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Lying on Applications

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Seanjos
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An Executive at Manchester United on her job application stated she got a first class degree from Oxford. It was discovered in 2007 after 2 years in the job, in fact to be second class. She was immediately fired.

She argued that a second, wouldn't have landed the position, and that she should be judged on the work done since her appointment (which as a fan of the club can tell you, was excellent).

This issue isn't as black & white as I first thought it was. I have my thoughts I'd like to hear some more.

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It is fraud. She formed a contract with her employer based on the information she has provided, but since it turns out that it was actually misinformation, she violated the terms of the contract and was rightfully discharged.

The employer could have kept her and perhaps suspended her without pay for a bit, if her work was of quality high enough to warrant keeping her, but it is evident they did not choose so or that her work was expendable.

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Let's stack the argument in her favor as much as possible. Assume that she's correct that she couldn't have landed the job without lying about her credentials, and let's assume that she demonstrated that she could do the job after acquiring it on fraudulent grounds. What does that show? It shows that the employer would have made an error in judgment by not hiring her when she would have been a good employee.

Since when does someone making an error of judgment make it OK to initiate force against them? Who decides when someone is in error? On what basis?

I agree with the others. This is a black-and-white issue, and she was wrong.

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Totally black and white. It doesn't matter that they should base her on experience - the fact is that if a 2nd was required that is what the employer required.

She lied. I have no sympathy for her either.

I see this all the time with people that commit what we call in the recruiting industry as "resume puffery". It is nothing but lying. They deserved to get canned because they claimed to be something they were not.

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It's even more stupid because I've found through repeated experience that those "you must have X degree" requirements aren't as set-in-stone as you think. If you can demonstrate that you are outstanding, they will make a way for you. If you can't, you have no justification for lying about it. Take a lesser job for a few years and demonstrate!

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What kind of work did she do? In what way was the degree difference important? Did the employer actually care about the degree for performance purposes, or was it political?

These and other questions make it impossible to say whether she should have been fired, or whether I would have fired her.

Concerning the title of the thread, there exist good reasons to lie on applications (and also reasons to keep employees who lied on their applications), but it depends on a lot of factors.

Edited by JASKN
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There is no good reason to do anything that violates the principle of honesty, period.

Although (putting on my devil's advocate hat) there are contexts in which the principle of honesty does not apply. A possible example -- if one lived in a country in which government intervention in the economy had made job-seeking essentially impossible, and you had good reason to expect that your employer would fire you if he learned something about you that was irrelevant to your ability to do the job (such as your political affiliation), I think it would be legitimate to lie to protect yourself. When force is being initiated against you, honesty does not require you to martyr yourself.

The case that spawned this thread does not, as far as I can tell, fall under such a context. Barring such scenarios, though, lying to obtain a job is at best an attempt to gain a value by deceiving someone irrational, hence dishonest, hence not to be done.

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As for the fraud, black & white absolutely.

Manchester United's policy for all high-level front office staff is a first class honours degree. An old arbitrary policy (but it is still in use).

She was approached by the club because of stellar work at a lower side and they hire on that basis. Then the formalities came about, the job was offered conditionally upon meeting the requirements. She lied and everyone was happy, once discovered, the CEO Dave Gill said he was simply following rules by firing her.

So, however here's my reservation:-

1. There were no other applicants in the running.

2. She was selected and hired on ability, the 1st, a formality.

3. Fans, shareholders and board members still wanted her in.

4. It's a policy set decades ago that none involved with the club it seems, cares about.

I don't have a problem with her dismissal, I'm interested in the ethics at play. For Gill to claim that it was non option, black & white, is a kop-out. This is a case for HIS judgement, which he didn't give. Eh ?

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A possible example -- if one lived in a country in which government intervention in the economy had made job-seeking essentially impossible, and you had good reason to expect that your employer would fire you if he learned something about you that was irrelevant to your ability to do the job (such as your political affiliation), I think it would be legitimate to lie to protect yourself.
What countries are examples of what you mean? For example, do you mean the US where the government is deeply entangled in the economy? Or Zimbabwe where government land redistribution has trashed the economy? It's important to be clear about the circumstances where man can no longer live by a moral code.
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As for the fraud, black & white absolutely.

