Don't Lie on a Job Application

Lying on a job application may help you get hired, but could cost you later.

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Many job applicants try to increase their chances of getting hired by exaggerating--or downright lying about--their experience or credentials. Although this may help you land a job, it is a risky strategy for a number of reasons.

Employees Who Lied Can Be Fired

Most obviously, if your employer ever finds out that you lied, you might get fired for it. This is especially likely if you lied about something relevant to the job, such as falsely claiming to have a college degree or a required license. And you might have a more difficult time landing a new job once prospective employers find out you were fired.

Employees Who Lied Have Limited Rights Against Their Employers

There is another serious consequence of lying to get a job: If your employer violates your legal rights and you decide to sue, you might lose your case--or receive much less compensation for your damages than you otherwise would have--because of your false statements. If the employer can show that it wouldn't have hired you if it had known of your lies, you probably won't even get a chance to present your claims. Courts have generally found that employees who lied to get a job cannot later come to court and claim the employer fired them illegally. The employer's defense is that you can't claim wrongful termination because you should never have gotten the job in the first place.

This legal defense tactic is called the "after-acquired evidence" theory. Conduct by an employee that has been held sufficiently serious to be considered after-acquired evidence includes:

  • failing to list a previous employer on a résumé
  • failing to admit being terminated for cheating on timecards
  • failing to reveal a prior conviction for a felony
  • lying about education and experience on a job application, and
  • fabricating a college degree during an interview.

In addition to lying on an application, things you do after being hired and while working for an employer--for example, falsifying company records or removing and copying the company's confidential financial statements--can also be considered after-acquired evidence. In this situation, you may still be able to bring your claims in court, but the employer will argue that your damages--for example, for lost wages following a termination--should be cut off on the date you committed misconduct, because the employer had legitimate reason to fire you from that point forward.

If you did lie on your job application or résumé, you may not be completely out of luck. Your employer may use the after-acquired evidence defense only if the employer can show that you would have been fired--or not hired in the first place--had the employer known the truth. To prove this, the employer will have to show that your falsehoods were related to the job and constituted grounds for termination.

To Learn More

An invaluable reference for every worker, Your Rights in the Workplace, by Barbara Repa (Nolo), covers all of your employee rights, from the first day on the job to the last.

by: , J.D.

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