former employee is lying about her job with me … to cover up her time in jail

A reader writes:

A couple years ago, I managed an employee who was arrested at work for stealing from a former employer, among other charges. She was put in jail for a considerable amount of time.

She is apparently now out, because I received her resume. I’m no longer at the previous company. I did not consider her, but I noticed that the start date she listed with the company where I managed her precedes the date the company even opened (I imagine to cover her employment when she was working for the company she stole from) and extends a few months from the time she left for jail.

Her resume lists no employer contacts or references. A friend noticed my former company on the resume and called me to find out what I knew. The field I work in is fairly small and I anticipate more calls like this. What is the appropriate response? Do I say simply she would not be eligible for rehire? Do I mention that I have seen her resume and it is not entirely accurate? Do I mention that I saw her arrested for theft from her employer or even tell them to make sure they do background checks?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should you let someone know you’re reporting them to their manager?
  • Can I ghost my former colleague?

{ 109 comments… read them below }

    1. juliebulie*

      Maybe if you reply, “Prison!” and then laugh like you’re only kidding. No one will suspect a thing.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        No, you have to “yada yada yada” the prison time.

        I worked at Company A, left them yada yada yada, then started at Company B, and now I am looking for new opportunities.

    2. An Australian In London*

      “The gap on my resume is because I wrote it in OfficeOffice, and you opened it in Word.”

    3. Some dude on the Internet*

      The joke for those curious:

      A man goes into a job interview and presents himself well.

      The interviewer is shocked at how professional he is. “Wow, you have an incredible resume, and present yourself fantastically, but you seem to be missing 5 years on this part of your resume. What happened there?”

      The man replied, “Oh, that’s when I went to Yale.”

      The employer is even more impressed. “That’s great, you’re hired!”

      The man is super happy and says, “Yay, I got a yob!”

      1. Emily Byrd Starr*

        I had to read it several times before I got it, since the y and the j look so much alike.

  1. A Poster Has No Name*

    So, one would hope the stint in jail would have been a wakeup call, but…that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Not sure why she thinks falsifying a start date to cover up jail time will actually a) work *in a world where background checks are a thing) and b) won’t look worse than just owning up to the jail time would have in the first place.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      “b) won’t look worse than just owning up to the jail time would have in the first place.”

      I think in this instance when it was stealing directly from an employer, that is way worse than falsifying/stretching the resume. If it had been an arrest/jail unrelated to employment, I would agree that the cover-up (resume falsifying) would be worse than crime.

      1. Ink*

        But if you were (presumably) deceitful to the employer you stole from, and are now lying to the place you’re applying… why wouldn’t you carry on in that pattern and steal from them? I get that it’s far too difficult for people to get back on their feet after jail time no matter how reformed they are, but in this case lying on her resume directly continues the pattern of behavior that got her arrested to begin with.

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          ” but in this case lying on her resume directly continues the pattern of behavior that got her arrested to begin with.”

          I was responding to the previous poster who seemed to be saying that the cover up (falsifying resume) was actually worse than the crime (stealing from the employer), in my opinion it is not. Stealing from an employer is a lot worse than lying on a resume, in this particular case the lying on resume is bad, but the stealing is still worse. I agree that the lying shows the pattern of dishonesty continuing and is bad, but I think the stealing is still worse.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            They didn’t say the lying on the resume was worse than committing the crime. They said lying on the resume made the applicant look worse than not lying on the resume and admitting to their past crime (presumably plus indicating remorse and how they’ve grown etc as part of the admitting).
            In other words: lying to cover up going to jail is worse than acknowledging you went to jail.

            1. JSPA*

              I don’t get the sense people are missing that argument. They’re gaming it out. The content of the admission matters, if we stipulate that it would be an absolute bar to hiring (which may or may not be true).

              Admit the jail time, and by necessity the office:
              stipulated 0% chance of being hired, now or later
              Result: 100% chance of no job and no chance to make a good impression before the info comes out.

              hide the jail time:
              (say) 90% chance of being found out, and if found out, 100% chance of being put on “never hire” list = 90% chance of no job and no chance to make a good impression before the info comes out.

              (say) 10% chance of being hired = chance to make a good impression before the info comes out. Likelihood of being fired at that point is still high, but you will have current job experience and hire dates, and may be able to negotiate a “confirm dates of hire only” separation.