And that is all that is needed for her contract - her hiring - to be void.

4. It's a policy set decades ago that none involved with the club it seems, cares about.

I don't have a problem with her dismissal, I'm interested in the ethics at play. For Gill to claim that it was non option, black & white, is a kop-out. This is a case for HIS judgement, which he didn't give. Eh ?

Martha Stewart was not jailed for committing a crime.

Martha Stewart was jailed for lying to investigators about something that turned out *not* to be criminal.

Bill Clinton was not impeached for having sex.

Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about having sex under oath.

The circumstances leading to the lie are irrelevant. She lied. She broke faith.

The employer could have chosen at that point to ignore the lie and the missing qualification. Clearly they didn't care about the qualification, but did care about the lie. Even if they changed the qualification going forward, she still lied, and she should not have done so.

Had she applied w/ the truth, perhaps as the only candidate, the board would have reviewed the requirements instead. That would have been a demonstration of integrity on her part with no regrets for any.

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Martha Stewart was not jailed for committing a crime.
Martha Stewart was convicted and jailed for four crimes: 18 U.S.C. § 371, 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(1), 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2) and 18 U.S.C. § 1505. Lying to federal officers is a crime. In fact, were this a case subject to US law and the employers had a federal contract requiring representations to the government about the qualifications of employees, this would be a prosecutable crime.
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Martha Stewart was convicted and jailed for four crimes: 18 U.S.C. § 371, 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(1), 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2) and 18 U.S.C. § 1505. Lying to federal officers is a crime. In fact, were this a case subject to US law and the employers had a federal contract requiring representations to the government about the qualifications of employees, this would be a prosecutable crime.

I'm sorry, I phrased that wrong. You are absolutely right.

I should have said she was not jailed for committing a crime related to insider trading.

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For Gill to claim that it was non option, black & white, is a kop-out. This is a case for HIS judgement, which he didn't give. Eh ?

Yes, it is a matter for David Gill's judgment. And it looks like he judged (correctly, and I assume a long time ago) that ethics is more important for this particular billion dollar enterprise he's leading than any one employee, no matter how valuable.

In that case, all those arguments, about how qualified (needed, wanted) this woman is, are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether she behaved ethically or not, which is indeed black and white, very obvious, not much thinking needed, a five year old could tell you, etc. etc.

If the fans of Man U wish to cheer for a club that behaves on whim rather than ethics, they are welcome to cheer for a different club. (Real Madrid and Barcelona are my first two suggestions, with most of the Italian clubs coming in close behind them)

If the shareholders and the Board want someone who doesn't care about ethics to lead their club, they are welcome to vote for a different CEO at their next meeting. I bet they won't though.

One thing no one can do though, not even if they own the club, is force David Gill to equate emotional and ethical considerations, or even take emotion into consideration while making a judgment based on his morality (which is the rational thing to do, if morality is objective: which in this case it is).

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So, however here's my reservation:-

1. There were no other applicants in the running.

2. She was selected and hired on ability, the 1st, a formality.

3. Fans, shareholders and board members still wanted her in.

4. It's a policy set decades ago that none involved with the club it seems, cares about.

Under the above circumstances, I think the moral thing to do would have been to explicitly challenge the policy. If it is arbitrary and nobody on the employer side actually cares about it, and everybody involved really wanted to hire the woman, then it should have been possible to waive the requirement explicitly.

What countries are examples of what you mean? For example, do you mean the US where the government is deeply entangled in the economy? Or Zimbabwe where government land redistribution has trashed the economy? It's important to be clear about the circumstances where man can no longer live by a moral code.

The example I had in mind was the Soviet Union. The government was the sole employer, and if they found out you were a dissident you would lose your job and be unable to get another.

