About 3 years ago, my coworker "Charles" convinced 14 people in my org to join a Fantasy Football league with a $100 buy-in. (14 people pay $100 at the beginning, and then the $1,400 would be distributed to the top 3 teams). I was not one of these people. It was a bit much for an office pool, but he convinced everybody that it would be fun since everybody liked football.

2 days after he collected everybody's money, Charles quit the company. Our company had a stupid policy of escorting people out of the building the moment they gave notice of leaving, so nobody got the traditional 2-week notice that he was leaving.

When Charles quit, nobody had his contact information. (No e-mail, cell, address, linkedin, twitter, etc.) He also hadn't yet created the Fantasy Football league. So basically, he had taken everybody's money, but nobody had any way of contacting him. People were furious. A few e-mails were sent to HR asking for his contact info, but HR said it was against policy to give out this information. I secretly found this whole situation hilarious, but kept my mouth shut.

Fast-forward to today: I'm working at a completely different company and we're interviewing a new team member. Lo and behold, Charles shows up at the interview. He does great, and everybody wants to hire him. I really like Charles, too, and would enjoy working with him again. (He's a hard worker, one of the best developers I've ever met, and always pulls hilarious practical jokes on people).

My boss asked me what it was like working with Charles. Is it wrong for me to purposely avoid bringing up this whole Fantasy Football fiasco? I fear that it might come back to me in some way if I don't say anything, but I really don't want to bring it up and sink Charles' chance to join our team. Is it wrong for me to give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume this was an unfortunate mix-up?

  • 77
    Do you know for certain that he never contacted anyone to return any of the money? – dbeer Oct 17 at 14:17
  • 94
    So what are you going to do if the new hire proposes a Fantasy Football League for $100 per person? – gnasher729 Oct 17 at 14:42
  • 204
    "pulls hilarious practical jokes on people" like leaving with everyone's money? – MikeTheLiar Oct 17 at 17:33
  • 17
    @dbeer asks a good question. People are far more likely to talk about thinking they've lost their money than they are about getting it back, it's at least plausible that the money was returned and the OP doesn't know. The first person to ask could be Charles himself. – Grimm The Opiner Oct 18 at 12:20
  • 24
    Are you still in touch with your former colleagues? If "Charles" worked at your company, then they'd (possibly) know where to find him and collect...... now THAT would be a hilarious practical joke. – PoloHoleSet Oct 18 at 20:27

It's always safer to bring up everything you know and let your boss make the decision. If you decide not to bring it up with your boss, then you're making the decision on his or her behalf. There's a pretty decent chance that your boss will only care about the parts where you say he's a good developer and a hard worker, and will have a lot more questions about the circumstances that lead him to quit.

That being said: in this day and age, not having someone's contact information is a really terrible excuse for anything, let alone keeping $1300 of other people's money. With so much social media and professional networking, it's just really unlikely you can't solve that problem. Not to mention, he knew where everyone worked and presumably knew the work emails of everyone there, so it probably would've been fairly trivial for him to reach out and return the money. All of this couple with the fact that he quit and wasn't fired unexpectedly makes it really hard to see how it could be a mistake that he seems to have kept everyone's money.

I recommend that if possible, you check with a former colleague to see if the money was ever returned. If it wasn't or you're reasonably sure it wasn't in the case you can't get a hold of someone, I'd report what you know.