              If you’re desperate, falsifying the resumé may not be the worst of the (all very bad) options, if you want to stay in your field.

              The better answer is probably, “leave your field and do some sort of pick-up labor or odd jobs,” but there’s not much of a prison-back-to-full-and-legit-employment pipeline. Instead, there are a lot of diversions to “illegal work” or “illegal payment” or “we pay you to put your life in danger” or all of the above.

      2. Ellie*

        She could have explained it away as something else though… some overseas travel, caring for an elderly relative… why deliberately lie? That is so dumb considering OP says the field is small, and really shows that she hasn’t learned anything at all.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, that’s what I thought – even just saying you were unemployed (not technically a lie, I guess?) would be better than this! Especially as the company didn’t exist yet, which makes it so easy to find out *without even checking references*…

    2. WellRed*

      Maybe she’s clueless, maybe she’s desperate. But owning up to jail time for stealing from an employer is going to pretty much put you in the no pile. Further, unless her industry does background checks, she may be (in vain) hoping to hide the this. I suspect she’s in for a rude awakening trying to get rehired in her small field.

      1. Java*

        I suspect she’s in for a rude awakening trying to get rehired in her small field.

        Yea, like it sucks for her, but there are very few ways in which you can screw up like that without entirely killing your career in a small industry.
        Some places you can get away with it, I worked at a Zellers in highschool and an electronics section employee got fired for stealing. A week later he was working for an electronics retailer in the same mall lmao.

        But the industry I work in now? Even just being particularly frustrating to work with can kill your career in 2 years.

        Hopefully, this woman realizes the reality of her situation soon and LW won’t have to deal with the inquiries for long.

        1. Bluenoser*

          Greetings fellow ex-Zellers worker! Our memorable employee was the creepy guy with dubious hygiene practices who ran the restaurant. Even the employee discount (which was only 10% anyway) wasn’t enough to get me in there on a meal break.

    3. Never Boring*

      One might think a lot of things, and one might sometimes be wrong. I once got a LinkedIn request from a close family member who had been fired from a previous job in a medical practice for being caught with narcotics that did not belong to her and a blank prescription pad. She is not a licensed medical practitioner (it was an administrative position). Said relative had stolen from me on numerous occasions, including my own prescription narcotics while I was recovering from surgery, and lied to the pharmacist to try and pick up refills that I had not requested on my behalf. There’s a reason why she is no longer allowed in my home.

    4. Denny Anonymous*

      Employers don’t tend to hire people who’ve served jail time, and she’s likely been advised to do this. She’s stuck between a rock and a hard place.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, and given that it was stealing from an employer, rather than say driving under the influence (or anything else that wasn’t job related) it’s going to be twice as hard. I understand why she’s lying (you gotta have a job to support yourself and the way to get a job at a living wage is generally… not to switch fields drastically halfway through your career) but I do not see this working out for her.

    5. Annony*

      There are companies that don’t run background checks and don’t bother to check references. She is clearly hoping for one of those.

  2. DrSalty*

    I think because she was jailed for stealing from her place of business you are obligated to share that with people who ask. It’d be different if it wasn’t a work-related crime, but this SO relevant to a potential new hire.

    1. Ex-Teacher*

      I think it would depend on how much concrete or first-hand information the LW has. If there’s nothing verifiable, and LW is somehow wrong about this, then saying what you propose would be defamation and LW would be open to legal liability.

      Alison’s response does a lot to avoid defamation, stays factual, and communicates a lot of this information without explicitly saying so.

      1. 2 cents*

        Defamation only relates to false statements, not whether the statement is verifiable. However, whether or not someone went to jail most assuredly is verifiable. If you are concerned about a lawsuit, you may want to keep a record of what you say.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          I think this is just a semantic argument. LW should probably not make any factual statements they are not able to verify. Which is a different sense of not verifiable than saying a statement is inherently unverifiable (which are not legally defamatory).

          So if LW knows employee was arrested but only heard rumors she went to jail it might be best to stick to that.

        2. Java*

          Yes and no.
          If a statement isn’t verifiable then it’s potentially false or contains false elements and in the case of a defamation suit the burden falls to the defendant to prove that the statement is true.

          If someone isn’t able to verify the truth of a statement then they are putting themselves at risk for a defamation suit, especially if they are spreading unverified information in a way that directly impacts someone (such as a hiring recommendation).

