By: Lauren Kraps
Originally published on Shake.
So you took some liberties with rounding rules when reporting your GPA, boasted proficiency in a language you can say â€œhelloâ€ and â€œgoodbyeâ€ in, or trimmed the â€œAssistantâ€ from the â€œAssistant VPâ€ title you held at your last job. Everyone lies on their resume, right? No harm, no foul?
Wellâ€¦not quite. Whether you call it resume â€œpadding,â€ â€œembellishment,â€ or â€œfudging,â€ claiming a credential on your resume thatâ€™s not really accurate constitutes a lie. While some resume lies are certainly bigger than others, even the small ones can come back to bite you in ways you may not expect.
We take a look at some of the legal risks you incur when you submit a falsehoodâ€“big or smallâ€“on your resume.
YOU COULD FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES
According to the laws of several states, the cardinal sin of resume fraud is falsifying your educational record.
Under theÂ Texas Penal Code, for example,Â it is illegal to use, or even to just claim to hold, a postsecondary degree you know to be fraudulent, substandard, or fictitiousÂ in order to obtain employment. This makes it illegalÂ to either falsely claim you received a degreeÂ fromÂ an actual, accredited university, or to list a degree from a â€œdiploma millâ€ (anÂ unaccredited institution that offers â€œdegreesâ€ for a flat fee in a short amount of time with little to no coursework).
Punishment for resume fraud of this variety varies from state to state. In New Jersey, the use of a fraudulent degree is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for each offense. Texas, on the other hand, classifies falsifying yourÂ educational record as a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by up to $2,000 in fines and 6 months in prison), andÂ KentuckyÂ raises it to a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to a year in prison).
YOU COULD BE FIRED
Though it does not appear to be categorically against the law to inflate your language proficiency or skills on a resume, less serious falsifications like these can still have legally enforceable consequences.
For at-will employees, whose employers are legally permitted to fire them for any reason (or no reason at all), lying on a resume could certainly provide compelling ammunition for an employer to exercise this unrestricted right.
While just-cause employees enjoy greater protections, as their employers may terminate them only for a set of valid reasons, they should also be careful aboutÂ including inaccurate information on their resume. Resume fraud can constitute a just cause for termination as long as the falsified information meets the conditions for â€œmaterialityâ€:
- It relates directly to the qualifications (i.e. Spanish proficiency) considered in evaluating candidates for employment.
- The employer relied upon the falsified information in making their hiring decision (i.e. you got the job because you falsely listedÂ a higher level of Spanish proficiencyÂ than your competitors).
YOU COULD JEOPARDIZE A LEGITIMATE LAWSUIT
If a lie on your resume doesnâ€™t get you fired, it could still come back to haunt you should you ever want to sue your employer for a violation of your legal rights.
For instance, if your employer dismisses you in a way that is illegal, or denies you a promotion because of your race, your claimâ€“however legitimateâ€“may still be undermined if yourÂ employer can prove that they would not have hired you in the first place if you hadnâ€™t lied on your resume. This is called â€œafter-acquired evidence,â€ and in several cases it has been sustained byÂ theÂ courts as an appropriate defense for employers.
Resume falsifications that may be enough to nullify your case as a wrongedÂ employee include: false statements about your academic or professional credentials, failure to disclose a termination for cause from a former position, or the omission of a former employer.
Lying on your resume can land you in jail, get you fired, or leave you without legal recourse against an employer. Next time youâ€™re tempted to add a bit of â€œharmlessâ€ resume padding, ask yourself if itâ€™s really worth it.