  • 7
    "With so much social media and professional networking, it's just really unlikely you can't solve that problem" -- Yes, because "in this day and age" no one could possibly want to avoid having every single bit of their personal life harvested and sold without their consent. And of course "in this day and age" there's no chance of massive data breaches that could make people wary. – Nic Hartley Oct 18 at 18:45
  • 35
    @NicHartley Out of 14 people, there is a pretty high chance somebody has a linkedin account. And anyway an email to a colleague or HR would solve the problem regardless – Ant Oct 18 at 19:22
  • 3
    @Araucaria irony is not the same as sarcasm -- which is exactly why his comment is not being upvoted – forresthopkinsa Oct 19 at 0:49
  • 6
    @NicHartley I didn't until I read your comment. Links should be blue and underlined! Purple if already visited. Back in my day there wasn't this newfangled CSS making everything more difficult to read! (/me grabs walking stick and shuffles outside to shout at the kids in his garden) – Aaron F Oct 19 at 7:44
  • 5
    @user93493 I presume Ant means that the employee that had quit could've taken the initiative to email HR to initiate the return: "Hello [HR Person], I have to return some money to several of my former coworkers: [list of people] We started a fantasy football league right before I left and I ended up in possession of their money when I left. Could you assist me in some way, such as by passing along their contact information to me or my contact information to them? Thanks, [name]". – mtraceur Oct 19 at 22:00

Is it wrong for me to give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume this was an unfortunate mix-up?

I'm afraid it is. You point it out yourself: "I fear that it might come back to me in some way if I don't say anything". And indeed it will if Charles pulls the same kind of stunt again, it's going to reflect extremely poorly on you for not speaking up. If what you suspect happened is true, it amounts to fraud or theft depending on your jurisdiction, and typically that behaviour is expressed in other areas of a person's work. Charles might not launch another Fantasy Football caper, but there could be other issues that come up born from immoral behaviour.

Since you were explicitly asked to give feedback on Charles, you need to speak up. If I were your manager and something similar happened down the road and I learned that you knew of this potential red flag and elected not tell me, I would seriously question your judgement. It's a Career Limiting Move to stay silent here.

Now, you don't have the full story, but that's okay. There is something to be said for talking to Charles about it directly, including following up with your former colleagues to confirm he repaid it if he says he has. But it's also fine to prefer to stay out of it and leave the detective work to the person whose job that is: the hiring manager or HR. When you provide feedback to them, you absolutely can praise Charles' work and character as you observed it first-hand. But you then need to also point out that this happened, stating only facts and nothing else. One way of phrasing it would be:

[...] So while I would be glad to have him on the team, I do have to tell you about one thing that I don't feel comfortable staying silent about.. Right before he resigned at Company X, Charles organised a Fantasy Football League where he collected $1300 from his colleagues. After resigning he was walked out and proved to be unreachable by the people who participated. From what I heard he never refunded their money, though I should stress that this was a while ago and I don't know if Charles has since resolved that situation.

You could add that it seems out of character for him to defraud his colleagues if you'd like. The main objective here is to just give the hiring manager the facts as you know them and let them decide how to proceed. Ertai87's answer offers another good way of phrasing this feedback. Good hiring managers will follow up on this with Charles and possibly with (people from) his former company, or they'll at least keep an eye on Charles for duplicitous behaviour once he's hired. Bad managers will either drop him from consideration or not care.

For the record: in most office cultures you should also mention the practical joke part because they tend not to be acceptable if they're overboard. You wouldn't say this as a "reason you might not want to hire him" but more as a "you should know that you might need to rein him in on this".

  • One thing - it was probably $1300 from his colleagues; presumably $100 would've been his. – dbeer Oct 17 at 17:42
  • 2
    "it's going to reflect extremely poorly on you for not speaking up" - Really? How would they know that he knew about this individual's past actions? – Richard Oct 17 at 18:48
  • 7
    I'm being pedantic here, but "amoral" is not "immoral", and I believe you mean "immoral". Amoral is the state of being neither moral nor immoral. Intelligent individual human behavior cannot be amoral because such individuals are aware of morality (i.e. culpable for all behavior), but very young children's and animal's behavior is amoral because of their lack of understanding. Collective human behavior (e.g. the scientific method) can be amoral. An amoral thing cannot be moral or immoral. All three terms are mutually exclusive. – fredsbend Oct 17 at 22:39
  • 12
    +1 for as you know them. So many people worry about, "Oh, my information might not be complete, I can't possibly say anything." But you do know what you do know, and it's always appropriate to share the facts you have (and be clear on what facts you don't have). – Wildcard Oct 18 at 2:32
  • 2
    I agree with the part in bold & would even say that by keeping quiet, OP is to some degree complicit in the scam. It's an extreme stance, but I have the luxury of taking it because I've never stolen $1300 or covered for someone who did. (FWIW, I know a "Charles." He's charming in the way that unscrupulous people often are. I consider him a friend. But I don't carry his water. I don't like that American culture rewards sharks, and it would take more to buy me off than kind of liking a guy.) – johncip Oct 18 at 7:35

