs every since. Its been seriously like 10 years since that decision was made and I don’t think they’ve had a full kennel staff once since then. Program that helped the shelter and the parolees gone over an image/ego issue.

    5. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      There’s someone in my country who got falsely accused of murder and, even though he was released and cleared of all charges, faced online harassment the moment his name was out in the press. The Google results listed old articles when he still was a suspect until he sued local government for damages, the media reported about it and the new articles appeared at the top.

      1. Cold Fish*

        I was once given some sensitive info about a coworker suspected of a crime (I have several social workers and cops in my family). But he was only suspected and not arrested or accused at the time. I kept a distance from said coworker after that but never mentioned it to anyone at work because it felt more like rumor/gossip and I don’t want to be the kind of person who would destroy another persons reputation over a rumor. A few years after leaving company there was an article in the newspaper where (now former)coworker was arrested for “crime above”. Looking back, I still agree with my decision at the time to remain quiet.

    6. LetItGo*

      As the sister of someone who went to jail for a felony offense I beg you to let this go. My brother served two years in prison for an offense no one is absolutely sure he even committed. He was beaten up several times while in custody. He lost all his possessions. He had to start from scratch at 55. He was homeless when he was released because no one would rent to him. Every job he got afterwards he was let go from within a month because his co workers googled him and then went to management and said they refused to work with him because they were ‘afraid.’ He was never able to hold down a job after his incarceration. This was a man with two highly marketable degrees and the most upbeat attitude toward ‘let’s get this done, let’s figure this out!’

      He died last year, eleven years after his release. He was living in a boarding house with nothing to his name but the clothes on his back. He was finally able to get health care again at 65. That’s when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.

      Please, please let this go.

      1. I edit everything*

        Thank you for sharing this story. It’s easy to forget that “ex-cons” are people and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

        I’m sorry about your brother.

    7. Similar*

      I’ve been in a similar situation as the new hire who was googled…

      No conviction, and I can have my arrest expunged, but I haven’t because as I always say, “you can’t seal google.” Trust me, if I apply for a job, I’m letting people know what they will find on google(and if needed stamped court documents that outline what really happened but didn’t make the news). But my situation was covered so extensively in the news the basics are very common knowledge in my area, which is also helpful, because if everyone knows it can’t sneak up and bite you.

    8. OhNo*

      Serious question for Alison and the commentariat: why are we defaulting to he/him pronouns for the person in question from letter #1? Nothing in the letter indicates gender, and I was under the impression that the standard here was to default to she/her.

    9. T2*

      #1, it is none of your business, and your boss can google himself if he feels the need. Drop this info in a bottomless lit.

    10. Little My*

      I think LW 1 could use a little empathy here from us. I don’t think it’s weird to Google a new hire (I do that to find out what they used to do), and I think it’s really natural to have a negative reaction, backed up by social conditioning, to hearing that someone caused another person’s death. Like the rest of you, I think it is extremely unlikely that the hiring team doesn’t know, and the LW should not say anything to anyone at work. I see this as an invitation for the LW to explore her personal ethics around incarceration and rehabilitation as they relate to an offense she is uncomfortable with.

      1. Observer*

        I actually agree. My questions were not intended to be snarky or dismissive, but to frame the issue that the OP should be thinking about.

        That’s why I didn’t ask why they Googled the new hire, nor why they have a negative reaction. Both are normal, and not at all unreasonable.

    11. Poppyseeds*

      I think it really depends. We had a rather high-profile case around where I live where a driver hit a baby and its mom. The baby died as a result. The driver behind him could clearly see the man in question on his phone. He was found not guilty but he had a shark for an attorney. That one would be really hard for me to move on about my business and work with him. I think I would likely look for another job.

    12. Recruited Recruiter*

      LW#1, just know that if the criminal record you found was the kind that would make a societal pariah, that a quiet comment to your boss may be appreciated.
      I am not sure how, but my company’s background screening contractor missed a sexual assault of a child conviction. This was brought to our attention by a concerned employee who ran a sexual offender report for a neighborhood that they were looking at purchasing a home in, and knew our policy.
      Our company actually changed BG screen providers over it.

      If the crime was something less heinous though, I’d just assume that your boss knows.

    13. Dinosauraus*

      I would notify HR and give them a heads up. That you’re not sure if it’s that person or someone with a similar name, but just wanted to make them aware.

      Vehicular homicide!? Um- Yes it could be relevant unless this person is walk to work every day… I would certainly speak up, don’t assume they know. HR depts are usually understaffed and it’s easy to miss something believe it or not.

  4. Wendy*

    OP2, how much better would it pay than retail? Make sure you factor in the lower pay rate than you expected and the extra hours you’d have to put in to go through the hoops they set up (tracking down references, extra interviews, etc). When you assume there’s ~700 hours of work in the four months before you leave, how much difference would that extra pay make, really? I suspect it’s not going to be worth the bother (or the pulling of favors from old co-workers to get those references!)

    1. WellRed*

      Your last sentence seals it for me. And think how awkward to pester people for letters of recommendation (weird and annoying) and then turn around and ask them to be references again. Don’t let the fact this job isn’t retail blind you to some very bright flags.

    2. Anonying*

      This. I made something like $11.25/hr (hourly) and worked 40 hours per week in retail when I finished my Bachelors degree. That was around $23,500 per year, plus 401K with match, stock, health insurance, small bonuses, time and a half during the rare times I worked more than 40 hours in a week, guaranteed lunches and breaks, room to move up into corporate retail management at a Fortune 500, low stress, and a great 7a-3p schedule. I felt pressured by family to find something more professional. I took a ‘prestige’ job for $24,000 per year (salaried/not eligible for OT), with bare bones health insurance, no 401K, no stock, no bonuses, high stress, a boss who didn’t like anyone taking lunch or breaks, no room to move up without earning a doctorate, and a 7a-? (usually 6p) schedule. It came out to $8.39/hr. I instantly knew I’d screwed myself and regretted it. My gut instinct at the interview was to run. My gut instinct on day one was to run. I stuck it out because my family was so thrilled and my retail job was so looked down upon, and, over 10 years later, I still regret that decision.

      When I read the letter, I was taken back to that time in my life. The hiring practices so far sound terrible and disrespectful. Run.

      1. alienor*

        I also took a pay cut to move from retail into my first post-college job (not a lot, only about 50 cents an hour, but a pay cut all the same). It worked out because it wasn’t a terrible company and I got promoted pretty quickly, but I think a lot of people don’t realize that a retail job you’ve had for a few years can easily pay as much as an entry-level “professional” job, or more when you factor in overtime. They just figure any job where you sit at a desk and don’t wear a name tag must automatically be better.

        1. No Longer Looking*

          I contend that any job where you don’t have to work every Saturday, don’t have to work random evenings, have predictable days off, and can generally plan for your vacations ahead of time AND have paid time for it, is inherently better than most retail jobs on those merits alone. It certainly was for me.

          I do know that some retail positions are willing to offer more stable set hours to some of their full-time people, but when I was in retail (a few decades ago now) that was the exception rather than the rule.

          1. DailyHarvest*

            In 20 years of working, I find the Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job to almost be a myth, one that doesn’t fit everyone’s needs, expectations, sleep schedule, or priorities. Even after earning a doctorate and going into tenure-track postsecondary education, I was teaching until 9PM then going back in for office hours at 8 AM, plus working many weekends, for official events, research, grading, and prepping. I joked that I left retail as a young teenager and pursued advanced education to avoid ever “clopening” and working weekends again, and there I was with less than 12 hours between “shifts” at a university and actually working more hours, and more irregular hours, than when I worked retail. I’ve known many people who enjoyed having weekdays off and/or who enjoyed having mornings and early afternoons to themselves; for many, it worked better for childcare. Bluntly, it’s a disservice to assume or “contend” that 1st shift weekdday-only jobs is either the workforce the norm or the aspired-to norm. It’s not.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I still to this day talk about how, when my grandfather died, how awesome my PT retail gig was vs my full time “real job.” I still regret not giving them notice effective immediately for retroactively denying my bereavement leave and just asking Retail Gig for FT hours (which they 100% would have given me). I was not yet 24, starting grad school in the fall FT (and going to quit soon anyway).

        Retail in general has it’s problems for sure (see also: anything in the service industry), but I firmly believe this attitude is in part one that allows many retail and other service industry employers continue to treat employees terribly in an arbitrary way, because then people say, “Well you should just get a ‘real’ job.” It IS a real job, that pays real money and takes out real taxes.

  5. Anonynon*

    My manager thinks I shouldn’t be paid for the time sending the original (erroneous) forms and be paid half time for fixing the error and resending the forms.

    Putting aside the illegality of this plan…by this logic, OP’s company would actually be BENEFITING from OP’s mistake!

    Look at the numbers backwards: if, instead of not getting paid for the original time spent AND getting paid only half-time for the time spent fixing it, imagine if it was the opposite:

    1/2 pay for work done (including errors)
    No pay to fix the errors

    So now, the errors would have been fixed for free…but OP would still have been paid only 1/2 their pay for the (now perfect) work they did originally.

    (And yes, I get that other people’s time and effort was likely spent dealing with the issue, but I can’t imagine it even comes close to evening out.)

    So either the manager’s goal is to do something so draconian that it stops all mistakes from happening ever (which is unrealistic, because—as Alison pointed out—mistakes are a part of business, because they’re a part of life), or something hinky is going on.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      It would fit in well with a “be grateful you’ve got a job” sort of boss. The LW would be punished for making a mistake, by only getting half of the pay they would have if there had been no mistake. It’s designed to be harsh enough to scare the employee into not making more mistakes, but counts on the employee being so grateful they actually have a job that they won’t push back against it. The net benefit to the employer is more of a happy side effect than the main goal.

      1. Not Australian*

        Agree with you 100% here, and this doesn’t really sound like a job anyone would want to stay in if they try to impose draconian and extra-legal penalties on people for innocent mistakes. I’m really hoping we’ll get an update on this one which tells us the OP has moved on.

    2. Batgirl*

      I certainly wouldn’t be left with the impression that this is a proportionate and reasonable manager I would develop and thrive under.

    3. Kella*

      Or the manager really hasn’t thought through the efficacy of this strategy for performance management and just went with a FEELING about what to do.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I would put a small wager on this. It feels like “What are we even paying people for if they make errors?!!!” and this seemed to follow logically.

        (A few weeks back there was a letter about not wanting to pay people who walked off the job after a few hours, and the manager knew what the Bureau of Labor said but was appealing to Alison as a greater authority who would understand why it’s okay not to pay those people so long as you are feeling really annoyed at them.)

      2. pancakes*

        Not knowing the law on this isn’t a useable defense to breaking it. “Your honor, I just go with my feelings when it comes to paying my workers” is not an option.

        1. EPLawyer*

          They are counting on no one pushing back so they never have to explain. As was said above — be grateful you have a job and that we bother to pay you anything when you make a mistake is the attitude they are going for.

          1. pancakes*

            Right, but that’s just as foolish and naive as thinking that not knowing the law is a defense to breaking it! I mean, I don’t doubt there are many small business owners bumbling along that way nonetheless, but that is not something that can reasonably be counted on.

            1. Kal*

              Don’t worry, they just get big mad at anyone who does report because reporting them is being bad and mean and making them get in trouble for breaking the law is shameful behavior. (Source: my ex-landlord.) Which can be a problem when the reporter needs a reference in the future, so it further prevents people from actually reporting. If they then adjust to hiring only people they feel won’t be meanies who report things (by things like asking if the candidate really NEEDS this job) they can make sure to never have to feel bad for their feels-based abuses.

              Logic often never enters into it, so it not being reasonable to count on not ever being reported isn’t a particular concern. (It also helps that the punishments often aren’t all that severe compared to the money that has been made by committing the abuses in the first place.)

            2. Alice's Rabbit*

              “The Law” these days is such a huge, bloated Gordian knot of contradictions, it’s impossible for a business owner to know it all. But “pay your workers as agreed, for all hours worked” is pretty basic. No excuse for not knowing that one.

              1. pancakes*

                No one expects them to know it all. Those of us who are lawyers don’t have the entirety of the law committed to memory either, for that matter. What is expected is that a business owner making a change in an aspect of their business that is regulated – whether or not to pay an employee for a certain type of work, for example – knows perfectly well, or ought to, that there are regulations they need to adhere to rather than simply going with their gut. Likewise with minimum wage, unemployment withholding, etc. There is no good reason whatsoever for an employer to pretend as if employment and wages are a matter of personal belief or personal impulses that aren’t subject to state and federal law.

        2. Kella*

          Oh, certainly not. I wasn’t defending their motive, I was responding to the theory that this manager is either totally illogical or very draconian. It can be neither. It can just be incompetent.

    4. Bagpuss*

      All other considerations aside, penalizing people for making mistakes creates a strong incentive for people to try to hide or cover up mistakes, which is likely to have much bigger negative consequences for the business as it makes it harder to catch the errors while they are still fixable.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Yeah, my place of employment is big on being “mistake-friendly”, which sounds weird at first glance but is supposed to mean that instead of penalizing people for their mistakes, the focus is on learning from those mistakes. Which is just good business.

        Aside from mistakes being easier to correct when caught earlier, making people scared of making or admitting mistakes will also make them slower, more stressed, less likely to take any kind of risk. That’s not to say sloppiness should be accepted, but occasional mistakes are less expensive than trying to prevent them completely.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          One of my previous bosses had the saying, “It’s not a mistake unless it gets out the door” and that is a good way of looking at manufactured materials.

          1. Anonymous Technical Writer*

            Thank you for this phrase. I expect I will be using that this week with regards to some last-minute corrections needed to a document set..

