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Lie on application? No unemployment benefits

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Employees caught lying on their employment applications about their educational level may not be entitled to unemployment compensation benefits. Reason: The untruth may amount to serious misconduct. That’s the conclusion the Minnesota Supreme Court recently reached.

The court rejected the notion that lying on an application is only disqualifying if the employer can show that if it knew the information was false, it wouldn’t have hired the applicant.

Recent case: On Nina’s employment application, she indicated she had a high school education and had taken the GED to obtain a diploma. A notice on the application stated that providing falsified information was a dischargeable offense. The job required either a two-year or greater college degree or substantial experience.

She got the job and the company informed her that it would conduct a background check. The investigation summary noted that Nina’s educational level could not be verified, but no one seemed to notice.

Later, someone realized that the background check noted the investigator had been unable to verify her educational background. After a new investigation failed to reveal a diploma, Nina got a chance to explain her answer on the application or produce a diploma. She didn’t and was fired.

When her bid for unemployment benefits was turned down, she appealed.

The court rejected her appeal, reasoning that lying about something as essential as educational level was willful misconduct. In doing so, it also rejected an older requirement that the employer prove it would not have hired the applicant had it known that the information was false. (Wilson v. Mortgage Resource Center, No. A15-0435, Supreme Court of Minnesota, 2016)

Final note: Be sure your application explains that providing less than truthful information may be grounds for discharge. Have applicants sign off, acknowledging that they understand.

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