          1. Kevin Sours*

            Not in the United States. In order to be defamatory a statement *must* be a verifiable statement of fact. That’s the literal wording. Not every statement can be verified one way or the other (Joe is a lazy worker for instance). There is a difference between an statement that is not verified and one that is not verifiable.

            More importantly the burden falls of the plaintiff to prove that they statement was false.

        3. Statler von Waldorf*

          This is just factually false in all the jurisdictions I am familiar with the laws with. Defamation relates to the action of damaging the good reputation of someone.

          The claim that you are speaking the truth is merely a defense in a defamation case. You can still get sued for defamation even if everything you say is factually true. Assuming you can afford decent council, you’ll probably win if that’s the case, but trust me when I say that’s a cold comfort when you are served with legal papers.

          1. CityMouse*

            Truth is an absolute defense to defamation. Acting out of fear for being served with a lawsuit even when you’ve done nothing wrong, is futile, as anyone with a filing fee can file a lawsuit.

          2. New Jack Karyn*

            You can be sued by anyone, for anything, at any time. A student could sue me for defamation if I told his parents that he cut my class three times last week–even if it’s true. I’m still going to tell his parents that, because that’s my job.

          3. Kevin Sours*

            I mean you can get sued for anything at least long enough to get to a motion to dismiss. But a true statement is not defamatory in the united states nor is a statement of opinion based on public facts.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              Not only is it the plaintiff’s burden to show that a statement is false, in many states now you can be sanctioned for bringing a defamation suite without evidence of falsity.

      2. DrSalty*

        Personally I think just saying “I strongly recommend doing a background check” is unnecessarily obfuscating. Just say what you mean. Hedge it if it’s hearsay, or just be frank about where you heard the information. My assumption from the letter was LW knew for a fact the reasons this person went to jail, so why play coy about it?

      3. fhqwhgads*

        LW says they saw the arrest happen, though? It reads to me like cops showed up at LW’s then-place-of-employ and arrested the person in question at that job (for the crime committed against that person’s previous job).

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I think Alison added that caveat in the answer because she often expands the answers a bit to be applicable to more situations–but it sounds like OP knows for sure that this person went to prison, how long they were there, and what the charges were so I’m not sure why people are hedging that so much! There is no reason not to share this objectively factual information with people who directly asked, especially because she is attempting to us OP as cover!

  3. Scottish Teapot*

    Confirm the real dates of employment and let her answer the gap of she gets that far in the interviews. She may need to disclose any convictions anyway.

    1. Anonallama*

      I like this approach.

      “Let me confirm her dates of employment with us. Have you got a pen? And a hard copy of the resume? You might want to note the info I’m about to give on the resume for comparison. Oh, and how robust are your background checks?”

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        That’s the kicker. Background checks are a crapshoot. I’m personally aware of a situation where an otherwise relatively robust background check company missed a felony.

  4. A Significant Tree*

    I know it’s an older letter, but LW1 lists the former employee leaving off references or contacts on her resume as though that adds to the suspiciousness. But it’s not common to list references on your resume anymore and (I thought) hasn’t been for some time, right? The date fudging is a problem, no doubt, but not providing references on a resume isn’t any kind of indicator of shadiness.

    1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I didn’t interpret that as LW1 indicating something suspicious so much as clarification of the situation, i.e. “Her resume doesn’t list me directly but I expect people will contact me anyway because…”

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, I think she was saying that to explain that she wasn’t listed explicitly as a reference but is still being asked about it and expects to maybe be asked again in the future.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I thought the no contact info meant that the woman didn’t put an address for the company or the name of the manager on the resume. Maybe that’s not the convention, but it seemed like the resume itself was hiding contact info.

      1. Taura*

        Is that standard practice? I’ve never included contact info of any kind (except for my own) on my resume, only filled out the blanks for it in the job application itself.

        1. YetAnotherManager*

          FWIW, as a data point: about 10% of the resumes I’ve received for a recent entry-level posting included contact info for references and/or jobs, but I personally chalked it up to inexperience and/or terrible college career services and didn’t factor it into my decision at all. It’s definitely not standard practice (or a good idea in general), but it’s not unheard of, especially for less experienced applicants.

          1. Banana Pyjamas*

            Literally everything I’ve read online says to include the address and phone of previous jobs. Some even say which order ATS look for the information in.

            I recently asked a question about clarifying that two different employers have the same HR phone number on my resume in a Friday open thread, and no one flagged it would be unusual to include that information information, but multiple people did share how they would include it.