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            This is how we look at it where I work – mistakes that only we see are learning/training opportunities.

            We do not charge clients who pay by the hour/item for rework or correction created by our internal mistakes, but the people who do the work are certainly paid for all hours they put in.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Exactly. I had a really toxic boss very early in my career and while I never made any big mistakes there I was terrified of telling home about anything even mildly wrong / uncertain.

          When I left that job, I made a fairly major mistake within a few weeks of starting my new job. I went to tell a manager (And was literally shaking as I was so scared about what their response would be – I expected t be screamed at and fired on the spot) their response was ‘Thank you for telling me, let’s go through what we need to do to sort this” – and treated it all along as something that we-as-a-team would need to deal with – they didn’t tell me off at all, they focused on what needed to be done to sort things out, affirmed that the immediate things I’d done before I had been able to speak to anyone were appropriate and were complimentary about the fact that I had thought to do them, and when we’d dealt with the initial fire-fighting just said “I’m not going to say anything bout *mistake* – it’s obviously not something you’re likely to do again”, and that was it.

          It was a revelation to me and while I later learned that there were a lot of issues with that manager in some aspects of their role, their handling of that specific situation was perfect nd I’ve tried to remember and emulate it when any of my reports make mistakes!

          And of course, in practice, a lot of mistakes are much easier to fix if you catch them early.

          1. TheAccountant*


            My first job out of college was with a 3 person CPA firm including the owner. I lasted about 2 months at that job. A highlight includes her saying, “Why are you still making mistakes? You’ve been doing this for 2 weeks!” This was for doing payroll for different small companies that each had slightly different procedures.

        3. Purple Cat*

          I love this phrasing.
          I also tell my employees that I expect mistakes to happen. It’s part of dealing with a complicated system. What I expect though is:
          1) employees don’t keep making the SAME mistakes.
          2) They review and update documentation so that other people hopefully don’t make the same mistake.

    5. Temperance*

      When I was a kid, my mom fell for a work-from-home scheme wheee you buy supplies and make jewelry and they buy them from you. Of course, they don’t buy them, they find flaws and you are just out the money.

      It’s like that. Some jobs prey on peoples ignorance of their rights. I guarantee OPs manager has pulled this stunt on others.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I would have (and have in similar circumstances) offered to fix it in my own time. The employer is paying for the deliverable, not just the time spent!

      1. pancakes*

        If the worker is paid by the hour (“I am a hourly worker and work from home”) they are indeed being paid for their time.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Except that LW said they are an hourly employee, so they *are* being paid for the time spent. If they were an independent consultant, then sure, it would be polite to offer to fix the mistakes on their own dime, but if (since!) they are an employee they should be getting paid for the time worked regardless of the deliverables’ correctness or not. And if they are working overtime to fix the mistakes, then I do believe they should indeed also be paid overtime for that, though IANAL so I’m not 100% certain about that.

      3. EPLawyer*

        Please do not do this. It only encourages companies to believe that mistakes are something that must be punished — such as working off the clock. Mistakes happen. They are part of doing business. Fixing mistakes is also part of your work day. If you let a company use your own time for work, it leads to things like them wanting to dock your pay for mistakes.

      4. somanyquestions*

        That’s not something to be proud of. That’s not how any of this works. Unless you’re a contractor or salaried (in which case it’s not really “on your time” even if it’s beyond your usual working hours), this is a bad practice.

      5. Nanani*

        As a freelancer, I have offered a discount in work that had ended up below-standard in quality (and there was no time for fixing it, that was part of why the quality slipped), but it was an apology and a long-standing client. Also I’m a freelancer and not an employee.

        It makes zero sense for an hourly -employee- to take a pay cut, whether offered or forced. They want fewer mistakes, they get to train their employees.

      6. NotAnotherManager!*

        What the employee is being paid for is based on their employment arrangement, and it’s quite unusual for clerical work to be paid based on piecework or deliverable.

        Also, if you are being paid hourly by an employer and you don’t record your time worked, this can be opening the employer up to a labor law violation/penalty (depending on the jurisdiction), which is typically more than the hourly clerical time for correcting an employee mistake. I tell all my hourly folks that they are doing me and the organization no favors by underreporting their time.

        If I discovered you were doing this, I’d ask you to stop it and record your time accurately and completely. If you insisted upon continuing to misreport your time based on an incorrect assumption about how you should be paid or, worse, were policing your coworker’s time entry around mistakes based on the same, I would have to fire you before you became a timekeeping liability.

    7. Amethystmoon*

      As someone who’s done data entry for years: You can be as careful as humanly possible. Still, you are human, so there will be at minimum a 1% error rate. Human beings will always have an error rate. Perfection is simply impossible and unrealistic to expect from human beings.

      That being said, you can put processes in place that will reduce mistakes. Have someone else check over the typing to see if there are any typos before anything is printed. It sounds like something was done here, which is why the error was caught. But it’s highly unrealistic to expect human beings to never, ever make typos. If someone is making a lot of typos, absolutely talk to them and get them to slow down a bit/review their work. But you cannot withhold pay for it.

      1. Generic Name*

        Do you have a source for the minimum normal human error rate? I’m not being snarky, I’m genuinely curious. My company has a client that has instituted a “zero error” policy for their deliverables, and not only is it much more stringent than the industry standard of care, it’s physically impossible. They expect not even a typo, not just zero errors in data.

        1. Nanani*

          They need to hire more humans, both to have proofreading with a fresh pair of eyes and to make sure everyone is able to work at a pace that minimizes errors.
          And even then, they won’t have zero errors. Just minimal ones.

        2. Splendid Colors*

          If I were in management, I would be assessing whether or not the profit from the “zero error” client justifies the higher level of proofreading and stress on employees working on that contract. Some clients need to be fired.

    8. Parenthesis Dude*

      A form with incorrect information could cost significantly more than the clerical workers salary. If it kills a deal, then the whole office doesn’t eat.

      I get why the insurance broker would feel the way he does. She probably gets most of her salary on commission and either needs to close deals or die. If the broker makes an error, they simply don’t get paid. That doesn’t change the fact that what he’s asking for is blatantly illegal and ignores that the broker has a significantly higher risk/reward situation.

    9. Beth*

      Seems to me the natural corollary to being paid half time for work that was done with errors and then corrected off the clock — would be to charge double time for all work completed with no errors. Divide pay by 2 if wrong, multiply by 2 if right.

  6. Autumnheart*

    #1: Hmm. Well, it’s entirely possible your manager, or the appropriate people anyway, already know. They probably googled that person too when they were considering him as a candidate, and if it’s routine to run a background check for new hires, it would have come up. Or someone might just have remembered the incident from when it was in the news.

    In any case, I think it bears some navel-gazing on our society’s desire to punish people forever. If a person has paid their debt to society, they should be allowed back in as a participant, shouldn’t they?

    But I also know people who committed crimes that resulted in jail time, and it did make me look at them differently (people who were privileged enough to easily have avoided such a situation). The bottom line is, you don’t have to be buddies with the new guy, but a civil professional relationship isn’t too much to ask. If the new hire turns out to be a trash fire based on their actions in the course of being your coworker, that will reveal itself in time.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I would think MOST companies would do a Google search on ANY applicant before putting him/her into the interview loop.

  7. Worker*

    #1 I wouldn’t say anything to anyone about the new person. If your company does background checks on new hires, they already know and decided they were ok with giving him a chance

    1. Moonlight*

      #1 I wouldn’t say anything. Like Allison said, there’s time’s that if matters but I’m assuming if he’s doing admin work that this isn’t one of those times. He’s not driving a truck for the company after all. People with records deserve to work, and, though if might be uncomfortable, he doesn’t deserve to be unemployed for life. I periodically works with offenders and it’s tough, but don’t let it define him – you don’t know how much he’s changed, or what underlying issues there are. It’s not an excuse, but trying to humanise someone as opposed to seeing them as defined by A Specific Thing is helpful to manage fear or awkwardness.

    2. Mitzii*

      Sounds like LW 1 wasn’t really involved in the actual hiring process, either. There could have been an hour-long discussion about this in one of their interviews, for all they know. I’d definitely leave it alone. And DON’T GOSSIP ABOUT IT.

      1. blackcat lady*

        Yeah, I won’t take that bet. I get the feeling LW1 will find some way to bring up past history in the work place. This person made a huge mistake and paid for it. Let them get their life back on track.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*

      Worrying about something you aren’t responsible for, is a waste of time and energy.

      You can’t unknow what you found out, so try to reframe it in your mind. Assume he has taken to heart the consequences of the mistake he made, and hope he is a better person going forward from that. Assume that the justice system worked, and that the right verdicts were returned and the right lessons were learned.

      Can you be sure that’s the case? No, but it’s the best perspective for you to move forward.

  8. The New Wanderer*

    LW 2, to be honest I’d reconsider that job offer, which sounds contingent and not definite anyway, even if you weren’t moving in a few months (with the usual caveats about being in a position to go without a job). Offering you a lower paid position than what you applied for, not respecting your time during the interview, and requesting letters of rec after giving you an offer, all of that sounds like a place that does not function well.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Forgot to add the suggestion, if you’re not already, to job hunt in the new city and/or look for jobs that are offering remote positions. You might get something that you can stay in after you move.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      The new job does seem to be offering itself copious off-ramps to pull the offer on their end at any time over the next several months. I think OP should just walk away and not apply more effort here.

      Second the suggestion to look for a remote position that might continue through a move. (Caveat about employment taxes in different states.)

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I don’t think offering a different position to someone that interviewed is a sign of anything particularly wrong, I think it’s pretty common/normal to say “well you’re not a good fit for that, but we think you would be good for this instead.” I got a great internship that way once (though it was unpaid, so no difference in the complete lack of salary lol).

      But the rest of it sounds pretty ridiculous. Unless it was some kind of very serious family emergency I cannot fathom taking a 20 minute phone call in the middle of an interview!

      1. Dave*

        My old boss definitely would have done this depending on whose calling. In part because as a small business owner sometimes stuff comes up and they have to jump. The other part was failure to manage time, give people autonomy, failure to plan, and just generally not a great place to work. So while there could be reasonable issues why this would happen at a smaller company, I would be looking at the interview’s response when they returned. That may be the norm of working there.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I agree that a different position doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker by itself. My main issue with offering the different position in this case is that it was lower pay/lower rank, so without a really clear explanation of why they are doing this it comes across like they’re trying to get a more experienced and skilled person in a role for less money than they’re worth.

    4. EPLawyer*

      My thought too. Is this job offer contingent on passing the background check? Letters of recommendation AFTER you got the job offer seems weird. References should have been checked before offering the job. Letters of Recommendation don’t give employers the nuance that a reference call does as Alison says. Plus all the appointments.

      This company doesn’t sound worth the effort even if you weren’t moving. You may hate retail, but not-retail places can have their own dysfunction that will make you just as miserable.

    5. blood orange*

      Agreed, and I had a similar experience. I DID accept the offer and should probably have taken a step back and looked closer at the red flags. I had one interview for a pretty integral position, they made the offer the next day, rushed me when I asked for the weekend to make a decision, and sprung three things on me after I accepted – a job application (???), references, and a background check that required fingerprinting. I thought these things were odd and it gave me anxiety that THEY would back out, but ultimately I moved forward. The company was a disorganized mess and the job was highly stressful (partly because of the disorganization).

      From what OP has shared, it seems like the best option is to gracefully back out. Generally, good employers are respectful of your time and clearly communicate throughout the interview process.

  9. Autumnheart*

    And it’s like, OP, do you want to be the person who spreads a story about a new hire that taints them right off the bat? If someone’s going to be a mess, let them ruin their own reputation. Don’t put yourself in a position where someone could (credibly!) accuse you of harming their ability to work effectively. Someone will no doubt break both legs running to tell the team about the new hire’s criminal exploits, and cause a nice little HR situation, and it should not be you.

  10. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    Re #2:
    “I accepted their job offer because it would be better for me than working retail, but they didn’t tell me until last week about their very extensive background check that also involves me asking for letters of recommendation, not just references, from previous employers, and setting up several appointments.”

    Don’t know about anyone else, but I find it hard to imagine any job that would be worth all that hassle. The LW didn’t say what kind of job it is or in what industry, and I realize that for all I know, this kind of thing could be sop in some fields, but it just sounds like A Lot. I can’t imagine going through all that for many jobs, much less one I know I’d be able to stay at for only a few months.

    I agree with Alison’s advice.

      1. Midwest Teacher*

        I did not have to provide any references for my teaching job and was hired off of a single phone interview.

    1. Everything Bagel*

      Yeah, I balked at that, too. That seems like a nuisance for you and a previous employer who has nothing vested in you getting this job. I understand it might be the norm for some fields, but this requirement should have probably been included in the ad for the job.

    2. Nanani*

      IKR. That sounds very intense and if it was standard, LW2 would have known and probably had at least the letters lined up.

    3. OP 2*

      Thank you! I actually never saw the job posting for the job they offered me, despite asking. It’s also not really the industry I majored in so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but I did push past a lot of things that made me uneasy in the hiring process and thought several times that they were too disorganized but that I just had to put up with it since it was my first non-retail job offer.

  11. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    #1 – One thing that stuck out to me is that you said that “several years ago” the person was “charged”. Many states also have a limitation on how far back you can consider events on a background check. Depending on how many years ago this event was, it may fall outside of those limits. Additionally, being charged with a crime is not the same thing as being convicted. In the US, the presumption is that you are innocent until proven guilty (although not always in the court of public opinion).

