May 12, 2004by Israel Foulon LLP
Question: Does an employer have just cause for dismissal if he discovers a new employee lied on his resume?
Answer: Lying on a resume or in a job interview is not necessarily cause for dismissal without notice. It will depend on the nature of the lie, and the impact the lie had on the hiring process.
For obvious reasons it is more likely a major misrepresentation will constitute just cause than a minor misrepresentation. Similarly, a misrepresentation as to a fact relevant to the employment will be more likely to constitute just cause than a misrepresentation which is unconnected to the employment.
In other words an employee who claims on his resume to have a business degree when applying for a senior position with a marketing company when in fact he only has a high school diploma may, in most circumstances, be dismissed with just cause provided that holding a business degree is requisite to the position. On the other hand an organization may not have just cause to dismiss in the case of an employee who claims fluency in French on her resume but in fact has only a basic grasp of the language, particularly if French fluency is not a crucial skill for the job.
In order to have just cause the employer must show the employer relied on the misrepresentation in the resume in making the decision to hire the new employee, and that this reliance was reasonable. The misrepresentation must therefore be connected to the qualifications the employer had in mind when recruiting for the position. It must also be a believable misrepresentation, which should not have raised the suspicions of the employer. For instance an applicant’s gross exaggerations about his value to an earlier employer may be simply unbelievable, and the employer would not be justified in relying on these statements.
Some employers try to protect themselves from misrepresentative resumes by asking new employees to sign a form stating that all representations on their resumes are true, and that a false statement may be grounds for immediate dismissal. This agreement will assist employers in establishing just cause for dismissal, although it may not be sufficient if the misrepresentation is minor and irrelevant.
Peter Israel is the senior partner in the Toronto law firm of Israel Foulon LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers. He can be reached at 416-640-1550 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this article originally appeared in the Carswell publication, Canadian Employment Law Today