            1. YetAnotherManager*

              That’s so interesting, because in my experience hiring for medium-to-large orgs (~100-10k employees), I don’t recall ever seeing anyone with more than ~3 years of experience do it, and even with early-career applicants it’s definitely a minority! I’ve certainly never even once used that information as a hiring manager or part of a hiring team until we’re ready to make an offer, at which point HR always reaches out to the top candidate for the info. Since I review every resume personally (I don’t use a proper/strict/exclusionary ATS), I find that info to be rather a waste of space from the hiring side. Like I said, I don’t penalize for it, it simply doesn’t register for me.

              I’ve also recently-ish done an MBA with a collaborative/peer-oriented bent, which means I’ve reviewed and discussed the resumes of dozens of mid-career professionals across a lot of industries, and literally none of them even mentioned this. So it’s quite fascinating to me that your experience has been so different!
              To be fair, this is pretty much the only online work advice site I follow regularly, so I don’t think I’m really tuned into the resume advice zeitgeist.

              Banana Pyjamas, I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I’d love to hear more about whether you’ve found it helpful/useful—am I missing something?

            2. Quill*

              Half the time the address or phone number is no longer current, though. (I’ve worked at a lot of places that have shut down a location…)

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              On a resume? (As opposed to an application.) That would be very odd; less than 1% of all resumes I see do that. Probably less than 0.1%.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I’ve literally never included that information on any resume, or seen it on one of someone I’ve been involved in interviewing. Is it standard practice in some fields?

        1. SheepThrills*

          Yes – US federal government resumes. It’s not a good practice, not excessively common, but not unusual.

          1. Banana Pyjamas*

            Local governments as well. I’d also like to flag that I’ve had multiple private-sector HR professionals I know personally review my resume, and none flagged that.

      3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I always put a line on the resume =

        “Personal and professional references upon request.”

        Which meant “when it’s game time and we’re probably going to offer a job, but we want to check things out first.”

        1. nnn*

          AAM has said for years that that’s outdated and not expected anymore so you can take it off!

    3. Adam*

      Yeah, I’ve never put company contact info on my resume in 25 years of working and I’m not sure I’ve ever reviewed a resume that did. That wouldn’t be suspicious at all.

    4. K*

      Yeah, I’ve never once listed references on a resume. I wouldn’t even think to. I’ve always provided those separately.

  5. Marta*

    I do feel bad for the ex employee who’s trying to make a new start, as there are lots of reasons people end up in bad places, and if she’s a minority even more so, but if it’s a small industry it’s going to be even tougher for her if she’s caught lying.

    1. Ellie*

      I would have felt bad for her, if she hadn’t lied on her resume. As it is, I think it’s an easy call to fill the reference checkers in on what really happened.

      If she’d left the gap on her resume, and it was otherwise accurate, then I’d feel more conflicted about telling people it was jail. But given she stole from her old employers, I really don’t see how you can leave it out. If it was shoplifting, or something unrelated to her field, then maybe? But if OP doesn’t mention it, and it’s discovered, she’ll look like she’s lied.

  6. CityMouse*

    I like Alison’s script here. People are reaching out to LW, I think being explicit that the dates are that off, the employee is ineligible for rehire, and suggesting a background check is absolutely fair. If LW was vague about it and then industry contacts found out the extent of the issue, it could reflect badly on LW. If LW wants to share no detail at all, they need to be explicit that they’re not giving details and not be vague or say anything that might be seen as downplaying.

  7. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    The third letter, “can I ghost a contact?” It’s not ghosting to stop replying. Ghosting is when there is a relationship or simply communication that requires a back and forth. He asked. You answered. Responsibility met.
    Continuing to ask the same question does not extend a social or professional relationship on OP’s end.
    He’s not a contact. He’s a guy looking for a job. He has nothing to offer OP or he would have done it.

    1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I would agree that it’s not ghosting if you don’t reply to someone who cold-messages you on LinkedIn. But I would probably categorize this as ghosting, because there WAS a professional relationship and LW is choosing to stop engaging. (Perfectly acceptable ghosting, since the answer has been “no” the past 17 times and the guy hasn’t gotten the hint. But still ghosting, in my book.)

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I accept your perspective. I’m spinning my reply…more like being chased by a ghost, in as much as OP is left wanting to run screaming away from this guy.