    The only reason I can think of to raise this with your manager is if the position is one related to driving, since the person did serve time for reckless driving. Other than that, I would tuck it away, and probably not want to ride with the person if they were driving right off the bat, but even then, a serious accident can make someone an even safer driver. I know I was in a few car accidents in my 20s and after one serious one in my mid-20’s I became a much more careful and safer driver.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yeah I remember from my journalism training there was a big emphasis on only publishing “contemporaneous” information because it was considered deeply unfair to dredge up into the present the court history of someone who might be living a totally different life. That law only affected when you were allowed to publish and date an article, not for how long the article could appear online (though the rule was created for print so I always expected an update on that). It was implied that an intelligent reader perusing through some archives would be understand time had passed. I know my newspaper used to purge or just not put certain court appearances online for this very reason. If one of the charges against this person didn’t even proceed through court process, that is a very shaky thing to leave hanging out there.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I if their job was going to involve driving at all I think I would mention it to HR, and I think even after a number of years I might well decide on a personal basis that I wasn’t comfortable accepting a left from them, but I don’t think it is appropriate to raise it otherwise.

      I assume that if the nature of the job / business is such that criminal offences in general would be relevant then the company would be doing proper background checks.
      (For instance, due to the nature of my business, we do get criminal record checks done for new employees, not least because for a lot of roles we would have to get specific permission from our regulatory body to employ someone with convictions, and of course it it made clear upfront that it will happen. for some roels this includes an enhanced check which would include ‘spent’ convictions)

      1. All the words*

        If it’s relevant then HR has already run the necessary checks and has this information. There’s no reason for anyone else to “help” them run background checks on their new co-workers.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, I agree the likelihood is that management already knows, and also that it’s their responsibility to do checks if they feel it is appropriate BUT I think for me personally, the point at which I might feel it appropriate to say something is where the information is relevant to the role *and* there is a risk of harm to others if it isn’t known / checked out., but I think that there is a balancing exercise between being fair to the new employee and considering any risk to other staff / clients. (I would be influenced by how long ago it was, too – the longer ago it is the less likely I would be to mention it)

          But assuming that the admin job doesn’t involve driving then it’s not relevant and shouldn’t be flagged.

          IF they had been hired with the understanding that there role would include routinely ferrying other staff between different offices, then I think it is potentially relevant and it’s not out of line to mention it. Not least because just because HR should check, doesn’t necessarily meant that they will.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Even if the job did not requiring driving, background accidents can still come up. I worked for a place whose insurance company DEMANDED we have a BG driving record on everyone there. The insurance company did not care of the job itself did not involve driving. I guess their thinking was all it takes is one instance of “I will get the coffee and donuts for us!” and presto- the employee is driving on company time and for the company.

    3. drpuma*

      Yes. I used to review background checks for entry-level roles, and we could only consider convictions within the past 7 years that were related to the job responsibilities. Those roles did involve driving, but I do not think these misdemeanors would have precluded hiring this guy for an office job for example.
      We also had a universal “no felonies” policy, which is another story. I hated having to reject candidates who had been charged with multiple misdemeanors but pled out to a felony. I would definitely push back on that today but at the time I didn’t feel I had the authority.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        The concept of pleading to a felony to settle multiple misdemeanor charges is pretty bizarre. Not impossible, but the circumstances would have to be pretty complicated for that to make sense.

        Maybe chalk that up to the candidate not telling the whole story, and you probably don’t want to know the rest of the story anyway.

  12. Bazza7*

    #1. My Dad hit a person with his car back in the 1970s, this person died. My Dad had said he didn’t see them run out onto the road until it was too late. Dad used to go to the pub after work, he was under the limit for alcohol, but probably effected his driving ability. He got charged with negligently driving causing death. There wasn’t any community service or jail time that I remember. He did up alcohol. But should of he lost his job, no, and additionally he was a single parent.
    You’re making this person out to be a monster, they’re not. They have to live with this for the rest of their life. Stop googling your colleagues, once you see stuff about someone you can’t unsee it. Now you want to tell someone at work and let’s be honest you will.

    1. Rose*

      It seems like your fathers story is really coloring your view here. OP in no way made the person like like a monster. They laid out what they learned without adding any judgement or commentary, aside from whatever is implicit in considering telling their manager.

      Alison talks all the time about how demonstrating poor judgement outside of work, whether it’s punching a stranger in Walmart or screaming at a coworker or whatever, is a perfectly reasonable thing to fire or not hire someone over. Everyone is suddenly very alarmed when the poor judgment being considered is attached to a criminal record. Unless there’s a law at play (which there may or may not be here), it’s not really any different.

      1. MK*

        The OP pretty much implies that the candidate got off a manslaughter charge because the prosecution botched the evidence. I wouldn’t call that without judgment.

        And in the cases of people’s behaviour outside of work, these instances are about recent actions, not several years in the past.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I agree, and I think anyone here could find themselves on the wrong end of a “well they weren’t convicted, technically but everyone knows that’s because of a paperwork error.”

          And similar to Bazza, I have an elderly relative found at fault in a lethal automobile accident. (No substances abused; lost the license.) It was sad and tragic; I don’t look for ongoing ways to punish them years later and I don’t think random strangers need to, either.

        2. Rose*

          It’s also implied that was in the article(s). They’re sharing what they learned with Alison so they can get her advice. Being vague would just further confuse the situation.

      2. L-squared*

        I think its because this is something from years ago and they already served their time. At some point, if someone has paid their debt to society and enough time has passed, people need to let it go. We have no idea what this “several” years ago could be. Also, I read a lot of judgment in their letter. Especially in the sense of getting a lesser charge

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        There is definitely both judgment and commentary in the letter. Which is fine for them to personally feel, but they definitely should not tell other people in the office what they googled. Alison also did say there very specifically *are* laws in place to try to prevent that kind of discrimination against an applicant…

      4. BBA*

        If we divorce “demonstrating poor judgement outside of work” from the specific contexts in which those particular “poor judgements” are related to specific job duties (like, say, a middle school teacher posting hate speech online, or, in your example, someone acting violently toward others) then everyone whose ever done anything someone else deems “poor judgement” should lose their job. So basically everyone should lose their job. There is in fact a difference. It’s the context that makes the difference.

        1. Rose*

          The idea that “everyone makes mistakes, therefore we are all imperfect and equally deserving of loosing our jobs” is ridiculous. Of course everyone had poor judgement at some point. That doesn’t make a murderer equal to a child molester to a drunk driver equal to someone who gets drunk kisses their married boss. Like you said, there is a difference. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

          We all make mistakes but some people much much, much worse mistakes.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Sadly, the longer I go the more people I meet who have had a terrible accident and killed someone. There were two people in particular. They never got charged (and rightfully so) but they were willing to serve time if told they had to. “I did this and I must pay my debt to society.” The police and courts disagreed as both instances were a pure accident through and through.

      What is striking to me as an older adult, is that younger me thought accidently killing someone was a rare thing. Sadly, it’s not as rare as one would hope. I never realized how many factors were considered for a particular case. And many, many factors are considered. Because it’s more frequent than we’d like to think about courts/police/prosecutors have a list of things that they look at in consideration of each case. This is not simple to do, it is hours of work for a good number of people.

      There is that tendency for courts to err on the side of caution. Why is it we want caution if it involves us directly but we don’t want it so much when it involves someone we don’t know.

      1. Laney Boggs*

        Cars are gigantic death machines. Roads are SO dangerous for pedestrians, animals, other drivers…. honestly anyone who drives and hasn’t hurt themselves or someone else is operating on luck.

        1. anonymous73*

          Yes the roads are dangerous, but it’s because there are too many people trying to do 100 other things while driving instead of focusing on the main task. Having the ability to drive safely without hurting others has nothing to do with luck.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            It very definitely does have something to do with luck. Not everything, but it is not the case that the roads were accident free before the invention of cell phones.

            You can reduce the risk that you will cause an accident, and reduce the chance that you won’t be able to respond to someone else’s bad driving (or a deer), but getting it down to zero–that sounds like my long-ago 16-year-old who had been driving for all of 2 weeks.

            1. anonymous73*

              According to the poster I was responding to it’s ALL about luck. No you can’t reduce your chance of hurting yourself of others to zero, but if you drive safely and are aware of your surroundings your odds of not hurting others is not only based on luck.

          2. Anonying*

            I was driving to work, fully focused on the road, going 34 in a 35, got the green light about four seconds after it changed without needing to slow down, and a guy stepped off the sidewalk right into the path of my car. I wasn’t doing 100 other things. He didn’t die. I still remember the look on his face.


            1. anonymous73*

              okay let me rephrase, it’s not ONLY about luck according to the person I was responding to

          3. SnappinTerrapin*

            Even with conscientious attention to the task, there are random occurrences (call it luck, if you will) that occasionally cause accidents. Someone else’s bad choices, an animal running in the road and startling the driver, a patch of “black ice,” for example, can put a careful driver in a situation where no matter what they do, someone gets hurt.

            Lack of care magnifies the risk of operating a machine that has the inherent capacity to destroy what it hits.

      2. AY*

        My childhood best friend had a family member who accidentally killed a child who ran in front of his car without warning or enough time for him to stop. He wasn’t charged of course, but I often wonder how he’s been able to deal with it emotionally.

        One of my mom’s friends was killed by a group of kids who were dropping rocks from a highway overpass. They were charged. I’m not sure what the punishment ended up being, but I hope they turn their lives around.

        But you’re right, accidental deaths are so much more common than we’d like to think.

        1. Rainy*

          My entire family, in 2 cars convoying, was once caught in a similar situation. The highway patrolman at the rest stop we pulled over at, along with everyone else who was hit by the cement blocks the kids were dropping, looked at the car my dad was driving and whistled. My little sister had been asleep in the passenger seat (mum and I were following on) and if the cinder block hadn’t already had a big chunk broken off from being dropped on another car previously, it would have gone all the way through the windshield instead of just part way, and probably killed her. There were probably 20 cars who’d been hit by cinder blocks. The teens would scurry down and grab them off the highway, carry them back up to the overpass, and drop them again. Because it was a turnpike, and they’d chosen an overpass without an exit onto the turnpike, it was 20 miles of back roads to get from the nearest exit to the overpass they were using. The highway patrolman told us, disgusted, that the kids had been doing this for months but one of them was the son of the local judge or something, and so the whole group was being protected by the local sheriff.

        2. Observer*

          One of my mom’s friends was killed by a group of kids who were dropping rocks from a highway overpass. They were charged

          They were charged for a REASON. And that reason is that this is actually NOT an unforeseeable accident. It was the result of specific behavior that any reasonable person should realize is dangerous.

          It is absolutely true that genuine accidents happen. But SOOO many of them actually were avoidable by at least one of the actors.

    3. Esmeralda*

      New Yorker published a story about accidental killings a few years ago:

      One of my siblings works for an insurance company. They siad that one of the saddest and hardest situations is what happened with your dad. Because even if there isn’t any court case, the person has to live with it for their rest of their life.

      My sib had a case where part of the settlement was for the driver to write a paper check once a month and mail it in a hand-addressed envelope so that the driver would be reminded every month.

  13. TransmascJourno*

    OP1–I’m also curious as to why this new employee, out of any other, prompted you in some way to Google them. Is this the first time you were forwarded an email like this? If that’s not the case, then, again, why?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to ask that we not do that. Lots of people will google a new hire to learn a bit about their background, simply out of curiosity, and it’s not the point of the OP’s question.

      1. MK*

        Ok, but I do think it needs to be said that you need to be discriminate with the results of the googling. News articles especially aren’t necessarily accurate and reliable about what actually happened*. In this case the OP found out this candidate was acquitted of a crime and they still treat them like a potential threat.

        *This is especially true in cases of fatal car accidents. Plenty of times the deceased person is the one responsible for the crash, but no newspaper is going to print anything saying the sainted dear departed caused their own death. And the authorities are focusing on someone who is alive to prosecute.

        1. stasia*

          The letter says they were acquitted of the most serious charge but were convicted of several lesser charges and served time in jail.

        2. Rose*

          Authorities absolutely do not have pressure to prosecute someone in a car crash just because there were fatalities if the person who died was at fault. Unless there is some high level corruption going on this is not a thing.

          A newspaper failing to report that a deceased person was at fault is one thing. Bringing charges against the other driver, convicting them of a crime, and sentencing them to jail time, which is what happened to the new hire, is very, very different than not mentioning who’s fault it was, regardless of if the new admins background matters or not.

          If the admins background doesn’t matter there’s no need to twist the facts. They were not acquitted. The OP clearly says they were charged and served time.

          1. MK*

            I am working for the court system in my country and have read many reports about similar cases in many countries, including the US. These is a definite pressure to prosecute in cases of lethal car accidents, from the dead person’s relatives, from the community at large, from local politicians, especially if the dead person is “respectable”. What do you call it when the police investigation into the accident has barely started and the news is flooded with glowing obituaries and strictures to the authorities to be as strict as possible with the “monster” that took this treasure from us? And social media has amplified this 1000 times.

            And the candidate was acquitted of causing the death. The OP doesn’t seem to accept this.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              In the US, race, class, and age play a huge part in what fatal cases get perused. Upper middle class+/white/child killed in a crash by a poor/BIPOC/immigrant/adult plays out a whole lot different than a poor/BIPOC/immigrant/adult or child killed by a upper middle class+/white/teen or adult all too often play out differently for all the wrong reasons

              1. bookworm*

                This very much. But also, it’s just not true that drivers get disproportionately prosecuted in fatal car crashes in the US, particularly when pedestrians and cyclists are involved. For both legal and cultural reasons, drivers deemed “at fault” for a fatal crash are often not prosecuted for homicide unless they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. See, for example, this good summary from the Guardian (this is about US fatalities, despite being a UK source)

                But, none of this changes Alison’s advice to let this go in a work context. People gotta feed, house, and clothe themselves, and nobody’s better off if this person can’t get an admin job.

