TBT: Past Transgressions

This post originally appeared in May, 2009. You can read that and the awesome comments here.

I have come across some information at work and I don’t know what I should do about it. Please help!

I work in a sales environment. I have been there for over one year now and I love all of the people for the exception of the one person I work for most directly — I will refer to her as Andrea from here on. She is loud, obnoxious, dresses far too casually, and lies about every single thing that she does, yet still seems to be the apple of upper management’s eye no matter how badly she errors or how much money she costs the company.

I was searching online last week to make sure a popular search engine would direct visitors searching our names to our company website. While searching, I came across some information about my co-worker’s past. It was not something I was looking for or something that I ever would have imagined that I would find. The websites that I found were public websites containing detailed information about her prior arrests and convictions of drug trafficking, drug possession (crack cocaine), and carrying illegal tools (i.e. a crack pipe). I have verified this information to be absolutely accurate and is definitely related to Andrea without any doubt whatsoever.

I have not told a single person at work about this information because I assumed that she disclosed this information on her application for employment. However, I was able to view her application (which I was allowed to do for reasons not relating to this incident) and it was not disclosed.

Here is my dilemma: I am worried as to whether or not I should bring this information to the management’s attention. I do not want her to get in trouble or lose her job even though I do not like her. Everyone makes mistakes in their past (and this was ten years ago) and I truly don’t think that she deserves to have all this brought up again after she’s started a new career (she lost her last job and ended up in the news about it because of the nature of her previous career path), but I am worried from a liability standpoint. What if she is still consuming illegal substances and ends up injuring someone at work because she cannot control herself (or her driving, which is a huge part of what she does every day) in a particular situation? One other person at work found out about this information within one day of when I found out about it because we were both checking to see if our names were directing people to our website through a popular search engine. This person brought it to my attention but we did not discuss any of the details because I did not feel that this was appropriate, but now it is known that I, too, have this information.

If I bring this to the attention of management I do not want them to think that I am bringing this up to damage her reputation or get her fired. It is well known that we do not like each other and that we work together only for the better of the company. I simply want to do the right thing but I’m not sure what that is. I could be making this into a huge deal over nothing and perhaps the best thing to do would be to keep the information to myself. Our company policy is that we do not hire people who have prior criminal backgrounds due to the nature of the business. She signed waiver forms to have a complete background check, police report check, credit check, fingerprint scan through a national database, and a drug pre-screening (four years ago), but obviously something was overlooked somewhere. Please share your thoughts on this situation. Your guidance is appreciated.

You know, I’d really like to believe that you are altruistic and only have the company’s best interest at heart.

But, I don’t. Not for a second. You don’t like Andrea, and dollars to donuts, neither does your co-worker who also found out about Andrea’s past.. (What on earth does googling your company name have to do with googling all your co-workers? Not saying you can’t do that, but puh-lease. Don’t try to pass off your “what’s our Google ranking” with “I wonder what I can find out about Andrea.”)

You found out some nasty stuff and have “authenticated it.” (How? Asking her? DNA samples? Just wondering.) And further more, I’m trying to figure out how on earth you got access to her application file? I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed to reference someone’s application and I’m HR. I can’t figure out what information a salesperson would need from her co-worker’s application. I can’t come up with a legitimate reason. (I’m sure someone has one, I just can’t think of one.)

If Googling your co-worker’s names was a legitimate assignment, then you would have written up a report summarizing your findings. Then it would be allowable to say, “When you Google Andrea + Company name you get police records for someone with the same name. When you google John + Company name you get a link to “who we are” page on the company website. When you Google Katie + Company name you get a link to a weight loss forum.” If the offense is ten years out (and I know there wasn’t anything more recent because I know you tried to find more dirt), then they probably couldn’t have even considered it when they hired her. Sure, the lying on the application part is reason not to hire someone, but they did and I don’t care how you authenticated the information, unless your brother was her actual crack dealer you didn’t authenticate it.

You will be the person who looks bad. Andrea will look like the victim.

Leave it alone. Do not discuss this with your fellow dirt digger. Get back to work and stop surfing the web. If this information comes to light and someone comes to you and says, “how come you didn’t tell us about Andrea!?!?!?!?” you can simply reply, “Our company policy is to run a background check on everyone before they are hired. I assumed that management was aware of this information. Additionally, Andrea’s past is not relevant to her current performance.”


Related Posts

4 thoughts on “TBT: Past Transgressions

  1. I remember reading this when it first came out.

    Wow, I’ve been reading this site for five years.

  2. Suzanne: I’m sure that you’re more than aware that in the time since the original post, websites are now available for people to conduct background checks on anyone; they are not free, of course, and they’re couched in seemingly innocuous reasons. Although, I sincerely doubt that little 16 year-old Susie babysitter will have much to show. And if one feels the need to perform a background check on a date, one needs to reevaluate the need for said date.
    If the conviction is publicly-available information, it is not too far out to get. For example, arrest booking photos for DUI/DWI and family violence are freely available where I am. But, and here’s where mileage will vary, wouldn’t conviction and sentencing information for drugs be something that, while available, isn’t readily available through Google?
    And I agree wholeheartedly that there is very little possibility that OP was just randomly searching and, OMG, look what I innocently found. But, perhaps, it was all innocent and she found everyone else on the web, too. LMAO, not buying it for an instant.
    But and here’s the BIG BUT, why would she have occasion to access another employee’s employment application? If her company is anything like just about everyone else’s, all kinds of confidential information is contained in there, not just including the criminal conviction part. Furthermore, just because all of this information showed up on the interwebs doesn’t mean the conviction stuck, there could be mitigating circumstances or it fell off, like on a credit report. The point is, this person could be seen as violating this other person’s privacy and possibly more.
    I agree, bury the information deep, deep inside. It should NEVER come up as to why OP had the information and never did anything with it. The onus would have to be on HR and management. If it were to come up that OP had the information, I might want to know what other confidential information she’s getting into that she shouldn’t.

  3. Great answer, I love it when employees decide to investigate on their own under the guise of helping the company…….not! As the previous person stated, arrest records are not easily accessible. The person had to dig for them. “Renee” may not have lied on her application. If the employment application only asks for convictions in the last 7 years, Renee told the truth. Also an arrest is not a conviction.
    Another thing to consider, the company may already know about Renee’s past and opted to give her a chance. In many states, you have to show how the conviction would impact a person’s ability to do their job.

Comments are closed.

Are you looking for a new HR job? Or are you trying to hire a new HR person? Either way, hop on over to Evil HR Jobs, and you'll find what you're looking for.