  8. Kevin Sours*

    Ghosting implies there exists a social obligation to communicate due to a prior commitment or implied from an ongoing relationship. I don’t think “dude I used to hate working for” is a sufficient ongoing relationship to create an obligation to respond.

    1. Jaydee*

      100% agreed. For it to count as ghosting the other person needs to have a reasonable expectation of a response.

      It may be common for interviewers to ghost candidates after an interview, but the interviewer has a reasonable expectation that “I’ll be in touch next week” does actually mean “I’ll be in touch” even if it’s actually weeks later. So it’s still ghosting.

      A former coworker who continues to email business proposals after you’ve expressed no interest in the last few may have an expectation of a response, but that expectation is unreasonable. So not responding is not ghosting.

  9. KHB*

    Pointing out the discrepancy in the dates seems reasonable, especially if anyone can independently verify that Llamas’R’Us has only been in business since 2011, so this employee couldn’t have started working there in 2009.

    I also like Alison’s language of “I strongly suggest you do a complete background check if you consider her.”

  10. Cee Es*

    I had a former co-worker that I would not refer to any of my workplaces. He asked some pretty intrusive questions by default. He was added to my LinkedIn when he started my last job. I didn’t see any harm because I didn’t post much.

    When he saw a job opening at my current company, he messaged me looking for a referral. I ignored without giving an explanation. He applied anyway. When he got the job, he still didn’t get why I ignored his small talk.

  11. Czhorat*

    I think the first LW (lying applicant trying to hide a prison term) is a conflict between the natural impulse to not want to harm someone’s job search with ones sense of honor and protection of ones professional reputation for honesty.

    There is a part of me that *wants* someone who has served his time and paid his debt to society to be able to go free, but it’s not worth harming myself in damaging my own reputation to cover for him.

    In a case of fraud there’s also somewhat a moral issue of making sure the next employer knows of the risks, and can decide to hire or not accordingly.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This is really great. OP has a responsibility to his company to the person in his network to be honest and clear. There is no responsibility to the candidate as an individual, but I think the candidate does fall under the professional responsibility umbrella. OP should respect his peers and offer what information he knows for sure. “These are the dates of employment. What you are stating is not correct. She came to us from ABC Group on X date and was here until Y date. She is not eligible for rehire here.”
      It does not need to turn this into “my dude, you are not gonna believe this! She was in JAIL!”

  12. Hyaline*

    Agreed that LW3 is under no obligation to keep replying, but if they really want to try one more tactic before simply not replying to the guy they could attempt to go from a “I’m not looking for any work *right now*” (which might suggest next month will be different) to a firmer “I’m not looking to expand my current client list /pick up more work outside of the firms I work for /take on new projects, you’re better off looking elsewhere.” He still might not get the hint, but at least you’ve been clear that your disinterest was not a “just for now” situation on your part, so you can rest easy not replying to him anymore.

  13. RVA Cat*

    This. The lying on top of their record is going to limit them to working for employers who also break the law (though wage theft, etc. is more likely than “being taken to the train station).

    1. Johanna Cabal*

      Or not necessarily breaking the law, just toxic places in general. Decades ago, I worked in a place similar to a call center and recruiting was mainly ensuring there were bottoms in seats. As you can imagine, there was a lot of turnover.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      No! She set up a nice church going long term employee for that. Can you believe it? Just because the woman liked her jacket. And tried it on. In car. In the parking lot.
      She ordered all kinds of stuff in that poor woman’s name, even had it delivered to her house! And hid her own wallet in that woman’s bag JUST for good measure!

      1. Denny Anonymous*

        I still cannot believe that letter. I really hope the writer was a skilled satirist, but fear they were indeed being completely serious.

        Did we ever get an update?

  14. ONFM*

    The stealing employee makes me think of that letter, years ago, where one of the admins stole an intern’s coat and credit card. Does anyone remember that? And the LW was all twisted up about how to prove the intern had set up the good, church-going employee, because all the Amazon orders that had been made from the office computer with the intern’s credit card just HAD to be fake? I wonder how that turned out.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yeah, that was a wild letter! The letter was “did my intern frame my coworker for credit card theft?” from September 18, 2017 (it was also re-posted in October of 2023). I’ll post a link in a follow-up comment.

      I also occasionally wonder how that situation shook out.

      1. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

        This is a crazy story, thank you for giving the title. “My staff member has been shown with video proof to have stolen a jacket, but her victim must be setting her up, right?”