            2. Alice's Rabbit*

              I have to agree. I lost a cousin two years ago in a tragic bike vs truck-with-trailer accident. The police were shocked that our whole family was adamant they not pursue charges against the truck driver. They’re so used to families wanting someone to pay for the death of their loved one. They didn’t know what to do with a family who genuinely cried for the truck driver’s pain, as well as our own grief.
              So yes, police and DAs are definitely under pressure to charge someone in cases where there’s a vehicular death. That he was acquitted of the more serious charge only makes this more likely, as it looks like the DA was overreaching.

          2. MK*

            Because apparently the legal process is 100% reliable when someone goes to jail, but if they are acquitted, they got off somehow.

            1. Generic Elf*

              I hear you and agree it’s not 100% reliable (not even close) but a conviction carries an official sort of weight that people often interpret as truth. The opposite not being the case. We don’t prove people innocent, so there’s always that doubt when a conviction for a charge inevitably doesn’t come to fruition.

          3. Myrin*

            It’s also not that black-and-white. This might be location-dependent to a point but I certainly read newspaper articles reporting the deceased person as the one at fault for the accident pretty regularly. Doesn’t mean the opposite doesn’t happen – I’m convinced it does! – and I didn’t do or read any kind of actual study pertaining to this so I couldn’t hit you with percentages; I know that MK is a lawyer so certainly has more exposure to that kind of stuff than I do but I feel confident that saying “no newspaper is going to print anything saying the sainted dear departed caused their own death” is not true, especially not spoken with such finality.

            1. MK*

              I shouldn’t have spoken so absolutely, I am sure it does happen. But in my experience that kind of reporting doesn’t lead to “public opinion” pressure to the authorities, because a deceased person isn’t ofetn vilified in news coverage, even if their fault is pointed put.

              I don’t think I expressed myself correctly about why I think this is an issue in this case: the problem lies with court, police and crime reporting, which can be incredibly unreliable. Allegations are reported as proven facts, vague insinuations are made with little or no support, the law and the actions of the court can be misunderstood or just falsely stated, everybody and anybody’s opinion is repeated as gospel and it is heavily influenced by the identity of the people involved. Articles should be read with extreme prejudice, especially if you only have one source. In the OP’s case, I don’t know whether their source is an article (and if so, is it only one or several), if what this person actually did was stated or just a list of the crimes they were convicted of, if their conviction was reported accurately (you wouldn’t believe how ignorant reporters can be about pretty basic legal terms), if the supposed technicality the person got off for the death was substantiated or a rumor, etc.

        3. MsSolo (UK)*

          It’s worth adding, in terms of discriminating what you find when you google, that of course your google history influences what you see. For something like this, it’s hard to imagine any google search wouldn’t turn up some news articles (compared with, say, if you’d found the new employee’s AO3 account) but it absolutely will effect which news sources you’re seeing, and different sources are going to tell the same story very differently. A narrative about how a terrible no good bad guy got off a serious charge due to piffling paperwork errors in one newspaper is going to be how a keen-eyed lawyer noticed a serious error in the prosecutor’s filings in another.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Oh, excellent point! We’ve all seen the media jump on a story and whip it up into a frenzy that bears little to no resemblance to the facts. And, of course, when the truth finally does come out, it’s not nearly so titillating, so the media doesn’t mention it at all. Meanwhile, those early articles, full of conjecture and “witness” statements, are left in the archives forever.

        4. pancakes*

          Sure, but writing a letter to an advice columnist asking whether you should do anything about what you saw in a search isn’t indiscriminate. You say the letter writer is “still treat[ing]” their new coworker like a potential threat, but in fairness we don’t know that they’ve treated them any way at all. Thinking to themself that maybe they should say something to someone is just that, a thought.

      2. Avril Ludgateau*

        The normalization of invasive practices by employers (including colleagues) is something that we should certainly have a discussion about, though. People’s “curiosity” is why I not only lock every post but I use a fake name and no pictures on the one page I use to connect with family and long-distance friends (while avoiding all other forms of social media). Not because I’ve done or posted anything egregious, but because I don’t need somebody digging up a Facebook post from 2008 that says “Avril Ludgateau is listening to F*** the Police (that’s my jam!)” or “Avril Ludgateau is gEtTiN SlIzZeReD lolol WOOOO!” and turning it into a scandal. This kind of behavior has famously manifested in teachers – full-fledged legal adults – losing their jobs over something as innocuous as holding an alcoholic beverage in a photo on their personal social media page, with no affiliation to their employer. Just somebody reported it to the employer and teacher’s job goes bye-bye for “unprofessional behavior” in their personal life.

        The OP context is a perfect example of how damaging it can be when people indulge their “idle curiosity” and form judgments from it. We don’t have to have this conversation now, but it is one that needs to be had. Googling colleagues is the type of busybody nosiness I thought was frowned upon in this community.

        1. pancakes*

          It’s not a perfect example because there has not been any damage. The letter writer is thoughtful and hesitant enough to have sought advice on what, if anything, they should do about what they saw, and hopefully they’ll take the advice.

          Like you, I don’t do many things online under my actual name, but I couldn’t disagree more than simply doing a Google search for someone is somehow unfair or illegitimate or being a busybody. Acting on the information, maybe, but simply seeing what’s out there is not “nosiness.” It is basic curiosity. If you’re hoping to make it fashionable for people to feel bad about it, I think you’re a couple decades too late.

          1. Avril Ludgateau*

            If medical professionals can recognize that “basic curiosity” is not justification to peep somebody’s file if they’re not involved in care, and we as a society accept that as a reasonable and righteous boundary, there is no logic to arguing that there are not professional restrictions on “basic curiosity” in other realms, as well. And frankly I strongly disagree with the insinuation that we live in a “post-privacy society” as Zuckerberg has famously argued (and in fact if we did, then Facebook certainly would not be struggling with the image and legal issues it is facing at present).

            Just this past December, Alison re-posted an old letter from an individual who faced consequences (either was terminated or lost out on a promotion, I’ll have to look it up) for e-mailing herself the resumes of some applicants whose hire she was not involved in, that she found on a network drive. She did it out of “basic curiosity”, and even claimed she immediately delete them, that she had gone no further than glancing at the resumes before immediately recognizing her indiscretion. The resounding, consistent response – from Alison and commenters alike – was that this was a violation, it was invasive, it was unethical, and the consequences that the LW faced were harsh but just. These were resumes. They had been freely submitted to the company. There was no more information on them than you would find, say, googling a name and stumbling on the individual’s LinkedIn page, and yet this was overwhelmingly recognized as an overstep. And the LW in that scenario never used the information or asked to use it against the candidates, unlike OP here.

            I LOVE this blog, I have learned and continue to learn so much from the discussions here, but… it is frustrating how ideologically inconsistent this crowd can be.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t at all agree that medical files and Google search results are comparable in terms of privacy expectations.

              I didn’t say or suggest that I believe we live in a “post-privacy society” and don’t appreciate you speaking as if I did.

              The person who sent themselves copies of resumes sent to their employer is not nearly the edge case you make it out to be. Those resumes were sent to the employer, not to the letter writer. They simply didn’t belong to her. Whether or not she made use of the information is beside the point. They weren’t hers to take home.

              I also don’t agree that ideological consistency is a reasonable thing to expect from online commenters. Leaving comments on a blog is not like joining a political party.

            2. Jennifer Strange*

              These were resumes…There was no more information on them than you would find, say, googling a name and stumbling on the individual’s LinkedIn page

              That isn’t at all true. I have things on my resume that I don’t include on my LinkedIn (including things like contact information).

        2. Observer*

          The normalization of invasive practices by employers (including colleagues) is something that we should certainly have a discussion about, though.

          The “normalization” of using inflated language is a far bigger problem.

          There is nothing “invasive” about doing a basic Google search and finding PUBLIC records. Now, of course, you need to be thoughtful about what you do with the information you turn up. But this is not someone who went digging in someone’s medical file, dumpster diving in their garbage (not even in their office garbage can) etc. They simply accessed public records.

          I deal with PII all the time. If I had someone act as though doing a Google search is the same as poking into their medical file, I would actually be very concerned about trusting them with PII. Because the inability to distinguish the two almost inevitably leads to REAL and often serious privacy breaches.

          1. Ehh*

            You know how they say “don’t read everything you read in the news”, the concept of “trial by media”, and all those cases of innocent people who end up jailed and (sometimes) exonerated? Both of these things apply, maybe not in the case of LW1’s new colleague. But they are relevant.

            LW1 needs to mine their own business.

  14. MissM*

    LW#1, I’d also be asking myself what drove you to google this person, and what exactly you were hoping to gain by that knowledge. It’s one thing to look at LinkedIn for their professional background and another to cast a very wide net via google including what could theoretically be another person with the same name (unless of course you cross-referenced against Lexis-Nexus and booking photos).

    1. BRR*

      I don’t think there’s anything to read into googling the person. The lw was looking up a new hire to see their background. I did the same thing for a new coworker a couple weeks ago. I was curious where else they’ve worked and where they went to school. It doesn’t strike me as odd in the least.

      And I tend to use Google even when I’m really just going to someone’s LinkedIn and it’s very possible that the second or third result was the case.i don’t think the lw was doing a deep dig.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      FWIW, I literally never navigate to LinkedIn and use their search function — if I want to see someone’s LinkedIn profile, I google their name + industry (or name + city).

    3. Emmy Noether*

      Eh, it’s quite common to google people out of curiosity, especially if this is someone new who is entering your professional life. It’s not nefarious. I tend to google instead of searching LinkedIn directly, because then I also get Xing, Researchnet, professional or personal websites in one go. Anything on the first page of results is fair game.

      I’ve done it mostly if there was something weird or interesting in the CV that made me curious.

    4. mreasy*

      There are people who Google others and people who don’t. I am firmly in the former category, it is by no means done with malice, just idle curiosity.

    5. Nanani*

      I thought of this too. Some people have name-dopplegangers, and if they happen to live in the same city then a high-profile thing about one could easily show up for all of them. It’s not like LW1 knows this new hire well enough to spot that they weren’t living in the right area to be the person in the google results.

      And -even if they are sure its the right person- its still none of their business so. There’s that.

    6. Little My*

      If you have never googled someone in a work context, you have never worked in fundraising or anything else where getting someone’s name and title correct matters. It’s not weird!

  15. Rose*

    OP 2 – this place is made out of red flags. Decline w no guilt.

    You didn’t make a mistake in accepting the offer. They are taking back their job offer and telling you there is now another round of (letter based) assessments to go through. This is 100% on them for having unreasonable expectations that they failed to communicate (maybe because they know they are unreasonable?). You can now gracefully bow out of the interview process with zero guilt or remorse.

    1. Jessica*

      Yeah, you’re not even backing out of an offer, because they haven’t made you a definite offer. More like an offer to do more work to try to advance in their weird selection process. Ditch this, walk away, put your effort into finding a job in Future Town (or whatever else you feel like doing for a few months), and they’ll not only benefit from not losing somebody they just had half trained, they might also benefit from the implied feedback on their strange and overly burdensome hiring process.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Agreed, they made you a conditional offer even though that’s not what they called it. You can decide not to meet the conditions. It’s not the same as backing out after you were *actually* all set to start.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      The company seems to be giving themselves abundant opportunities to pull the offer. Even without the move making this a much less appealing prospect for LW, I think moving on to a company that would make her a firm offer would be wiser than trying to cling on here.

      1. Antilles*

        Honestly, it’s strange enough that part of me almost wonders if they’re springing this extra stuff last minute specifically *because* they want to pull the offer. Rather than having an awkward conversation telling you “yeah, we’ve changed our mind” where they might have to deal with you pushing back and asking questions and etc, they instead attach a bunch of strings so you back out voluntarily.

    4. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. You have more info now and the scope of onboarding is not in line with your plans. I would bow out gracefully. Background investigations can be lengthy and expensive. You’re really doing them a favor.

    5. PT*

      The only consideration I would have re: wanting to take this job while job searching for a better job, is that a lot of jobs will have their ATS toss you into the trash bin if you have a resume gap.

      I had this happen when relocating. I took a red-flag job like OP after relocating and it fell through because they could not pay me after I had worked a month, so I resumed my search and left it off my resume. But by then six months had passed, and I was getting no bites on my resume whatsoever.

    6. OP 2*

      Thank you, this is affirming. I think I ignored some other red flags, like the phone call during the interview and that they didn’t send me an official job description for the second job despite me asking. They vaguely mentioned a background check but didn’t send me the details of what I’d have to do until a week after I signed the offer letter. The position I initially interviewed for didn’t require a background check or even references. Thankfully I can stay at my retail job until we move and then hopefully find something better.

  16. coffee*

    LW 1, are you completely sure that those results are indeed for the new person starting, or are they for someone with the same name? It can be surprisingly easy to wind up with two people who have the same name, live in the same area, etc.

    Alison’s advice is solid. I’d also suggest that, since you have to work with this person, you start out by choosing to form an opinion of them from a neutral base. Mentally put aside the conviction/potential conviction, be polite and professional, and see what kind of coworker they are. If they are very reckless, that will show up in their work, and you can address that specifically with your manager based on how it affects you. If they aren’t reckless, then there’s no problem.

    1. Just delurking to say...*

      +1. I once had to clarify that I was me and not another person who had the same first and last names, and the same day and month of birth, AND who lived in the same street.

      1. Jillian*

        I live in a a rather rural area; recent arrests and lawsuits are the most popular part if the county newspaper. It is not unusual to see a notice along the lines of “Jennifer R Jones who is employed at Acme Explosives is NOT the same Jennifer Jones recently arrested for driving under the influence.

