Hiring, Firing, HR Lying on a Job Application: What can Happen?

  1. When it comes to filling in a job application or creating a résumé, some people tend to lie or significantly exaggerate their credentials or experiences in the hopes of increasing their chances of being successful. And while this can sometimes land you the job, materially misrepresenting your qualifications can also backfire.

    You Can Lose Your Job for a Job Application Lie

    It is quite likely that you could lose your job if your boss discovers that you were untruthful on your application or résumé. If the lies and misrepresentations you told were pertinent to the position, such as stating that you had a specific license or degree when you did not have one, your termination for cause and without benefits is more likely to happen. Being fired for misrepresentations on your job application could also have a negative effect on prospective employers, who will be very unlikely to hire an employee if they discover an employee’s prior deception.

    You Lie, You Lose - Rights against Your Employer

    When you lie in order to succeed in getting a job, you are leaving yourself vulnerable when it comes to your rights as an employee. If you wanted to sue an employer who violated your legal rights, you increase the likelihood of losing your case if it was discovered that you had made false statements in the job application process. Any employment related lawsuit would be significantly compromised if your employer could reasonably argue that you would not have been hired if your application was truthful and qualifications not misrepresented. Additionally, if you were exposed as a liar in the job application process, it is likely that a jury would believe little that you have to say with regard to the merits of your wrongful termination lawsuit. Many courts are likely to rule that if you lied in order to get hired, you cannot claim to have been illegally fired.

    The “After-Acquired Evidence” Theory

    In employment litigation, the “after-acquired evidence” theory pertains to facts that an employer might learn after firing an employee (but didn’t know at the time of termination) for which the employer would have fired the employee anyway. While an employee may claim that a case for wrongful termination exists, the employer counters by claiming that he or she had a right to terminate the employee for another reason. For example, an employee claims that she was wrongfully terminated for doing something that was permissible in the employee handbook. During investigation, the employer discovers that the employee lied on her job application about having a university degree. The employer counters the employee’s argument of wrongful termination by stating that, had the employer had known that the employee didn’t have a college diploma as required in the job description, he never would have hired the employee. As a result, no case for wrongful termination of the employee’s job exists.

    A list of acts by an employee that would fall under this after-acquired evidence theory includes the following:
    • Not listing a former employer on a résumé
    • Not admitting to being fired for tampering with timecards
    • Not disclosing a felony conviction
    • Lying on a job application form or résumé about previous experience or education
    • Lying about a qualification during an interview
    • After being hired, doctoring company records or copying confidential documents
    In these cases, an employee will still be able to take a case into court against an employer. However, the employer can argue that they had a valid reason to fire the employee from the point where the employee committed the misconduct. From that point onward, damages would then be cut off – which may essentially compromise the entire case against the employer. If an employer fires an employee and then tries to use the after-acquired evidence to shut down the case entirely, e.g. because the employee lied on a job application, the employer must prove that (i) what the employee lied about was relevant to the job and that (ii) had the employer known the truth, the employee would not have been hired.

    Issues regarding wrongful termination of employment are complex. If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated, you should seek professional legal advice from an experienced employment attorney. Wrongful termination cases cannot typically be handled effectively by a layperson.
    Employment & Labor:
    Job Applications

    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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