Lies on CVs: the law is on the employer’s side if you are dishonest on your CVs

Lies, lies and more damned CV lies: CV mendacity has reached epidemic proportions, but the law now rests with employers.

The recent press coverage of Intercontinental Hotels Group’s Patrick Imbardelli’s fall from grace serves as a salutary reminder for all HR professionals to remain vigilant during recruitment and to not accept background information, especially qualifications, at face value. Whoever it was who said “a little white lie hurt no-one” had obviously never been duped into employing a candidate by false statements.

Imbardelli was undoubtedly a high achiever and had been appointed as chief executive of the hotel group’s Asia Pacific unit. However, it came to light soon afterwards that he had falsely claimed to hold three university degrees. Faced with the truth, Imbardelli resigned and so joined a long list of senior executives who have met a similar fate.

There are some people who see no wrong in including a few ‘white lies’ and embellishments when making job applications. But dishonesty should have no place in a successful employer-employee relationship – there must be trust and confidence on both sides.

Recruitment tactics

When it comes to recruitment, honesty is not just the best policy, it is a legal obligation. Wilful acts of dishonesty should be dealt with quickly and decisively.

Granted, there may be a world of difference between those individuals who, when compiling their CVs, exaggerate their annual two-week break in Magaluf as a “love of worldwide independent travel” and those fraudsters who wrongly claim to hold qualifications relevant to the job on offer.

Where the misrepresentations are material to the contract, as in Imbardelli’s case, the law can be used swiftly to protect the employer.

Tough measures

Employers should not hesitate to use the full force of the legal remedies available, which include:

  • Serving notice to rescind the employment contract:
    The purpose of this is to put both parties in the position, as far as possible, that they would have been in had the employment contract not been entered into at all. The employer should communicate the fact it considers the contract to be rescinded at the earliest reasonable stage and the rescission would be effective from that date.
  • Instant dismissal, without notice or pay in lieu:
    If the employee has more than 12 months’ service, you should first follow the statutory dismissal procedures).
  • Reclaiming salary paid:
    Pursuing the individual for the repayment of all salaries paid to them and all other expenses directly associated with their employment.
  • Notifying the police:
    The employee’s actions could, after all, be regarded as a criminal offence – of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception.

Before you can decide on the most appropriate action to take, it is essential to be sure of the facts. This can usually be done with ease.

In the most common scenarios, where an employer believes that their employee has misrepresented academic or professional qualifications, records can be verified with the relevant institution.

Burden of proof

If the employee’s description of their qualifications does prove to be false, the courts would usually regard this as a fraudulent misrepresentation – namely a statement made knowingly, without any belief in its truth, with a view to inducing another party to enter into a contract with them.

In any legal proceedings, the burden of proof will be on the employer to prove the fraud and that it placed reliance upon it. The burden might seem high, but if the employer has properly investigated the facts it should be relatively uncomplicated to dismiss the employee.

What employers can do to avoid being duped

  • Ask candidates to sign a written declaration to confirm the truth of their application.
  • Identify the information from the candidate that is being relied upon when communicating offers of employment.
  • If qualifications or history are important for the role, satisfy yourself that the information provided is genuine.
  • Always check references.
Will Clayton, employment law partner, Hill Dickinson

Comments are closed.