Suggestion: Obviously you remember Charles, and presumably Charles remembers you. So raise the issue with him, like "hey I remember you from company X, you were the guy who started that fantasy football league, whatever happened to that?" and see what he says. If nobody had Charles' contact info, it's likely Charles didn't have anyone's info either to try to return the money, so I would be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

If you bring it up and he replies like "what fantasy football pool?" or something like that, then I would report it to your boss, because he clearly is unrepentant about stealing from his coworkers. Worse still, if he says "yeah, I paid everyone back", then you should follow up with your former co-workers and see if that's what actually happened. If it didn't, then you should tell your boss that Charles is both a thief and also a liar. It's possible though that the situation was resolved without your knowledge.

This is assuming you have contact with Charles; given that he's just interviewing, it's possible you won't be able to talk to him again until he has/hasn't accepted an offer. In which case, I would lean towards not bringing up this issue but if he starts trying the same thing again, I would make sure to warn your other coworkers before getting involved with him, and I would keep any interaction with him purely professional.

EDIT: If you believe it unethical to say nothing about Charles' past behaviour, I would mention the story to the hiring manager, but caveat it strongly with "I was third-party to this story, it happened a while ago at my previous company, and I don't know what has happened in the intervening time". But then again, I don't know you or Charles or what type of relationship you have/had, and I don't like to potentially screw over people I don't have a reason to dislike. YMMV.

  • 39
    The only way Charles wouldn't have any contact information for his ex-coworkers is if he literally forgot where he worked the day before. Sure, he might not have personal contact information, but it's trivial to find the front desk number for most companies, and he could always just, you know, walk into the building. Charles obviously made zero effort to return this money, he does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. – Nuclear Wang Oct 17 at 20:17
  • 14
    I gave you a +1 because your proposed line made me laugh out loud imagining the discomfiture it would cause, but honestly...Charles quit. He knew when he was going to quit. And it's utterly bizarre that HR "wouldn't give out his info" when he collected up $1300 quitting money two days prior. He's not innocent here. – Wildcard Oct 18 at 2:34
  • 10
    @Wildcard HR exists to protect the company. Giving out someone's information inappropriately could get them sued, and there is zero upside to involving themselves in personal matters like small debts that aren't work-related. – Matthew Read Oct 18 at 14:48
  • In some jurisdictions it would also (criminally) illegal for the company to give out personal information regarding past or current employees. – Gregroy Currie Oct 19 at 2:44
  • By not mentioning it, OP is potentially screwing over their other co-workers. If Charles tries something like this again, there's no guarantee that he will do so in a way that's visible to OP. – Geoffrey Brent Oct 22 at 4:34

While you say "Charles quit the company" is it possible that he was given the choice of quit or be terminated ?

If Charles quit of his own accord then he would have had the opportunity to discuss the money with someone prior to handing in his notice. If he failed to do so, it suggests he intended to keep the money.

If he was given an ultimatum, it is possible he didn't have a chance to talk to anyone. Given the escort off the premises, it is also possible that the employer had contractual terms forbidding Charles from contacting any of his former colleagues. While he may not have intended to keep the money, leaving the company involuntarily might be a different red flag.

