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Recently a coworker informed me they were convicted for check fraud and sent to prison several years ago, they advised me they did not disclose this information when being hired by the company. I work for a large Financial company and deal with social security numbers and personal account information daily. Should I go to HR to make them aware?

  • 1
    Suppose this person were an applicant. Would this conviction be enough to disbar them from being employed, or would it merely be a factor of interest? I would say you only have a duty to say anything to HR if it's the former (ie, this person definitely should not be an employee). – AakashM Sep 27 '13 at 8:19
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    do you have an internal audit department? They should have an anonymous hotline.. – Raystafarian Sep 27 '13 at 14:08
  • What does "several years ago" mean? If it was 20+, and the person has changed his ways since then, I don't see any risk. – Quora Feans Dec 21 '13 at 11:13
  • One thing would be if you "came to know somehow" of this fact, but he told you! Of course you should not report that, how could you even consider it! – o0'. Dec 6 '14 at 12:03
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Executive Summary

Tread carefully. This falls under three categories:

  1. Legal Issues
  2. Company Policy Conflicts
  3. Confidentiality Ethics

Legal Issues

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. It should not read as if it is, but just for the sake of being crystal clear I am adding this note.

Check Fraud can be all sorts of things, and depending on the jurisdiction and the details of the fraud could be a misdemeanor or a felony.

Companies in some states are barred from asking about prior convictions at all.

Some jurisdictions may also limit employment of ex-cons in certain fields (of which financial services could be one).

These are not things that you will be able to figure out on your own easily, but realize that the law may apply to this situation and any information provided to the employer (read: it could be legally complicated if you report it).

Company Policy

The company policy (especially for a large financial services firm) likely follows the law.

It is possible that despite the non-disclosure of the conviction, the company already knows from a background check. Or it is possible that the conviction was actually an arrest, and state law may generally prohibit using non-open arrests without convictions against potential employees like in NY.

Regardless, what you have to worry about company policy wise is:

  1. If you have an obligation to report this information
  2. If the information you have is actually actionable by the employer
  3. What the procedure is for reporting this sort of information (and if it can be done anonymously)

Confidentiality Ethics

Generally discussions held in confidence are expected to be kept private. This is something that not only your coworker may think, but also your employer. If there is no compelling legal or company policy reason to disclose the information, sharing it may make you look bad.

Suggestion

Read your company policy and employment contract to see if it offers any guidance. Also check to see if your HR policy has a policy on keeping consultations with employees private. Depending on those results, I would recommend an anonymous e-mail sent from home from an account designed solely to send the e-mail, or a face-to-face meeting in private with a member from HR asking something like the following:

If I were to hypothetically overhear a coworker admit that they have been convicted of a crime in the past, am I required, legally or by company policy, to disclose it to you or another member of HR?

This should tell you what the stance of HR is on the issue, and should help you decide how you want to proceed.

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    #2 "If the information you have is actually actionable by the employer", is not nearly as important as #1 your obligation and #3 the procedure. If the obligation to report is there, and they bragged they avoided the issue on the background check; Report it and let HR and internal security sort out the details. – mhoran_psprep Sep 27 '13 at 12:39
  • @mhoran_psprep What I mean is that reporting rumor or the like, or misinformation can be very very harmful if reported without knowing what information the company is looking for. If, for instance, it was unclear if the coworker was saying "arrested" or "convicted" it may be an issue for instance. Maybe I could have said it clearer, but the point is, "Make sure you have your ducks lined up if you do report it, which means make sure you know what information your company needs in this case" – jmac Sep 28 '13 at 15:22
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You do not have knowledge of illegal activity.

You have been told that one of your coworkers has a past that may disqualify them from being employed there. It is possible that your employer found out about the problem and hired them anyway. It is also possible that the person is making it up.

The safest thing for you to do is approach your HR Rep and ask if hypothetically someone you work with told you that they had a record for check fraud, would it be your obligation to report it to HR? I suspect they will ask do you know for sure that they have this record? Do you suspect that they are dishonest when they are performing their duties? If you answer both of those no then they may very well tell you that it falls into the category of gossip. But your company may have other policies so it is probably safer to ask HR if you need to report it than this SE.

You need to protect your self in the case that there was an obligation you can state that you talked to X in HR on September 27th and were told Y. But after that you are probably better off pretending you do not know the information.

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    I strongly recommend against using any information that would identify the employee you are speaking about, how you received that information, or what the extent of your knowledge of it is. If you say 'check fraud' then there is a good chance your company would know who that person was if they've done a background check, and by saying they 'told you' it would indicate a specific type of relationship with the person in question. It is much safer to say, that you 'overheard' the information that a coworker was 'convicted by a crime' as the hypothetical, to limit your exposure. – jmac Sep 30 '13 at 2:23
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I would worry about this more if I saw immediate evidence of unusual behavior or spending habits. In short, if this individual seems to be living within his means and isn't nosing around in stuff that he shouldn't be, it's quite likely that the situation was an aberration. It is kind of interesting that someone like that would have slipped through a background check, but we know now how thorough those are, don't we?

One has to consider that people are sometimes left high and dry by the behavior of relatives or working associates. He might have taken a fall for someone, or might have agreed to the plea to save someone else from going to jail. You might figure out that what he had actually done was hide someone else's offenses, and taken a rap for what might otherwise have been obstruction of justice, without actually committing the fraud.

That kind of thing would have had to be pretty major for someone to actually go to jail. 'Major' being in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, for instance, and/or multiple offenses.

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    Suppose they're just pretty good about not showing you that they're nosing around in stuff he shouldn't be? Suppose this person does spend a lot of money or have a unscrupulous track record but just does a good job of hiding it? Should you really judge this based only on what you see as someone without the resources to do a thorough screening? – jmort253 Sep 27 '13 at 14:22
  • I had a friend that used poor judgment and ended up in the clink, but was never a bad person at the time and never has been since. I don't think it's reflective of the situation above. The point, however, is that sometimes situations like this are more nuanced than simply 'guilty'. – Meredith Poor Sep 27 '13 at 15:30

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