    2. Avi*

      I once got a letter, completely out of the blue, from a lawyer who had been hired by an insurance company to represent me over an auto accident that had happened in Chicago. Problem is, I had never driven in Chicago. The closest I’ve even been near to Chicago was a couple of layovers at O’Hare. So I called the phone number on the letterhead, and eventually we figure out that it was meant for someone with the same first name, last name, and middle initial who lived on entirely the opposite side of the country from me. Somehow whoever addressed the letter managed to grab mine from the database they were working from instead of theirs. Nothing else came of it, but it made for a weird afternoon.

      1. londonedit*

        There’s a thing here in the UK where criminals will clone car numberplates and put them on a different car – usually the same/similar make and model so as not to attract too much attention, but it’s something that happens on a reasonably regular basis and it means the criminals with the cloned plates can get away with speeding/using the car for nefarious purposes because the fines etc won’t come back to them. Happened to my mum a few years ago – she got a letter out of the blue with a fine for speeding in Scotland. Only problem was, she lives at literally the opposite end of the country and she hadn’t been anywhere near Scotland at the time. Luckily she’d been shopping that day and could show the police her ID, proof of ownership for the car and receipts to prove she hadn’t been in Scotland, and they told her that her numberplates had most likely been cloned. It never happened again, so I presume either the criminals were caught or they got rid of the plates/car, but it was quite bizarre!

        1. Bagpuss*

          It may have been an error with the ANPR and the car actually responsible had one number or letter different to your mum’s – I think if they clone a number you normally get multiple issues.

          1. londonedit*

            Ah – like when that driver got done for being in a bus lane when it was actually a woman with a jumper that said ‘KNITTER’ and the ANPR thought it was this random person’s numberplate, which was KN19 TER :D

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        My husband (who has a very common first and last name) had a string of phone calls from an insurance company about am ambulance ride he had taken in New York. Except at the time he hadn’t been to New York in about 10 years. The person in question had the same first and last name, and same birthday, but was a completely different person.

    3. Rainbow Brite*

      I remember turning up on my first day at a new job and having my entire new team just *stare* at me. The weirdness eventually lifted, but for a good hour or so it felt like they … didn’t want me there? Or didn’t think I should be there?

      A few days later, one of the members of the team confessed that they’d googled me before I started … and found a completely different Rainbow Brite, also apparently in our industry and location. So when I showed up looking nothing like her, it took them a while to recalibrate their expectations. All in all, it ended up being a funny story, but … yeah. Google at your own risk :p

      1. Lizzo*

        Maybe they thought they were in a “the person we hired is not the person who showed up” situation like that letter earlier this week? ;-)

    4. Gnome*

      This was what I was going to say.

      Some folks have very little online presence or have it locked down. Even if this person is the only Ferguson Z. Poppington-Smythe Jr you can find on the whole internet, and they live in the same city, it still might be someone else.

      1. Gnome*

        Oh, and a coworker of mine once had someone with the same name as theirs move in… Across the street from them. Mail apparently got mixed up quite regularly. So even having an address isnt foolproof

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My husband had the same name as a person in our town who lived miles away. I knew he lived here because we got his mail. Annnd I knew when he moved because we got his mail from the NEXT town. sigh.
          But the best one was when an old army buddy called here at 6 am looking for this same man. My husband was 4F for hypoglycemia. The army buddy asked me to wake my husband up just to be sure. “Nope, I am sure my husband is a full blown diabetic now.” smh.

        2. Nanani*

          It’s so weird that they would go by name and not the actual address. In my experience you can address a piece of mail to a pseudonym or nickname or whatever, even to a pet, and it doesn’t matter because the address is all they should be using (unless there’s some sort of signature verification on delivery, then don’t address it to a fake name)

      2. Zee*

        I have an EXCEPTIONALLY rare name. To my knowledge, there’s only one other person in the country with the same name. We’re roughly the same age, and for a while lived in the same city.

        But it’s also a name I’ve seen people use as a pseudonym/pen name/etc. a fair few times. And, ugh, when you google me, really poorly written fan-fiction is one of the first results. Writing is like 70% of my job. I do get a little anxious that someone will google me and see that.

    5. Shiba Dad*

      At an old job one of the owners decided to do a background check on a coworker named Fergus. It came back with some serious and recent drug convictions, IIRC. He informed the other owner, Blake, who managed our office.

      Fergus was a service tech and traveled to various job sites for his job. Blake called him and told him to stop in the office the next day. Blake also removed Fergus from the schedule, which was on a shared online calendar. Other service techs saw that Fergus had been removed and called myself and a coworker to ask what was going on.

      We knew nothing about the background check at this point. We asked Blake about and got the back story. We both said this info on Fergus didn’t add up. The owners thought that Fergus was jailed but getting out on work release. Having worked with someone on work release in the past, I knew that Fergus had a lot more freedom than someone on work release would.

      Fergus came in the next day and disputed these allegations. It ended up that the guy with the drug convictions was Fergus A. Ferguson and our coworker was Fergus Q. Ferguson.

    6. Anonymous Technical Writer*

      I sense a great Saturday thread topic forming. I have one to contribute too… see you tomorrow!

    7. Kate in Colorado*

      Yeah, I went to high school with another Kate SameLastName.. I was frequently in the local paper for making the honor roll, being in a community theater play, etc. and her mom’s friends would always congratulate her. I, on the other hand, had a classmate on the football team who mentioned in a coy way that I knew another player but I had never heard of him….turns out the other Kate knew him well. :/ Mix-ups happen!

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        LOL. When I was in junior high I was in a class with five people who had the same first name. The teacher had to use last names. I’m lucky to have a fairly unique surname, but I’ve actually found someone in another state with the same name.

    8. Olivia Oil*

      Yep. There are several results of people with my exact full name. Some of them have embarrassing social media accounts so I would really hope people didn’t assume all of them were me.

      I don’t actually think there is anything wrong with Googling a colleague, but I work in the public sector and a lot of my coworkers have published papers, public remarks, etc. Sometimes Googling them is an easy way to access their work, but I do prefer to start with LinkedIn.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. Not only would I remind them that they needed to pay for services rendered (even if they were incorrect), I would be looking for a new employer. OP fixed the problem and it wasn’t even that egregious. At an old job someone fried a piece of equipment worth $$$$$$ and while no one was happy, that’s what insurance is for. That is a Lesson Learned and better to keep the person that learned that swiftly and well then hire someone new who might make the same error.

  17. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    #4, I am laughing at the ridiculousness of your employer. I once made a mistake with some very costly supplies that were worth 3 times my annual pay. Nobody was happy about it, but these things happen and we all moved on.

    1. Jillian*

      Early in my career, I also made a huge mistake (calculating yards to meters) on a production order. I accidentally caught it after the shipping container was halfway across the US about to be loaded on a ship to another country. I told my boss, we got it stopped and turned around to us, and had to completely redo the order. It cost my company more than a year of my salary and I was sure I would be fired. My boss (who was an asshole usually) asked me what happened, how it happened, and what I thought we could put in place to prevent it from happening again. Then put me in charge of creating, documenting, and implementing that process. One of best lesson I ever learned.

      1. Asenath*

        That reminds me of the mistake in converting from imperial to metric units when Canada was switching to metric – the workers were refueling an airplane. Google “Gimli Glider” for the full story – I never heard that anyone was fired over the incident, although there were measures put into place to prevent it happening again.

        1. SarahKay*

          The aviation industry claims to try and avoid blame for errors, as it stops people owning up if they think they’ve made an error – and that’s one place where the sooner you catch an error, the smaller the problem.
          (I say ‘claims’ because my limited experience is that this is true, but it is limited experience so there may well be cases where it isn’t so.)

          1. Cat Tree*

            I work in the pharmaceutical industry and we take this approach because it is a regulatory expectation. The FDA isn’t satisfied in just firing someone (except in very rare, specific cases like deliberate sabatoge). They want us to make sure that another person won’t repeat the error. Human error prevention is a big topic right now.

            I won’t claim that we’re perfect at it and nobody ever gets blamed. But the culture is different enough that it was a big adjustment when I started.

            1. Dave*

              I have to say I love that it is so another person won’t repeat an error. How often do we screw up, and it just as easily could have been anyone else who made that same mistake because systems and checks weren’t in place?

          2. Lady_Lessa*

            I once interviewed at a large supplier to the aircraft industry, and it was EXTREMELY process driven. Which is necessary for then, and impossible for me. At the end of the interviewed we both agreed that the fit looked good on paper but wasn’t in life.

          3. Darsynia*

            A great viewpoint on this is the YouTube channel ‘Mentour Pilot.’ He speaks about how they avoid blame in the negative and seek cause and effect and how to rectify those things instead. The mentioned issue above of having to pay for mistakes meaning that people hide them is absolutely true, and that can be deadly when it comes to aviation, as well as many other professions.

            Important to note here that the industry itself may be great at this avoiding blame thing, but the way that most laymen find out about aviation incidents and accidents is through media and other reporting that operates on the blame model as a matter of course. So it may not be untrue for those working in the field.

        2. EPLawyer*

          The pilots were demoted and they fought the demotion.

          The biggest meters to yards mistake was one of the Mars probes. Oops crashed in at too high a speed and was destroyed on impact.

          1. JustaTech*

            Mars Polar Lander!
            My physics professors for *years* as an example of why you must always, always, always write out what units you are using, because if one team is using imperial and the other team thinks they’re using metric (because all science should be in metric, come on) then oops, you exploded a lander.

    2. Jillian*

      Early in my career, I also made a huge mistake (calculating yards to meters) on a production order. I accidentally caught it after the shipping container was halfway across the US about to be loaded on a ship to another country. I told my boss, we got it stopped and turned around to us, and had to completely redo the order. It cost my company more than a year of my salary and I was sure I would be fired. My boss (who was an asshole usually) asked me what happened, how it happened, and what I thought we could put in place to prevent it from happening again. Then put me in charge of creating, documenting, and implementing that process. One of best lesson I ever learned.

    3. JustaTech*

      Every lab I’ve worked at (commercial and academic) had a rule: we’re not mad if you break glassware, that happens. Just don’t lie about it.

      And in one place folks still lied about who chipped the bioreactor, because they didn’t believe that they wouldn’t get “in trouble’ or fired for it.

      So it’s really important to not only say “mistakes happen, just tell us” you have to show it, and show it regularly, because a lot of people are conditioned (through upbringing or previous work) to cover up mistakes for fear of punishment.

  18. McThrill*

    #4, you should use Allison’s script and also get your resume up to date and apply for jobs in the background. Any company that even jokes about withholding pay for making mistakes isn’t one that you want to stay at long if you can help it.

  19. Eliza*

    I’ve heard of contractors having to fix mistakes at their own expense, depending on the terms of the contract, but it’s not something employees should have to do under any circumstances.

    1. All the words*

      That’s more understandable though. If a contractor someone hires to do a new kitchen counter cuts the sink-hole in the wrong spot should the customer be on the hook for the new counter material? That doesn’t seem reasonable.

      1. KateM*

        If you pay the contractor by the job – “have kitchen correctly installed” – then obviously if it takes them longer time and more materials they should have cuonted that in their price offer in the first place.

        The row of our (identical-looking) houses had recently new front doors put in and the company forgot to repaint these to match other details on front. As a result the new doors were put in a couple weeks later, but we didn’t pay extra for that.

  20. The OTHER Other*

    #4 your boss is horrible and unreasonable. but fortunately, a benefit of working remotely is that it’s easier to look for a new job. You should absolutely push back on this absurd demand to work for free, and get out ASAP. A boss that demands this is out of touch, what will his next demand be? Don’t stay around to find out.

  21. TheEndIsNigh*

    #4 I never understood this idea of docking someone’s pay because they did a mistake. Is this a USA thing or what, I am not in USA.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      No, it’s not a “USA thing,” it’s a “pretty much illegal in the USA thing”.

      1. Agnes*

        I mean, the logic isn’t hard to understand. You hire someone to do X, they do X wrong, their labor isn’t worth as much as you planned. But it should be illegal, for all the reasons said.

        One thing I’ve wondered, if you’re fired for screwing up, could your re-hiring be contingent on reimbursing the business for the cost of your mistake?

        1. LDN Layabout*

          I mean, the logic isn’t hard to understand.

          The logic relies on someone being treated as if they’re a fixed resource vs. the understanding that human beings make mistakes and a decent business has processes to mitigate the impact of them.

    2. Forrest*

      It was pretty common in hospitality in Europe for a long time. I worked for Cafe Rouge for a few weeks in the late 90s (pre-National Minimum Wage), and they ran the “continental style” system where you were responsible for taking all the payments for your tables and then cashing up at the end and keeping whatever was left as a tip. If a table left without pay, that came out of your tips. The actual pay rate was under £2 an hour, so the tips were the majority of your pay.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I’m in the UK. I think it is not uncommon in retail for people to be liable of their till drawer comes up short, but there are strict rules around it (I think it has to be expressly set out in their contract, and the deduction can’t take you below minimum wage)

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s “My gut says that it is unfair for me to pay for any work that was done wrong, and I am going to just proceed like that is true until someone from Legal gets me in a flying tackle.”

    5. Nanani*

      It’s just an asshole thing, not a specific nationality thing.
      The idea of paying someone for their WORK, which might have mistakes in it because people are humans, is sadly too much for some employers to grasp.

    6. Dave*

      To me this comes from the days of piecemeal work. You get paid X to complete Y. If Y doesn’t pass inspection, you don’t get paid. While largely illegal now, many managers wish to continue to operate under that style system because it definitely benefits the business.

