Can a job applicant withhold educational information?

After a college degree and 2 yr of graduate work in corporate law, George Robison concluded he wasn't cut out to be a lawyer.


After a college degree and 2 yr of graduate work in corporate law, George Robison concluded he wasn't cut out to be a lawyer. He had worked his way through college doing electrical work, enjoyed working with his hands, and decided to seek a job as an electrician, drop out of the "rat race," and avoid the pressures involved.

Applying for work, Robison figured he'd have a better chance if he concealed his college background. Thus on his employment application he confined his educational experience to high school graduate. Electricians were in demand at the time, and Robison had no trouble landing a job.

After working 10 mo in the maintenance department, trouble developed between the union and management. Arguments and rebuttals were presented at several meetings, some of them heated. Robison was a key debater on the employee team. In General Manager Joe Kelly's view, he was "pigheaded and too abrasive." As the trouble persisted management was increasingly surprised by Robison's sophistication and articulateness. Too advanced for a high school graduate. His background was checked in depth, his college degree and graduate work were revealed. It was also disclosed that he had omitted this information from his employment application.

"If there's one thing we don't need around here it's a shop lawyer fighting the company," Kelly growled. "This guy was hired under false pretenses. It's a clear case of misrepresentation and grounds for dismissal."

He delegated this chore to Plant Engineer Jim Dorfman.

Question : Do you think Robison can -- or should -- be fired for misrepresentation?

Expert's opinion: Dorfman was smart enough not to tackle the task impulsively. He decided to seek Corporate Attorney Phil Blackman's advice on the matter. The lawyer's response wasn't encouraging.

Blackman replied, "Whether or not Robison would have been hired had he told all is moot. More to the point is that he has a good work record unimpaired by his education. Perhaps most significant is management's underlying motivation: To get rid of an effectively militant union member. Like it or not, I think your best bet is to learn how to live with this guy."

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