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Feel free to authenticate suspicious documents

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Background Check,Human Resources

Employers may be suspicious about a prospective worker’s claimed professional credentials or other certifications—especially if it seems like the documents may have been altered or forged. If you have such doubts, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

Requiring more information merely inconveniences the worker. It can’t be the basis for a discrimination lawsuit.

Recent case: Marcia Reid is black and works as a certified nursing assistant. She received job referrals through a temporary agency and was slated to start a new assignment at a nursing home. The agency forwarded Reid’s qualifications, including her nursing assistant certificate, to the nursing home and Reid reported for an orientation session.

But the nursing home had fired another nursing assistant a few days earlier who shared Reid’s first and last name. She also apparently shared the same certificate number. Reid was told she had to get additional certification information before she could start, so the home could be assured she was not the same person or that either one of the two was not using each other’s identity.

Reid refused and sued, alleging race discrimination.

The court tossed out her case. It reasoned that requiring a new employee to provide additional paperwork wasn’t particularly burdensome. Because it wasn’t, the request didn’t constitute an adverse employment action. Therefore, Reid could not sue for discrimination, since she had not been harmed enough by the request to warrant a lawsuit. (Reid v. Hebrew Home, No. 11-Civ-1408, SD NY, 2012)

Final note: It didn’t matter to the court which Reid was the fired one, whether the two people were using each other’s documents or whether the first Reid had stolen the second Reid’s identity. What mattered was that the employer made a reasonable request under the circumstances.

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