  22. Brightwanderer*

    #1 – I think Alison’s 100% right about getting clarity on your own feelings here. Assume for a moment that this guy is exactly who you think he is from your googling – someone who acted in a shitty, reckless manner that killed someone else, and then got off lightly when it came to punishment. I understand why your instinctive reaction is discomfort and dismay, but I think you have to ask yourself some very blunt questions before proceeding:

    1. Do you want to punish him more for what he did? Do you feel that he doesn’t deserve to have this job – maybe any job – and should not be hired because of it? That’s something I can understand, but also, it’s not your call. If that’s your main motivation, work through it some other way – therapy, confession, whatever – accept that it’s a natural thing to want but also not something to act on.

    2. Do you think that he is a threat to you or to the company because of what he did? That sounds very dramatic but I don’t necessarily mean in a deadly way. Do you think that his actions make him fundamentally unsuitable for the role (e.g. it involves driving)? Do you think that his actions are likely to be repeated in a way that directly impacts your or others? This is different from “he did something awful before so he might do something awful again” – it’s drawing a direct line to “is it reasonable to be concerned that he’d do the same awful thing again in a way that puts me/us at risk”. If the answer is no, then again, I think you let it go.

    I also agree with others that it’s unlikely some people in the company don’t already know about this. It doesn’t sound like it’s a secret. I think trying to “warn” people is likely to backfire on you.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Two very good questions. You got at this with #2, but I’d be more explicit with it as 2a: What are you worried he’ll do? Is it something unrelated to reckless driving, like *spins wheel* petty theft? If so, that’s not reasonable, you’re just getting hung up on your ideas of Criminal = Bad Person. If it’s something more like general recklessness, okay, keep an eye out but there are probably very few cases in your office environment where 5 seconds of recklessness can cause as much damage as they can cause on the road.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      3) Maybe OP is concerned that she has an ethical responsibility to report it. No, you don’t OP, not for information that is accessible to anyone at any time. Worse yet, suppose this was confidential information, then you’d be stuck trying to figure out the legal consequences of mentioning it. So either way, it’s a no-go.

      1. Observer*

        Sure. It sounds like that OP is thinking in terms of a responsibility to report. But WHY? If #1, then no, it’s not their ethical responsibility.

        Only if the answer to #2 is Yes is there any ethical, legal or moral responsibility to report.

  23. triplehiccup*

    #1 Your new coworker still has to eat and stay clothed and sheltered. Most of us need a job to do that.

    “There but for the grace of God go I” is how I would try to think about it. If you’re in the US, we’re urged to think of criminals as a separate, lesser species. We’ve all made mistakes and bad decisions; I daresay most people have broken a law. Maybe people could’ve been hurt but we got lucky. It just isn’t a matter of public record. And people change. All this is what I periodically remind myself in my volunteer work alongside some people who have served significant prison sentences for felony convictions, who have also been thoughtful and competent colleagues.

    1. All the words*

      “Most people have broken a law”

      I think a lot of people who never got caught tend to forget their own good fortune.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        People forget that a traffic ticket is considered an arrest. Just because the officer did not slap cuffs on a person for doing 12 mph over the speed limit does not mean they were “less” arrested. It’s still an arrest in the eyes of the law.
        I am also thinking of cell phone usage. And all the deaths from distracted driving due to a cell phone. So tell me OP, do you get fired up when you see a thoughtless driver going down the road with a cell to the ear? Most people don’t. Yet dead is dead. There aren’t varying degrees of dead.

        1. Anon all day*

          No, that’s not true, at least in the jurisdictions I’m aware of in the US. An arrest has a specific meaning, and it doesn’t always happen if one gets stopped and/or ticketed by the police.

        2. SnowyRose*

          This is incorrect. It might be considered a summons, but in no jurisdiction that I have worked is a traffic ticket an arrest. When someone is arrested, they are taken into custody. I work for a public safety nonprofit and have worked with law enforcement agencies in almost every state in the U.S. (I will acknowledge that there is always one state that has some weird exception to the norm.)

      2. SarahKay*

        There’s a brilliant bit in a book called “Swallowdale” by Arthur Ransome, where one of the characters (child aged about 14) has run a sailing dinghy into a rock and stove in the hull. He’s castigating himself for being so stupid and not making a better decision thus avoiding the crash. An adult says to him something along the lines of “I wouldn’t mind betting you’ve done things that were just as silly in the past but those times nothing bad resulted. We’ve all done silly things; just that sometimes we get found out for them.”

        It’s really stayed with me, because it’s such good advice, and also so true. I’ve done stupid things but mostly they haven’t created consequences past the occasional 4am kicking the sheets in embarrassment at the thought of how foolish I was. That doesn’t mean they weren’t stupid actions, just that I’ve been lucky.

    2. Former Young Lady*

      This is an important point.

      If we’re OK with Matthew Broderick, Rebecca Gayheart, Brandy Norwood, Luther Vandross, Caitlyn Jenner, and Laura Bush being allowed back into society after they killed people with their driving, we have to be OK with ordinary people (who tend to face actual consequences) eventually being allowed the same.

  24. Believerofsecondchances*

    When my son was in his early twenties he committed a crime to feed his addiction. He deeply regretted what he did. He served his time but is now saddled with a criminal record and his story is easily found in a Google search. When he got out of jail, he enrolled in College. Upon graduation he applied to jobs in his field. His interviews went really well and several times he was told they’d be in touch about a start date. But then that call would never come. We can only assume the employer did a Google search. He was very discouraged. Finally, he found an employer who would take a chance on him. He’s been with that company for over six years and has received many raises and much praise for being such a valuable employee. He makes excellent money with amazing benefits. He is now over eight years in recovery and a wonderful husband and father. We’re grateful he was given a chance but it’s sad to think of others who are not. I guess I’m saying that people do learn a lesson and get reformed, which is the purpose of the criminal justice system. I believe in second chances and hope that you will withhold judgment until you get to know the new hire. He may be a great employee who is incredibly grateful for the opportunity. Or, he could be a terrible employee but let that be the reason he gets fired. I would also assume that your boss knows already, so you shouldn’t feel responsible for telling him/her.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      There seems to be an informal rule of thumb that some people use. That rule of thumb is, “Anything that happens before age 30 is fixable. But if they are in their 30s and still doing stuff, then that is less fixable.”

      I am glad your son found something. We don’t teach people to walk a good path when we don’t give them paths to use.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      We’re grateful he was given a chance but it’s sad to think of others who are not.

      This. How will you know if someone has reformed–in this letter from something that happened years ago, and did not have enough evidence to result in a trial–if you preemptively punish them forever?

      1. JohannaCabal*

        I commented in the “imposter” employee thread the other day that my guidance counselor family member has had some of her high school students admit to letting older siblings or cousins use their identities to get jobs. Why? Because their family members have had past legal issues preventing them from getting retail and restaurant jobs (yet I’ve worked two white collar jobs that conducted no background checks).

        It’s really sad because even though the students “gave permission” for their identities to be used, it’s still identity theft and their relatives could get in big trouble. Family member and I definitely don’t condone it but we can understand why it happens.

    3. Just my 4 cents*

      I’m sorry for what your son went through, but so thankful he has been able to turn his life around. Thank you for sharing this story.

  25. Justin*

    He served his time. If we don’t let people work after prison, what was the point of prison?

    (I get why it’s not comfortable. So don’t be his friend then.)

  26. Shiba Dad*

    #3 – They may ask what you had heard about their departure. They may tell you their side of the story, whether you ask about it or not. I’ve had both of those happen.

  27. Michelle Smith*

    #1 – People who have criminal convictions are notoriously underemployed in the US. It’s really, really challenging for people to overcome, even once they’ve supposedly paid their debt to society. What that person did is horrific, but we are not the worst things we’ve ever done. They are still a human being who needs to survive in our capitalist society and that means working a job. Completely reasonable not to want to get in a car with them behind the wheel and to look twice before entering or exiting the work parking lot. Not reasonable to try and torpedo their offer when they’re trying to get back on track and survive post-release from prison. Don’t make it harder on them than they already have it.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      (As an aside, the best way to encourage people to spiral their lives out of control and keep them committing crimes and cycling in and out of custody is to keep them from being able to participate in the legal workforce.)

      1. Laney Boggs*

        I was struggling to say EXACTLY this. We over-incarcerate, have a culture that NEVER allows you to be free of your conviction, and then get all Pikachu-face about reoffendors.

        LW, like Allison said, consider if this ACTUALLY matters to his job. Is he going to be driving as a function of the job? Do you serve victims of crimes? I’m sure there’s others, but like, if this is a data entry office job you should probably let it go.

    2. Dutchie*

      I would hate to be known to the world for the worst thing I ever did. I would probably never leave my bed again and just lay there in shame.

  28. Mollie*

    OP1 I just want to say that I would have asked the same question, and I have worked in a field where this would have been a really big deal. We would have had trouble figuring out the law, and we would have had some significant costs to the ability to serve the families we worked with. I am glad to have read the perspectives others have shared here, because I’ll think about this differently now. However, I know I’ve worked in situations where my supervisor wouldn’t have Googled it themselves, and it would have been an issue. They would have run a background check, but sometimes there’s a grace period allowing people to start work before the background check goes through. It’s a very unusual situation to be in though, and if you’re in it, I think you’d probably know.

    If that’s the case, I’d say something really casual about the logistics that conveys you want to be supportive of your colleague and assume the best. Ex: how would you like us to address questions about the criminal record that pops up when you search (new colleague)?

    1. WellRed*

      I think it’s pretty obvious OP is NOT feeling supportive of this new colleague and to pretend otherwise is wrong.

    2. 867-5309*

      Any mention of it to their coworker is going to put them on the defensive and cause them to no longer feel safe. OP1 should stand down on this, unless 1.) driving is critical to the job AND 2.) they notice legitimately reckless behavior.

    3. anonymouse*

      I don’t know, I think if I was a boss and I heard the question phrased in that way, I would realize that there was a subtext to the question. If the LW’s boss knows about the criminal conviction already, LW’s question might come across as stepping on the boss’s toes, because if the boss thought it was an issue, they would have already addressed it within the team. I agree with many of the comments that say that if this was in an industry where having this type of conviction would be disqualifying, the hiring managers would have found out in a background check. If it didn’t come up on the background check, they would probably Google the person’s name if reputation or security is central to the work.

      There are people with convictions that are over 7 years old who get security clearances, even high-level ones. From my understanding, the clearance process is also looking for any indication that the person could be compromised or blackmailed. I’m sure there are numerous crimes that would disqualify someone right off the bat but I have met a number of people with security clearances who had been arrested and convicted in the past.

  29. it_guy*

    #1 – if the job application specifically asked if they had a criminal record, did they check it? That would be a red flag and in some placed be an automatic dismissal.

    1. RagingADHD*

      The LW has no way of knowing that, because they aren’t in HR and it’s none of their business.

  30. ExConsDeserveJobsToo*

    LW1: I also have a criminal record and am also employed in a professional office setting. I made mistakes a long time ago and I shouldn’t be prevented from ever feeding my kids because of my past mistakes. People who have been in jail also deserve a second chance (of course depending of what it was). How long do we have to continue to be punished by society until we’re deemed worthy enough to work with those of you who never make any mistakes? We don’t need an office busybody snooping around to find dirt on us so we can lose our source of income. My advice to you is to MYOB. Why would you say anything to make this man possibly get fired? I’m sure your boss probably already knows. No one is perfect and it’s possible even you have things in your past that some nosy person could find out and tell others, even if it’s not jail time.

  31. RagingADHD*

    LW1, googling people you’ve met or are going to meet is a normal thing to do.

    So common, in fact, that finding news articles about a person’s name isn’t a superpower. You didn’t get this info out of a magic vault that nobody else can access. The people in charge of hiring already have this information.

    If the job required a criminal background check, the new hire already passed. If it doesn’t, then…it doesn’t.

    The case was already adjuticated by the appropriate people, who were actually in court. Do you really suppose that you are in a better position to remotely determine the person’s culpability based on a few news stories? These were misdemeanors, and they did the time already. It’s over.

    You can relax, because this is in no way an ethical dilemna of any kind. It isn’t a secret, and nobody cares.

  32. Not So NewReader*

    OP1. It might be helpful to think about what outcome you would like to see here. Let’s say this company fires the guy based on your complaint. This would not make me feel better. It would make me feel like I have to google everyone and warn the company because people at my company cannot be trusted to do their jobs.

  33. anonymous73*

    #1 – short answer – is this person driving as part of their job duties? If the answer is no, then leave it alone. People make mistakes (yes this was a big one, but nonetheless a mistake). As long as this person doesn’t have a history of being reckless & causing harm to others which would point to their character, there’s no point in bringing this up to ANYONE, management or otherwise.

    1. Purple Cat*

      Even if it’s a “yes” that driving is part of their job duties, what makes LW1 so special that THEY and THEY ALONE found out this information? That their management and HR are so incompetent that they didn’t already discover this information and LW1 is the one that must reveal it?

      We have to assume that they work for a reasonably well functioning organization and that includes perfunctory background checks. The scenario *might* be slightly different if the employee has started and is water cooler bragging about driving recklessly and committing a hit and run and no one ever found it it was them type thing. But a conviction with jail time? That’s not a nefarious secret.

    2. anonymous73*

      In addition, ALL media has an agenda. You have no way of knowing the full truth just by googling unless you’re personally involved.

  34. RagingADHD*

    LW4 if you are an employee, the boss can’t do that. If you are an independent contractor then the boss is actually a client, and they might be able to, depending on the terms of your contract (or if it isn’t addressed in the contract at all).

    Just throwing that out there because a lot of hourly-remote jobs are set up as contract positions, and a lot of folks aren’t clear about the differences.

    Labor and wage protections for employees are a matter of law. For contractors, it’s a matter of the language in your contract, so it behooves you to know the terms and renegotiate if you can.