      1. Denny Anonymous*

        I can’t believe I forgot about that letter! I always wanted to know what happened there, and admit I was hoping it was either a satirical or trolling letter…but had a bad feeling that it was actually 100% genuine.

        Did we ever get an update?

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          I don’t see an update. I wish there was one.

          The whole scenario is bonkers, but honestly, I can see it being true. Why? I listen to enough true crime to figure that there are a LOT of stupid, or arrogant, or just “clumsy” criminals out there. That’s how they get caught, typically.

          Coworker’s dumb enough to be caught on video stealing a jacket? Its not a stretch that they’d be dumb enough to place orders in their own name with a stolen CC.

      2. Emily Byrd Starr*

        Thanks for the link. A good church going woman? I wonder if she also steals from the collection plate.

  15. Sparkles and Chaos*

    One of my predecessors does something similar but more brazenly baffling. I cannot imagine the weight of the gumption she has to list the company she embezzled from (and subsequently plead guilty) as a reference for other finance positions, but she continues to do it. Pretty much everyone that has been in my department and left on bad terms in the past decade continues to use us as a reference. I am considering making bingo cards at this point.

  16. Buffalo*

    I’m not following this letter at all.

    A couple of years ago (let’s say 2022), the LW managed the employee. The employee went to jail for stealing for a “considerable amount of time” (which, to me, would be more than a couple of years, but that’s neither here nor there). Now they’re lying on their resume about having *started* at the LW’s company earlier than they did, to cover up jail time. But if the jail time was after the LW worked with the employee (say, 2023-2024), how does claiming to have started earlier cover up the jail time? What does having started earlier have to do with anything?

    Unless…is the LW saying they managed someone in i.e. 2022 who had gone to jail for stealing from a previous job, and lied about having started with the LW earlier to cover up that jail time?

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      The former employee has changed both her start and end dates on the resume. Listing an earlier start date removes the employer she stole from without creating a gap, and listing a later departure date covers up the jail time.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, it’s confusing to me, too but I think the situation is something like this:

        Employee worked for Company A from 2018 – 2019. Employee steals something from Company A and stops working there (fired? quit? who knows).

        Employee starts working at Company B in 2019. Letter-writer is now managing Employee. Company A realizes Employee stole from them. Employee is arrested while at work at Company B.

        Employee is in jail from 2019-2020. In that time, Letter-writer leaves Company B and starts work at Company C. Employee is released from jail in 2020 and applies to Company C. Her resume states:

        [Job title], Company B, 2018 – 2020

        when she only worked at Company B for part of 2019. She lied about her start date so it looks like she was working for Company B when she was really working for Company A, and lied about the end date so it looks like she was working for Company B when she was in jail.

    2. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

      My read of it is that the former employee lied about her start date at the LW’s company to cover up the job from which she stole (because she left it off her resume entirely) and then lied about her end date at that company to cover up her jail time.

      So reality is:
      Stolen-From Job (2008-2010)
      Arrested-At Job (2010-2011)
      Jail (2011-2014)

      Resume shows:
      Arrested-At Job (2008-2014), but arrested-at job company was founded in 2010, so her resume shows her working there before it even existed.

  17. ILoveLllamas*

    Many, many years ago, I worked for a company that had terminated an accounting person for embezzlement prior to my joining them. They pursued the case and she owned them roughly $30K. We got a call asking for an employment reference for her — same industry, same role, same opportunity to embezzle. The president of my company insisted that he speak to them. He told them that she wasn’t eligible for rehire and anything else they needed to know was a matter of public record. They hired her anyway and she did the same thing to them…..

    1. djx*

      “The president of my company insisted that he speak to them. He told them that she wasn’t eligible for rehire and anything else they needed to know was a matter of public record. ”

      This is great.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        This is similar to yesterday’s “I’ve expressed my displeasure with approach control” in a comment about a wildly hairy plane landing on a business trip….just, ::chef’s kiss::

  18. learnedthehardway*

    I had a situation in which I discovered that the finalist candidate was not employed at the company she said was her current employer. Something just seemed to be off about her, so I decided to see if she was reachable at the company. Surprise, surprise, the receptionist told me she no longer worked there and that I needed to talk to their legal counsel, if I wanted any further info. Clearly this sort of call had happened before, because the receptionist was quite sure that I needed to talk to their counsel.

