Becky Nadine Hunter worked as a registered nurse in Alaska from 1998 to 2004, working first as a school nurse with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, then for the U.S. Department of Labor. After an investigation by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Postal Service, Hunter was arrested, convicted of mail fraud and other crimes, and ordered to serve an eight-year sentence and repay her former employers the more than $18,000.00 she earned as their employee. Hunter and her attorney argued that she shouldn’t have to repay the money because she actually performed the services of a registered nurse.
Where’s the problem? After all, if Ms. Hunter, as a registered nurse, performed the duties of a registered nurse, why should she be forced to repay her employers?
Because Hunter isn’t, and never was, a registered nurse.
Upon moving to Alaska in 1998, Hunter devised more than 20 aliases in order to defraud her employers, creditors, and the federal government. She obtained nursing licenses in Alaska using the personal information of real registered nurses in New York and Canada. Hunter and her attorney argued that she should not be required to repay her former employers because she actually did work as a nurse.
The court ruled that Hunter had to repay her employers because they were the “victims” of her fraud. However, Hunter’s victims could have easily been the hundreds of patients she had direct contact with during her illegal tenure as a medical professional. Her fraud, and her employers’ lack of due diligence when investigating her professional credentials, left numerous individuals and their families open to harm.
As an employer, the only way to guard against cons like Hunter’s is to ensure that you perform a thorough background check of each employee you intend to extend an offer of employment.
Such a background check should include not only calling and verifying previous employers, but also a criminal records check and a credential and professional license verification. Never take a job candidate’s word or accept credentials presented by that individual directly. Always require that professional licenses be verified through the issuing authority.
Although, in this case, Hunter used the identities of real registered nurses to obtain employment, a combined check, including a background screening requiring fingerprints and a professional license verification would have quickly uncovered a suspicious discrepancy. Employers must take care to be as thorough as possible in their employment screening efforts to ensure that they and those they serve are safe.
Getting a good job with a criminal record can be nearly impossible, especially if that record contains serious crimes.
Applicants know that they are up against a lot of qualified applicants, most of whom have clean records. So, to even the playing field, many individuals with criminal records, selectively omit condemning information from their resumes and job applications in hopes that a potential employer won’t find out.
What seems like a rational lie to someone with a criminal history can end up costing your company dearly.
Consider the case of the BP Gulf oil spill cleanup supervisor who allegedly raped a coworker. Rundy Charles Robertson, 41, a temporary worker hired to work on the oil spill cleanup, was hired and allowed to supervise workers even though he has a criminal record dating back to 1991.
For now, BP is passing the buck to the Miller Environmental Group, a company they hired to supervise the cleanup. Miller Environmental is passing the buck to Aerotek, the company they hired to staff the cleanup. Aerotek claims they didn’t perform background checks because their contract will Miller Environmental didn’t require them to do so. Amazingly, several witnesses to the hiring process claimed that even individuals wearing house-arrest ankle bracelets were showing up for employment, and getting hired! These workers stopped showing up for work when, three weeks after the alleged rape, Aerotek announced they would be requiring background checks on all workers.
Clearly, someone is liable for Robertson’s crime – not just Robertson.
Although he may be the one accused of the commission of a crime, a little thing called negligent hiring may put Aerotek, Miller Environmental, and BP at risk for legal and financial responsibility for the crime. Certainly, from the victim’s point of view, all had a hand in violating her expectation of safety on the job.
Ultimately, someone will be held legally and financially responsible for not performing background checks on individuals hired to work on the BP cleanup. Sure, Robertson, if convicted, will serve time for his crime. But, neither a jail sentence for Robertson, nor reparations made by any or all of the companies involved will eliminate the fact that a woman may have been unnecessarily brutalized.
A simple background check would have uncovered Robertson’s criminal history and ensured the safety of his victim.
Employers must be doubly careful in this economy to perform thorough background checks on all employees before an offer of employment is extended.
The strongest salary negotiation tool a job applicant has is his or her prior salary history. Even if it strains the budget, a potential employer may be loathe to extend an offer to the ideal candidate that pays less than that individual earned previously. Job applicants are aware of this fact, and less scrupulous candidates may take advantage of it.
It may seem like a small white lie, but, when an applicant intentionally inflates his or her salary history, it can be rather costly – for both employer and employee.
Employers may end up hiring someone they think is perfect for the job, when, in reality, their selected candidate is anything but. Not only is the employer paying more for the individual than they should be, but the ethics of any candidate that would lie on his or her resume are undoubtedly questionable. Is that the type of person you’d like to hire?
Additionally, on top of job placement ad costs, interview costs, training costs, and salaries, firing an employee and beginning the process anew to re-fill the position because of a resume lie can cost an employer more than twice what it should have.
Employees don’t always realize the cost to themselves either. When an employer finds out that an individual has intentionally misrepresented the facts on his or her resume, the employer is likely to give that employee the boot – and rightfully so. What may seem like a tiny little salary inflation is ultimately a lie. And no employer wants to willingly hire a liar. Employees whose ethics don’t preclude something as simple as lying on a resume ultimately erode at the good name of the employer.
For now, resume lies, including inflated salary claims, don’t promise to abate. Employers have to be proactive about developing a sound pre-employment screening process that includes diligently questioning applicants about previous employment. When in doubt, is it not out of the question to require that the applicant produce documentation of a previous compensation such as W-2’s.
Ultimately, verification is an employer’s best weapon against resume fraud. Performing thorough background checks that include salary history and previous employment documentation can save employers a significant amount of time and money.
What’s the difference between an Administrative Assistant and a Personal Secretary? Not a lot. Because of the fine line between many job titles, job applicants may feel justified by creatively changing their past job titles to better mesh with a prospective employer’s needs. After all, they had the same job responsibilities, right?
There is a big difference between tailoring a resume to reflect how one’s experience highlights the responsibilities of the anticipated position and outright lying about the duties one performed at a prior job. Hiring managers and employers need to be aware of how potential employees often fail to recognize that difference and protect their own interests when hiring.
Most hiring managers have come to expect a certain amount of resume embellishment. But, there’s no excuse for accepting the practice. Anyone willing to lie on their resume is not likely to perform their responsibilities in an ethical manner. Lying, fabrications, and self-interest are not traits that magically end once a job offer has been extended. Employers should never accept anyone into the company that enters the door as the result of a lie. Employees that lack integrity eventually degrade the integrity of the company.
As long as resume fraud is prevalent – and it doesn’t show signs of abating – employers have to ensure that they protect their own interests by performing stringent resume checks. In addition to contacting previous employers, references, and managers, HR departments must develop a sound policy of background screening. All of these aspects combine to portray an accurate picture of each job candidate, thereby allowing hiring managers to make the most informed decision possible.
So, what’s the best advice employers can heed? Verify! Do your homework. You’ll be pleased with the results.