  35. rudster*

    Letter writer #1 doesn’t mention how she confirmed that the new hire is actually the same person the google results relate to. What’s if it’s a case of mistaken identity? I am continually surprised by how many people there are even with fairly unique names.

    1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

      I wondered that, too, but if it was high profile, mug shots may have been included in new stories and matching those to a Linked In profile pic wouldn’t be difficult.

      Heck, I accidentally stumbled on mugshots for my old hairdresser years ago (I was certainly not trying to look into their past; I think I was just trying to confirm their new address and their salon situation was really strange) and that was NOT reported on; it was just for marijuana possession. So, sometimes they’re out there.

    2. bookworm*

      I had the same question, as someone who shares my (not all that common) name frequently winds up in local news for arrests and other unfortunate situations related to heroin addiction. Even mug shots may be unreliable if the situation was several years ago at this point as OP says. Agree with Alison, this is not something to bring up to your boss. In addition, do your best to give the person the benefit of the doubt when you meet them at work.

  36. Susie*

    LW #1- this is surely something that would come up on a background check, so I would say the hiring manager knows. I think you should say nothing, including not telling other coworkers. Plenty of people have made mistakes. I’m sure you have at some point. If this person has done what the law/courts have required and your company has hired them, then you should treat them the same as any other colleague.

  37. La Donna*

    Vehicular homicide is something that could happen to all of us, even if we’re careful drivers. There’s a popular tourist street where I live where tons of people are using those electric scooters, weaving in and out of traffic and in between parked cars. One wrong move and you’ll hit that person.

    The other day I was driving and 100 motorbikes decided to do a city drive. They were going down the wrong side of the street, running red lights, passing through yield signs. They could have easily been hit.

    You never know the full story of someone’s background and it’s best not to judge or make assumptions if you don’t know.

    1. Olivia Oil*

      Tangential, but this is why I hate car-centered culture. People really underestimate how dangerous driving is. One human error can put someone at risk. We do it everyday when we are driving at less than alert levels. Whenever we are having an off day or are sleep deprived. Its always a risk.

  38. Leilah*

    I google almost everyone I work with. My primary reason is that I want to know if they are safe. I am nonbinary, I am an atheist, I am queer, I am autistic and ADHD. I want to know if there are any huge red flags out there — I have worked with people before whose public Facebook wall is filled with transphobic clickbait of the worst kind. I did not come out as trans at that workplace. That was really, really important for me to know. It’s also just kind of nice to know what kind of background the person has from viewing their LinkedIn profile, even if you haven’t met them yet so aren’t in a position to actually send a “connect” request.

    1. Purple Cat*

      ^ this!
      I’m not necessarily in any at-risk category but I absolutely want to get the lay of the land of any new or potential coworkers. Part of it is just to get some idea of who they are in a general sense, but also to look out for red flags. If they’re a LulaRoe selling QANON supporting flat-earther, I’d like to know that.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Interesting. I have to admit that I have never once googled a co-worker, although I may at some point see their LinkedIn profile in the course of accepting or sending a connection request–but even so, I am not a frequent user of LinkedIn.

  39. zinzarin*

    Regarding #1, I just want to thank Alison for her reasoned commentary and advise.

    It can be so incredibly hard to sell the message “actually, former criminals need to work too, and they deserve to work, so let this one be.” I’m so happy to be part of a community that prioritizes reason over emotion in situations like these. If this blog help promote this attitude and helps it spread, our world can only get better from here. Thanks!

  40. Me*

    #1 I’m going to leave whether you tell the employer part alone as I think it’ sbeen well covered.

    I do want to say that you have very clearly made up your mind in a negative manner about this new employee re: he only got off because of errors.

    Don’t do that. You have an extremely limited amount of information. Extremely. Sometimes guilty people get off, but sometimes innocent people do not. You are not privy to the details of the case and you are not privy to the details of the trial.

    The point of this is caution – you’ve set your thoughts up in such a way that you are primed for potentially treating this employee negatively based on info you thing you have. Please ensure that you are not.

    1. Kate in Colorado*

      Exactly! Yes, OP please reflect on how you’ve judged someone based on your limited information and please don’t treat this new co-worker of yours differently than you would otherwise. Regardless of their past, they are your peer now.

  41. JohannaCabal*

    LW #1, I think the other commenters have covered this nicely. Unless the role involves significant driving, leave it alone.

    Also, there are enough people out there who’ve done worse but were never caught. But their background checks always come out clean. Just last week, it came out that someone who died a few years back likely committed a series of murders in the 70s and 80s.

    1. 867-5309*

      I would argue that even if the role DOES involve significant driving, this person served their time and unless OP sees reckless behavior, should assume their coworker learned their lesson.

      1. JohannaCabal*

        I agree but it can become an insurance issue, and I find that commercial insurance cos. tend to be rather unforgiving…

        1. Me*

          Yes but the insurance company would do due diligence and background check the individual and the company knowing would likely do their own checks first in order not to hire liabilites. Therefore there’s still zero need for the OP1 to do anything.

  42. 867-5309*

    Many years ago, my five-year-old brother ran into the street, was hit by a car and died. Separately, a young man I know well drove drunk at high speeds and killed a young woman, and he is spending 20 years in prison. He is regretful and ashamed, and not fighting his punishment. Do either of these men deserve to never work again? Sometimes these things are gross negligence, sometimes they are horrible accidents. Either way, I do not think we serve society by never allowing them to again find peace or gainful implement. Part of why U.S. recidivism rates are so high is because it is at times impossible for people with a conviction to find work. I do not see why this person’s record should be of concern to OP1. Even if driving is involved in the role, should their coworker’s lesson be learned then why shouldn’t they be allowed to drive again?

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      While I agree that the hire in question, as well as the two mentioned by you, should be able to make a living again, I don’t see a problem with them no longer being able to make a living with roles that require driving. There are plenty of other jobs available, and there are specific reasons to not want them in driving-heavy roles (even if you believe they won’t drive recklessly in that role).

      1. bookworm*

        Depending on where this is in the US and how you define “require driving” the number of jobs that aren’t “driving heavy” may be far fewer than you think (driving heavy fields with entry-level jobs that aren’t something obvious like truck or delivery driver include any of the construction trades, home health care, production assistant “gopher” type roles, musician). While it’s ridiculous and shouldn’t be the case, many employers, including lots of retail and fast food joints make being a licensed driver and having vehicle access a condition of employment, should the person be ineligible for all those? Moreover, except for in a handful of cities, getting around without driving is difficult to impossible, and daily commute mileage can be quite substantial. Would it be disqualifying for this person to have a long driving commute? There are probably some narrow fields where driving is 90-100% of the role where this person’s convictions might be disqualifying, but that should be very narrowly defined, and those usually have background check processes required by law already.

        Of course, we’d fix these and many other problems if we stopped designing our whole society to only be accessible if you can drive and afford a car, but that’s a soapbox for another day.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I meant ones where driving is specifically within the scope of the actual work (like delivery person or taxi driver). I agree if it’s just a matter of the employer requiring a person drive as a means of getting to work that’s a different matter.

  43. Bethie*

    #1 hits 2 different ways with me. We do background checks and google searches on all hires, as we use federal money specific to crime victims in our office. I cant imagine someone with those charges not saying something if you company has background checks, though. However,

    We hired a lady who was excellent. Background check showed nothing. 1 year in we get notification from the State Comptroller that she was convicted of theft from a deceased client and was doing some shady stuff with government loans – and the name we hired her under wasnt her real name (or she legally changed her name to avoid being figured out?)

    And, two. We have spent close to a million this year on jail based programming for work release and substance abuse for inmates to be able to re-enter society post release. Many jails have working relationships with companies to hire inmates on release. But this does remind me of the time I toured a jail and a female inmate approached me (with permission) to thank our office and me for the programming. She was in on drug and prostitution charges and had received 3 factory certificates and had a job waiting for her upon release.

    But I also get it from OPs perspective. I worked at two DAs offices. Its hard not to judge someone, especially when you have seen the families so devasted from vehicular homicide.

  44. bratschegirl*

    I would certainly hesitate to get into a car with someone who had been convicted of vehicular homicide, and I would be very unhappy to find out that someone could have warned me that I was about to do so and didn’t. It seems reasonable to me that the company might tell this employee that a condition of their employment is that they may not offer rides to other employees, whether to off site work events, or to/from work, etc. If I were LW, I think I’d go to the boss and say “I wasn’t sure whether this came up in the hiring process. I certainly don’t plan to spread this around, or let it affect my ability to be professional and welcoming, but given this history I think it would be wise if we made sure that New Hire doesn’t ever drive on behalf of Company.”

    1. Purple Cat*

      what? Noooooo.
      This is so far beyond what is the scope of “your business”? Do you ask everybody you work with for a copy of their driving record? Do you hound them on any time they may have been “just buzzed” or “feeling good” and decided to drive home? Or how many miles over the speed limit they routinely drive?
      You don’t get to decide to place additional random restrictions on people. This person has committed a crime and served their time, and that’s it.

    2. Kotb*

      And, if I was the boss and this happened, I would make sure to never task LW with helping out with a new hire ever again, at minimum.

    3. Generic Elf*

      The LW states that the new hire wasn’t convicted of vehicular homicide. I also don’t think an employer can mandate what the new hire does with their time in that way unless giving rides to other employees is already a part of their job description.

    4. Daisy Gamgee*

      To come to this conclusion you have to assume that 1) everyone who has been convicted should have been convicted and 2) everyone who should have been convicted has been convicted. But do either of those assumptions match reality?

    5. Observer*

      If I were LW, I think I’d go to the boss and say “I wasn’t sure whether this came up in the hiring process. I certainly don’t plan to spread this around, or let it affect my ability to be professional and welcoming, but given this history I think it would be wise if we made sure that New Hire doesn’t ever drive on behalf of Company.”

      What exactly do you think the OP would accomplish with that, other than to make themselves look very disingenuous? Unless the job actually requires driving, there is no reason for the OP to think that this person is going to be driving on behalf of the company in other capacities. So why would they go to the boss and bring up a non-existent “problem”?

  45. Ehh*

    LW1, unless what you’ve discovered now has you genuinely worried for your safety (and you are one hundred and ten percent sure it’s true), it really would be best for you to mind your own business on this one.

  46. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    I am wondering why, if #1 was able to — in their own words — quickly discover this about the new hire, why they think the necessary people don’t already know? If just a simple Google search brought up this information, I’d assume that whoever was in charge of interviewing/hiring had already done at least that much. Don’t most companies do background checks? I’d think that would pop up in that process (though I do recognize that some companies don’t do those).

    Definitely let it be if it’s not something that will affect their job. And, frankly, you have no idea if this person spends every day completely gutted by their recklessness. It sounds like a horrible situation that they did their time for, and for all you know, they’ve completely changed — especially since it happened several years ago.

    I would caution you to check yourself in your interactions with this person moving forward and try to avoid making assumptions about them because of what you know of their past. What you know may just be one terrible, awful mistake in the life of an otherwise decent person. It doesn’t make the effects of what they did any less terrible, but it also may not indicate a pattern of dangerous or destructive behavior at all.

  47. wishing I didn't click the first link*

    Yes — looking at it 10 years later, you’re right and I’ll remove it. – Alison

  48. LizzyLou*

    I so wish this country has a right to be forgotten law. The internet means you get to relive your worst day over and over and over again like it just happened.

    1. Kotb*

      Total digression, but I wholeheartedly agree. I also think our sensationalist news system is terribly flawed. For instance, every year in my area, there’s at least one high-emotion crime that is packaged up for the angry mob masses for months; while the person who has been charged awaits trial and is still considered innocent, the news routinely reports on the general findings of psychological assessments, medical findings, work history, family history, etc. I sometimes wonder if it’s better to get convicted than to try to find a job and put a life back together after acquittal, once someone has been splayed wide open in perpetuity on TV, social media, and news websites. Rights, what rights?

    2. JohannaCabal*

      Unfortunately, if we ever get a Right to Be Forgotten law it’s probably only going to be used by people who have the means to afford legal requests to the big tech companies. Not so much the person trying to overcome past legal trouble.

  49. AnonInCanada*

    Not to mention OP#1 even admitting this crime occurred “several years ago.” How many years must a former conviction hang over someone’s head before they get exonerated from it? That needs to factor into consideration as well.

  50. MicroManagered*

    OP1 the person’s criminal convictions are either within the scope of your company’s background check process or they are not. If the information came up in the background check, it has already been decided it’s not a disqualifier. If it did not come up in the background check, (like if the check goes back 5 years and this was 10 years ago, or something) then it has already been decided it’s not a disqualifier.

    Either way, those are decisions that don’t involve you so I think you should stay out of it. I think it will come across as toxic, drama-starting behavior if you share this with others at your job. Personally, if you told me about this, I would wonder what google gossip you were spreading about *me* (not that there’s much to find) or why you thought I wanted to be part of what you were doing. I would not trust you in the future and would be sure to keep my interactions with you extremely limited. I’m not saying that to hurt your feelings, but to give a realistic idea of how damaging to your own reputation this kind of behavior could be.

  51. OP#3*

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison. It feels weird not to acknowledge what happened, but this is a useful reminder to follow the lead of my former colleague if/when I run into them. They’re the one whose comfort needs to take priority.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      I work in a small industry. I very commonly run into former coworkers who were fired, did-I-get-fired-or-quit, rage quit, etc. It’s generally not as awkward as you would think. Every now and then you might get an earful of their side of the story, but that’s on them, not you.