  • 2
    Good question, but should probably be a comment, not an answer. – Gregroy Currie Oct 18 at 4:16
  • 13
    Surely, though, if Charles had spoken up and said, "but I owe the guys $1400" to HR, they would have arranged something. (Unless he gave it to them to pass it on and the HR person kept it!) – colmde Oct 18 at 16:07
  • 4
    @colmde: The plot [potentially] thickens!! – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 18 at 16:27
  • 5
    I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think a contract that attempts to prevent you from having any communication with your former colleagues about a non-work-related matter would hold up in court. – Anthony Grist Oct 18 at 21:14
  • 3
    Welcome to The Workplace.Please note that this is a Q&A site about workplace topics where we reserve the answer space for answers to the question that was asked. Please ensure your answer addresses the question asked and is not a glorified comment or a tangential point. Answers that don't actually answer the question may be deleted. – Lilienthal Oct 19 at 22:45

Is it wrong for me to give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume this was an unfortunate mix-up?

If you're asking whether you should give Charles the benefit of the doubt, it sounds like there is some doubt in your mind about what exactly occurred. As we can see from the various responses to your question, different people will respond differently to your story. Some believe he quit his job as a developer purposefully, in order to scam people out of $1300, some believe he was a bad steward, and some are withholding judgement because of missing information. It's unclear how your boss will respond to this information. S/he may respond by investigating further to fill in the gaps (or to direct someone else to investigate further). S/he may not, and just decide it's too big of a risk to hire someone who might be dishonest or irresponsible. The way this moves forward will depend on your boss's temperament, decision making style, available time and resources. Regardless, you're presenting your boss with a problem that needs to be solved (how to deal with incomplete negative information about a potential hire).

Generally, when presenting your boss with a problem, it's a good idea to follow up with a solution to that problem. Here, you're uniquely positioned to do that. Instead of making your boss take an additional step because of an issue you brought up, do it yourself. Follow up with your coworkers and find out how things were resolved with the fantasy football league. If the money was returned promptly and there were no hard feelings, then you probably don't need to bother mentioning it at all. If it wasn't returned, or there was a substantial delay or hard feelings, these are both probably important things to mention, along with your own experience working with Charles.

I really don't want to bring it up and sink Charles' chance to join our team.

So don't. You want to work with Charles and you apparently don't think it was a big enough deal to reject him as a trustworthy coworker. Some might disagree and you recognize this, hence your question.

Is it wrong for me to give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume this was an unfortunate mix-up?

The subjective ethical nature of what happened is where the problems lie. If you're not bothered by it and truly think Charles is a good person to work with, then just forget about it. I don't think you have any moral obligation to point out that a guy who was just fired didn't give back an office pool gamble that he probably used for rent.

That said, you might trust Charles as a coworker, but you'd be ill-advised to trust him with a loan or any financial agreement. In general, I strongly recommend friends and coworkers never enter financial agreements, but that's a different issue.


I missed at first that Charles quit his position, meaning, he left his post willingly and was not fired. Knowing the company policy that removes you immediately after giving notice, this does put Charles in a much more negative light than I originally thought. My answer above still stands, but you'll be hard pressed to find someone else to sympathize with Charles keeping the money. Desperate people will keep money that's not theirs, but they don't usually quit their job unless they have another lined up.

  • If OP has a particular fiduciary duty to his employer he must necessarily disclose that he thinks a potential hire has engaged in theft/fraud. I'd definitely argue that OP has an ethical obligation regardless, and it's certainly not ethical to expose the people around you to risk based on conjecture as to it being a mix-up. – Matthew Read Oct 18 at 14:53
  • 2
    I'm finding it hard to see where you're coming from on this. You seem to be suggesting that because you weren't asked to give Charles more money to look after, the fact that he almost certainly deliberately stole over a thousand dollars should just be gleefully overlooked due to some subjectivity of what ethics are. Sorry, but if you find stealing anything other than objectively morally reprehensible, you probably shouldn't be on the hiring panel in the first place. I also find it amusing that you said this even when you thought Charles had been fired, which surely is itself not great! – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 18 at 16:30
  • 2
    this is bad advice, just because someone is a good worker means nothing if you can't trust them. – Pixelomo Oct 19 at 0:30
  • 2
    Being "fired" is not always a negative thing. Stealing from coworkers is. – Randy Hill Oct 19 at 17:43
  • 2
    @fredsbend Even if he had been fired suddenly, it would not make keeping co-workers money okay, it is still theft. No matter how desperate he was, the proper course only requires a few simple phone calls or emails telling your former co-workers that you can't afford to repay them immediately, and committing to paying them back when you can. It's a question of character, which is extremely pertinent to the hiring decision. Is this person trustworthy? If evidence suggests they aren't the only right course of action is to share the evidence with your employer. – Randy Hill Oct 19 at 19:00