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Well then, I just hope I don't end up doing business with you. I'll just have to pay extra attention to people named Paul who are from Texas, to make sure I'm not being deceived.
A felony charge can never be expunged from one's criminal record in the United States. Regardless of the offense (but especially for something as harmless as selling marijuana), should crimes committed in one's youth be forever paid for? This kind of unjust government law would be an example where the principle of honesty doesn't apply. For countless jobs, a felony charge is an automatic disqualification, regardless of the offense or how long ago it was committed.
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A felony charge can never be expunged from one's criminal record in the United States. Regardless of the offense (but especially for something as harmless as selling marijuana), should crimes committed in one's youth be forever paid for? This kind of unjust government law would be an example where the principle of honesty doesn't apply. For countless jobs, a felony charge is an automatic disqualification, regardless of the offense or how long ago it was committed.
Well, then that's your tough luck. Let's first deal with the question of whether an employer has a rational interest in not hiring a drug user -- it's not uncommon to see signs outside some stores that indicate that the business tests employees for drug use. That's a pretty good sign that the employer cares about what kind of people they hire. You have to face the fact that drug users are not welcomed at Lowes, and it is their right to establish whatever policy they want to.

I'll say, frankly, that if I were looking to hire reliable employees, I would not want to hire a dope dealer, because all dope dealers that I know are completely unreliable scurvy dogs (both of them are). Even though I think the law should not prohibit the sale of marijuana, still I do not want to hire that kind of person. I might just on principle want to hire a tax-evading felon, but I'm not sure I would want to entrust him with my money and certainly not my taxes.

I don't think that mindless filters like "any felony conviction is a lifetime bar to employment" are ideal principles for employers to follow, but certainly a mindful filter like that plus a box on the employment application to provide a mitigating explanation would be a wise policy in many circumstances.

(I object mildly to your invocation of "crimes of youth", since juvenile records are sealed).

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A felony charge can never be expunged from one's criminal record in the United States. Regardless of the offense (but especially for something as harmless as selling marijuana), should crimes committed in one's youth be forever paid for? This kind of unjust government law would be an example where the principle of honesty doesn't apply. For countless jobs, a felony charge is an automatic disqualification, regardless of the offense or how long ago it was committed.

I agree with you that the government law according to which selling pot is punishable is unjust.

However, in this concrete case Paul also said that he is lying to employers about his robbery conviction. Is it really unjust for me to consider such a conviction when hiring (or dealing with) someone?

I'm not suggesting that it's OK to simply never hire someone with prior convictions (although that is entirely up to the employer to decide, on a case by case basis). But if he wishes to know about such priors, he is right to ask, and when lied to, he is in most cases right to decide against employing someone.

That said, I even agree with you that the government should not keep records on light charges (such as petty theft, burglary-not robbery though) past let's say a decade. However, that criminal record isn't public, so I don't understand why that method the gov. is using matters to this concrete case.

Also, I'm not trying to turn this topic into the let's pick on Paul thread. I'm merely trying to express that making it personal doesn't change the fact that an employer is right to ask exactly who he is hiring.

Sure, Paul ought to lie if that lie is protecting him from an aggressor. But only then. It's just that the employer is no aggressor, and the employer's decision to discriminate against anyone, whether it's against black people, or pregnant women, or people with light drug-convictions may be stupid or immoral, but it is not initiation of force. It is not a violation of rights: you ought to avoid dealing with idiots like that, but you should not break your moral code, and lie to them. Instead, if you strive to be an Objectivist hero, you should look for someone who is willing to know you, rather than exclude you based on something you've done when you were a kid.

By the way, we have all been discriminated against, and we all face the choice to stay moral or "blend into our surroundings". The key is in understanding the long term consequences of our decisions, when the short-term consequences are so clearly better when we choose taking the shortcut.

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There is too much pressure to look good instead of actually being good.

It's bizarre that someone who produces values and actually is qualified can be dismissed so easily for lying and yet elsewhere someone who is under qualified can go over the Gatekeeper's head because they know someone.

It's an odd world.

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