    2. Mother of Corgis*

      OP#3, I was in a similar situation a few years ago. Our payroll person was suddenly fired (as in, office went to lunch, and she was gone when we came back). And they made me her replacement. I ran into her a few months later, and while I felt awkward and anxious about it, she just said hello and asked if everything was going okay at work, and that was it. As you said, just follow their lead, and let them decide if they want to bring up the firing or not.

    3. BurnOutCandidate*

      My company had a lot of turnover in the early days of the pandemic — almost everyone was furloughed (I was not), even managers, and not everyone was brought back when business kicked back in. For a variety of reasons, even though the office was technically closed, we could come in if we needed to, and since I need to print large quantities of stuff out on a regular basis, about once a week I’d go in and do all of my printing, then either go home or work the rest of the day. One particular day, I think it was July 2020, I was in the office and went across the street to WaWa to get some lunch. Waiting in line, I saw one of our customer service reps, whom I hadn’t seen in four months. Even though he was masked, he was clearly recognizable, and I can’t tell you how excited and happy I was to see him.

      He’d been laid off. I didn’t know. And, honestly, when you’re the person laid off — and I have been — it’s really feels no different than being fired. It was awkward for us both, but I think he sensed, through the masks, that I was really happy to see him and know he was okay.

      I’ve run into him near the office a couple of times since then, and it wasn’t as awkward as the first time. He told me where he was working, and what he was doing, and that he was doing well, and that’s the important thing.

    4. Daisy Gamgee*

      It can sometimes feel somewhat dishonest to not acknowledge the Whole Truth of a situation, but it’s actually diplomacy, not dishonesty. You both know what happened but it’s not actually pertinent to a brief conversation between acquaintances, so you can leave it out unless they bring it up (and you’re not required to discuss things beyond your comfort, either).

  52. fhqwhgads*

    OP1: does the job in question involve a lot of driving for work? If so, your findings may be relevant. Otherwise, not relevant.

  53. Free Meerkats*

    Re: #1, this is more a question for Alison. The default here is for feminine pronouns. The LW never used gender-specific language (unless I missed it), yet Alison used the societal default male pronouns. I’m wondering why? Was it a slip or???

    1. MicroManagered*

      I don’t know if it happened in this specific case, but sometimes the letter comes in with a name or other content that Alison ends up removing, but her answer still has some remnants of that context. So like in this case the LW could have referred to the coworker as “Dave” and so she phrased her answer with “he” pronouns or something like that.

  54. Dr. Prepper*

    While it may indeed be possible the upper levels did indeed Google the candidate, this may be a very big erroneous assumption, especially if you are dealing with HR-controlled hiring.

    While in a pharmaceutical company, a front-facing position required a licensed physician specialist, fully certified in their field. HR gushingly hired a person who appeared personable and competent, at least initially. 6 weeks later, at a national convention, this person mercilessly sexually harassed a rep at another company’s booth, and the police had to get involved. He was sent back home and terminated thereafter.

    A simple Google search of his name with MD behind it revealed in the first 3 hits that he’d been in court in his prior state for sexual harassment of a nurse at a hospital, convicted of felony sexual harassment, served probation (!) lost his license after a Medical Board review, and no longer allowed to practice medicine anywhere in the US.

    So, IMO it is not out of line to Google someone to vet their backgrounds. While I agree that a misdemeanor drug charge may not be a biggie for a sales job etc., in my example 30 seconds of prep work might have prevented the trauma inflicted by this jerk.

    1. Casper Lives*

      You’re about to get piled on with people saying that guy served his time and you’re not allowed to consider the crimes, only that he didn’t have a medical license. Based on the many many comments upthread.

      Anyway, a medical license check is super basic. Wow.

      1. Generic Elf*

        While I generally agree with the ‘served the time = ignore the crime’ attitude for the most part, sexually based crimes or behavior seem to be an exception, as those types of offenders (especially those with higher status socially, they think they can get away with it again and again, probably because they had) tend to show a pattern of that behavior.

      2. Daisy Gamgee*

        You’re about to get piled on with people saying that guy served his time and you’re not allowed to consider the crimes

        From what I’ve seen (and I am often at odds with the general opinion on a given topic) the commentariat in general does not tend to such an oversimplification. A history of sexual offences is pertinent to future expectations of someone’s performance as a coworker in a way that a history of many other crimes may not be.

      3. Kotb*

        This guy lost his license to practice, and the job required a license to practice; this guy was also convicted of a felony. LW’s “situation” is nowhere near this – that coworker has no felony conviction, apparently has minor misdemeanors, with no indication he lost his license to drive and/or that the job requires a license to drive.

        So. Really?

        1. Me*

          Exactly. This is not what people who are advocating for lets not keep punishing people who have committed crimes.

          Losing a license to practice because of actions you have done is valid and no you should not be able to perform that job any further. However you should be able to b employed in other professions.

        2. pancakes*

          In addition to all that, there are more reliable ways to check that someone’s professional licensing is current and in good standing than simply Googling them. What Dr. Prepper is describing sounds like a huge failure on the part of the pharma company to do basic due diligence. It’s not comparable to the situation described in the letter.

    2. Observer*

      While it may indeed be possible the upper levels did indeed Google the candidate, this may be a very big erroneous assumption, especially if you are dealing with HR-controlled hiring.

      The problem in the case you are describing is not that the process is HR controlled, but that HR is incompetent. They clearly didn’t do their due diligence.

      So, there are two questions for the OP.

      1. Does what they found matter for this position? Unless the position requires driving, then the answer is no.

      2. If the answer is Yes, then the OP has to think about whether HR / the hiring manager is competent in hiring. If the people who are doing the hiring are competent, then the OP doesn’t need to do anything. Only if they have reason to think that HR / Hiring manager are NOT competent AND this issue actually affect the job should the OP “report” what they found. If HR is competent, there is nothing to “report” because there is no reason to think that they haven’t taken the couple of minutes to do the relevant work.

  55. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    Re. #4: What is it with insurance brokers playing fast and loose with employment law? My husband was almost hired for one but they completely lied about the title of the position, the pay rate, that it was almost entire commission based, and not offering benefits. No thanks!

    1. Me*

      I have no idea in the least but I wonder if it’s kinda company cultural? Insurance, even “good” companies, are all about how they can make a profit while paying out for losses, which means they work pretty hard to not have to pay out. I just wonder if that culture of looking for loopholes just kind of permeates.

      A friend used to work for State Farm and though he made good money and wasn’t directly involved in payouts or anything, he eventually decided to move on because he didn’t like the culture at all.

  56. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#1: Joining the chorus. I think this is a clear – No, you should not say anything about this to your boss, your co-workers or the new hire.

  57. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Re OP#4: Whoa, imagine if this is how all employment worked. I know some people whose pay would be cut in half. :D I assume OP is an actual employee of the insurance broker (not a contractor paid hourly), although the letter didn’t specifically say that, by the way.

  58. Database Developer Dude*

    While I will not jump on OP#1 for googling her colleague, Alison, just because a lot of people do something doesn’t make it right. A prospective or new employee doesn’t know who he or she is going to be working with, so they can’t google their coworkers until they’re already at work and getting to know them. Justifying this with an “everybody does it” excuse is again putting a job-seeker at a disadvantage when going for a job….there’s already such a power imbalance, we don’t need to exacerbate it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s a perfect legitimate discussion to have, but focusing on it here would be ungenerous to the LW and take us way off-topic (based on past experience), which is why I posted the rule I did.

  59. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – Depends on what the crime was, and the line of work you’re in. If someone was convicted of a minor drug charge 10 years ago and is applying for a store clerk job, then, yeah, it’s none of your business. But if he has a felony conviction and you’re in the financial world (brokerages, banks, record-keeping, money transfer) then you are pretty much obligated to tell what you know …. and in an investigation, they’re gonna find out anyway.

    And let’s not get into cases of schoolteachers involved in moral turpitude with students, and the man or woman quietly resigns and moves on to another school district. These are extremes, to be sure, but real ones.

    #3 – running into a fired co-worker? In this world of networking, you are very likely to run into someone you’ve known “in a past life”. Cordiality is the way to go. “Poor Performance” could be a matter of “conflict with the boss for some reason”. That other guy or gal is another human being, like yourself.

    But do respect boundaries – if the other person doesn’t want to chat or return the cordial greetings. There may even be avoidance on the advice of counsel, if something happened.

  60. Beast ala Mode*

    LW 1 – I refer you to The Office Episode The Convict- Season 3, Episode 9. It’s basically a how not to situation guide.

    1. Kotb*

      Accidentally killing someone while driving /=/ downloading and viewing child sexual abuse material.

      Finding out your new coworker accidentally killed someone while driving /=/ being sexually abused in the past by your new coworker.

      I mean. What. I’m at a loss.

  61. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – Before you even contemplate doing anything, I would find out what your organization’s process is wrt background checks. If they have done their due diligence, then your HR department knows already about the convictions, and have determined that they are not a barrier to employment. In this case, mind your own business and stay out of it, because it won’t look good if you bring up the issue (as it has been addressed already).

    If, however, your company does not do background checks as part of its screening process, then I would ask myself – does this conviction have any material bearing on the job the person is going to be doing? If they’re going to be operating machinery or driving – yes. If not – no.

    If no – again, stay out of it. It’s not a material factor to the person’s job, and it’s not an issue of personal safety for you or any employee, nor is it an issue of honestly that would affect your employer.

    If yes, the conviction has a direct bearing on the job, and your organization has not done background checks – only then would I bring it up to your HR department, and I would make sure that your HR person knows that you are bringing this up out of concern for the company and that you will be be absolutely discreet and not mention it to anyone else.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      ETA – and in the last case, I would think about whether the conviction was very recent or in the distant past – people DO learn from their mistakes.

  62. Lobsterman*

    LW2: I love that you’re in a situation where you can totally tell your unreasonable new employer to shove it (I absolutely cannot get a positive recommendation from one of my previous bosses, because he is a malignant narcissist, and in general no one owes new employers work in this way) and walk away, so you should. Their requirements are ridiculous.

  63. Fae Kamen*

    I just wanted to say that I’m really heartened by all the responses to #1 about fair hiring for people with a record. I wish I saw this attitude more often! And I hope everyone commenting here speaks up if it ever comes up in their own work.

  64. HollyGolightly*

    #3-I feel once you have been let go yourself (for performance reasons or role was eliminated or whatever else), then you understand how a fired coworker needs to be treated with kindness. I ALWAYS check in with coworkers I am friendly with if they are let go. I never will bash our workplace or anything, but I know what it feels like when you’re the one let go and your “work friends” treat you like a pariah. It hurts!

    1. OP#3*

      I’m confused – did anything I said suggest I didn’t want to treat the person with kindness? I asked exactly *because* I don’t want to say the wrong thing when I run into them.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I never meant that at all. But some do treat former co-workers as if they have cooties.

        I recall a “Happy Days” episode, where Richie, Potsie, and Ralph pledged a fraternity. Long story short, Potsie and Ralph were blackballed. Richie was seen by the pledge master, talking to his two buds from back home and is reprimanded – “WE’RE your friends now, Richie” and “we DUMPED them”…. Richie immediately “de-pledged”.

        Similar horsepoop exists in the working world. It’s bad when it happens to you. It’s worse when you’re asked to inflict that conduct upon others.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        (in my original reply above) – but Holly also had an answer similar to mine.

  65. OP 2*

    Hi, thank you so much Alison for replying to my question and thank you to everyone else for your helpful comments. I think I ignored a lot of signs that I shouldn’t take this job because I wanted the situation to be better than it was, but the last-minute rec letters were really the last straw. I didn’t want to bother my old boss and professors for letters but also felt guilty for pulling out of a job offer that I felt pressured to be really grateful for. I’m just going to put all my energy towards finding another new job in the new city. Thank you!!

  66. rubble*

    with regards to the last letter…… I notice alison always words similar scripts as “WE can’t do this” “WE shouldn’t beeak wage laws” etc

    why? the person writing the letter never suggested these things, why should they talk like they were involved in deciding to do it?

  67. mmppgh*

    #1 – Who is to say the boss doesn’t already know? Maybe they were Googled as part of the hiring process. Maybe they disclosed the information. Maybe a background check was done. There is nothing wrong with Googling a new co-worker; it’s human nature to be curious. I would not say anything either, but I might make a point to make this co-worker feel welcomed and try to get to know them as a person. I am really over the view that people should have their professional lives destroyed for things that happen in their personal lives.

  68. His Grace*

    LW 1: If the conviction has no bearing on the position in question, and it happened years ago, then it really is no concern for you. Focus on the new guy’s competence. He is already nervous and haunted enough as is. And put yourself in his shoes. How would like it if somebody did that to you?

    1. Ehh*


      Also, is OP1 even sure they have the correct person, and not someone with the same name, or a similar name?

      And if someone is let off a criminal charge due to a technicality or error…that can also mean that the authorities have realised that they have been pursuing a totally innocent person. Don’t believe everything you read.

  69. Evvie*

    I always assume a place I’m interviewing will Google me. (I figure a lot of my coworkers will, too.) There’s no way the boss doesn’t know and just didn’t find it necessary to tell everyone.

    Heck, based on the topic and the question about entering them in the system, I assumed the issue related to entering them correctly so the company can get benefits for hiring a formerly incarcerated person.

    I totally get being freaked out by the whole thing. There are definitely people I wouldn’t want to work with based on their pasts (I can’t say that about this person because I legit don’t know, but I was once stuck repeatedly refusing the “volunteerism” of a convicted pedophile who was somehow still allowed in schools). But this is a stay out of it situation because, like I said, the boss knows and it’ll come back to you looking nosy. Even though I don’t begrudge you the Googling personally.

    I expect the info will get out to everyone soon enough. People will Google him or recognize the name or something. Honestly, just hope nothing like that episode of The Office happens.

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