What Are the Consequences to Lying or Omitting Information on a Job Application?

When seeking employment, it may be tempting for a job applicant to embellish their experiences and qualifications in order to make themselves more appealing to potential employers. Doing so, however, can come with a significant risk. Lying on an application or resume opens the applicant up to several serious consequences.

Types of Lies

There are many lies that people may tell on their applications or resumes. They can range from the slight and ridiculous to extreme. Dates may be misconstrued so that no apparent gaps in employment emerge. Achievements at work may be embellished. Certain skills may be overinflated as related to the individual’s actual ability. Some applicants have even claimed college degrees or work experience that they did not possess. In a legal analysis, the question typically is whether the lie was “material” or not, meaning of whether it had the potential to influence decisions.

Grounds for Termination

On many applications, there is a disclaimer that the foregoing information is necessary to assess a person’s qualifications for the job. It goes on to state that if the applicant lies about the information on the application or attached documents that such lies are grounds for termination. Even if the application itself does not have this disclaimer, many employers may still assert their rights to terminate the now-employee for such lies or omissions.

The vast majority of states have at-will employment laws. This means that the employee can leave his or her job at his or her own will. Likewise, the employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, unless the reason is illegal.
Getting fired because an applicant lied on an application can create a perpetual cycle. The applicant must either report the truth about the firing on the next application or risk the same result by omitting it.

Loss of Legal Claims

Another potential drawback to lying on an application is that a person can lose his or her right to sue the employer if there are any legal claims against the employer, such as termination based on racial discrimination. Another possibility is that the employee’s level of damages can be reduced.

This legal concept is known as the “after-acquired evidence” rule. This means that employers can use the evidence that they learned about a former employee in defense of any legal claim. The employer’s position is that it would not have hired the applicant in the first place if he or she had been honest on the application. This often requires the employer to prove that the lies on the application were directly linked to the employment position and would have been sufficient for it not to have hired the applicant.

Loss of Professional License

Many professions have a board that oversees the administration of licenses to current individuals in the profession, including lawyers, nurses and doctors. If they commit an ethical mistake, their license may be suspended or revoked.

Criminal Charges

The likelihood of someone being charged with a crime for lying on a job application is slim. However, there are certain circumstances that could lead to criminal responsibility. For example, lying about military service to receive a benefit can be prosecuted under the Stolen Valor Act. If employment is being sought from a state or federal employer, it is likely a crime to lie on an application because it is often a crime to lie to a federal or state government agent.

Another possibility is that the applicant can be charged with a criminal fraud offense. Many white lies will not rise to the level of fraud. However, such charges may result if the effect of the lie led to substantial damage to a person or the financial welfare of a business.

Civil Liability

Lying on an application may also potentially cause an applicant to be liable for civil damages if his or her lies resulted in damages. For example, an architect who lied about his credentials may be civilly liable for civil fraud or misrepresentation if a ceiling collapsed and injured a customer. A contractor may be sued if he was terminated after his client discovered that he had violated building codes in the past and did not reveal this information when asked and the client had to hire someone else to perform the work at a higher cost.

Plaintiffs may sue the employer for negligent hiring or retention if they have suffered injuries because of the misrepresentation. The employer may respond by joining the employee in the lawsuit so that he or she can share in the liability.

Provided by HG.org

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case.

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