everybody wants to hire him. I really like Charles, too, and would enjoy working with him again. (He's a hard worker, one of the best developers I've ever met, and always pulls hilarious practical jokes on people).

Listen to me: BEFORE telling anyone about the fantasy football league (for 100 years fantasy football leagues made wars happen....) talk to Charles in private.

Hey Charles, what happened with that 1400$?

i don't really see one of the best developers i've ever met stealing some pennies that he can gain in one week or less of work... Talk to him and if you don't like the answer or it feels too much shady just call him out, but based on your feedback on him and his own interview i would give him a chance to explain.

Also, what Charles did when he met you at this new company place?

It doesn't sound like you know for certain if he never gave the money back or even made attempts to do so. My advice is to talk to Charles about it if he ever gave the money back. If he says he tried contacting people but never heard back or all his email addresses/phone contacts were on the company's email that he couldn't access, then I would give him a benefit of a doubt.

Otherwise by bringing it up with your current company, you don't know if Charles tried to make things right.

  • 6
    As someone said in another comment - he knew he was going to quit, so he had the opportunity to get contact information before he did so. – thursdaysgeek Oct 17 at 16:47
  • 2
    @thursdaysgeek Perhaps so, but what's unclear is if Charles thought maybe he could forward the contact info before leaving but he was escorted out and his account shutdown. – Dan Oct 17 at 17:51
  • 6
    @Dan the chances that Charles had no way to contact anyone at his former company is zero. He certainly could have called and left a message with the receptionist with his phone and email address. For that matter most company emails are pretty easy to remember, he probably knew at least one company email. Simply collecting $1300 knowing that he was about to quit is a pretty clear indication that he didn't intend to give the money back. – DaveG Oct 17 at 19:43
  • 2
    "Hi, I collected $100 for a fantasy football game. Can you tell everyone to call me, okay?" Yeah I don't think that is going to work as you'd think. – Dan Oct 17 at 19:49
  • 27
    He set up a fantasy football league in which he got $1300 of people's money, and then quit 2 days later. That's not a mistake - that's a scam. – Zibbobz Oct 17 at 19:51

Let's collect the facts:

  • I assume no charges have been done by the co-workers (otherwise the police/court would have asked HR for the address)
  • I am not sure if one could count this as theft or fraud
  • You don't even know if this was intentional or just a coincidence
  • No direct harm was done to the previous employer

So that leaves the following things to say to your boss

  • You state that the guy is a good developer and good to work with.
  • He once did something which offended some people in the team (which may affect the employer).
  • 25
    Stealing (yes, stealing) over $1000 goes well beyond 'doing something that offended some people'. – jcm Oct 17 at 23:22
  • 1
    It is unclear whether Charles intentionally stole the money or was caught in a hilarious loop. Both are hard to believe – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Oct 18 at 9:18
  • 10
    "I am not sure if one could count this as theft or fraud" Seriously? – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 18 at 16:30
  • 3
    They played a game. No contract, no rules, did anybody sign anything? did the guy know that he would be leaving? Do you know if he intentionally defrauded them? Do you know there were other factors? Theft: probably not, they gave the money into his personal posession. Fraud: potentially, depending on what was said and what the laws in the state say about gaming for money. – Sascha Oct 20 at 12:08

Your Answer

 
discard

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.