    So, the legal counsel picks up and I tell him I had been surprised to learn that Candidate was not an employee. He was very reticent about what he did tell me, but I was able to get the candidate’s dates of employment out of him. Turned out, the candidate had left the company 3 years prior!! Asked if she was rehireable – he said “NO!” Thanked him for his time and rung off.

    No offer was put forward, and my client thanked me for being thorough and warning them – I had thought they would be upset, but they were grateful that I’d saved them from hiring this person to a very sensitive role.

    All this to say that – if asked – you can default to saying what the person’s dates of employment are, and that they are not rehireable at the company, and that will say it all. If anyone wants any more information, refer it to your company’s legal counsel / external law firm.

  19. Have you had enough water today?*

    There is no need to give a bad reference in this case. If you are asked you can just state that she must be mistaken as the actual dates of employment were xx/xx/xxxx to xx/xx/xxxx & leave it to them to discuss the oversight with her.

    Where I live, candidates are entitled to a copy of any & all notes made about them during the recruitment process, so if you give a bad reference it can come back to bite you in the bottom, even if accurate if they can prove in court that you gave that reference to retaliate for something. This is why I do not give bad references. If a potential employer calls about someone I am unable to give a good reference for I will say “unfortunately I am unable to provide a positive reference, but I can confirm that candidate was employed here from date to date” & leave it at that. It speaks volumes without adding anything that could land me in hot water!

    1. Denny Anonymous*

      I’d advise LW1 not to say the candidate is mistaken about her employment dates, but to say something like “I can confirm she worked at ABC Company between X Date and Y Date, but I’m not sure about the dates on either side of that”.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Why? The LW knows when the employee worked at their company; unless they are actually unsure whether she worked there in a different job at some point before or after, there’s no reason to hedge and pretend they are. “There must be some mistake; she worked here from X/X/XX to Y/Y/YY.”

  20. Raida*

    oooh that’s a hard one. You don’t want to lie, but you also aren’t a reference, but you also don’t want to go around actively trying to fck up someone’s life who already has a criminal record which is a nightmare for getting decent employment, but you also *don’t know them* well enough to know that they did or didn’t change and won’t steal anymore…

    1. Denny Anonymous*

      LW1 also doesn’t truly know if she stole, or what she stole, in the first place, as it’s about a previous employer. She may be guilty, but it may also be a scenario much more complicated than that, an extreme example of which is the UK Post Office Horizon software glitch scandal, which saw people pursued and even jailed for thefts that never actually happened.

      This is an awful, and very sticky, situation to be put in.

  21. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    There was a guy who worked at a company that I had worked at, in what we call a “past life”.

    I had left that sinking ship – yeah, rats that seek higher ground tend to survive, etc. but this man had stayed aboard.

    And embezzled. And was caught. And was prosecuted, and convicted.

    Three years later, I’m working at a place that was in the financial world. A mutual former coworker called and asked “can you get his application to the correct hands? He needs a job.”

    No, NO NO HELL NO. Even if he did somehow get in the door without my knowledge, I’d be morally – and perhaps LEGALLY obligated to rat him out. I felt badly for him but felons cannot work in the financial industry, in any capacity.

    1. Emily Byrd Starr*

      ” yeah, rats that seek higher ground tend to survive”

      “obligated to rat him out.”

      Was the double use of the word “rat” done on purpose? If so, very clever!

  22. Denny Anonymous*

    LW1’s letter reminds me why I hate back door or unauthorised references.

    LW1, to protect yourself, all you should say is something like, “I can give you the employment dates that I’m sure of, but that doesn’t cover the whole range she’s provided in her CV”.

    Don’t say anything beyond that, including anything about her supposedly being jailed for theft from her previous employers. If it’s either true or relevant, it will come up in the background check.

    If anyone’s interested in looking up how such cases can be problematic, to say the least, have a look at the UK Post Office scandal emerging from the Horizon software mess (which saw thousands of employees and sub-postmasters pursued and even jailed for theft that never actually happened), and also do a Google of how much wage theft costs workers and the economy annually.

  23. Colin Watson*

    The one thing I’d add to LW1 is to be careful that some jurisdictions have laws relating to spent convictions (when you’ve served your time and are no longer subject to parole). In the UK, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 says that in general people can’t be required to disclose spent convictions and it’s specifically illegal to perform employment discrimination on the basis of spent convictions.

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