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I am an HR Strategist in a company of about 500 people. The Head of HR position is currently not filled and no interim head has been appointed. Seems like leadership has decided that it will be me for at least this problem but I haven't a clue how this is usually handled.

We are a consulting company that has a lot of people who require obtaining a certain certification for government contracts and other regulated areas. About 200 people need this certification and sometimes even an associated certification and they need to recertify every year.

We recently learned that about 100 of them cheated on the certification exam through various means made easier by the fact that the exam was virtual this year. We learned that they cheated by who was using a particular video chat during the time of the exam (which could be done on company computers). A couple team members organized to divide and conquer the exam and they gave the answers to everyone else.

Now, we can't let this stand because if anybody learns, our reputation could be damaged and key people to whom contracts are attached may lose their certifications and thus we would lose the contracts.

But we also extremely hesitant to turf 100 people over this as that makes it more likely that someone will learn and the secret will be leaked. Even if they all kept this secret, this would be massively disruptive to projects at our company and could cause substantial losses.

What creative ideas exist out there for dealing with this? We need to keep it quiet but prevent it from happening again.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 1 at 2:16

15 Answers 15

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Seek legal advice.

I'm quite stunned this answer has not been given already, but it seems that people are trying to suggest what to do or not do. I don't think anyone here can. We're not lawyers, and it looks very much to me like you need one.

First, you have a substantial proportion of your employees who appear to have committed gross misconduct (falsifying, or falsely obtaining, a qualification is certainly gross misconduct at every company I've ever worked for). To deal with that, you need to follow due process, which needs legal advice (and seems likely to me to result in multiple dismissals, though that's just my supposition). Conversely, if you do not follow the process, you may be setting a precedent in how misconduct is handled that could be used against you in future. That needs legal advice too.

Second, you are getting government contracts in a regulated industry under false pretences. Governments and regulators are not well known for laughing and brushing it aside when they discover a company they employ is knowingly in breach of regulations. What are the consequences when they find out? I don't know. A lawyer might.

Third, you are concerned about "the secret getting out". Secrets are no longer secrets as soon as two people know. Here, 100 people know. At some point, one or more of those people will leave the company, then they have no reason to keep the secret any more. One of the people who didn't cheat might find out - they also have no reason to keep that to themselves, and a big motivation to blow the whistle. The secret WILL get out. Will you personally be culpable if you try to keep it secret? Perhaps. You need legal advice.

I strongly recommend that you stop asking a bunch of unqualified strangers on the internet, in fact, I suggest you delete this question. Then engage the services of a good lawyer.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 1 at 2:15
  • This is the only answer…it may fall on deaf ears, since skirting the system appears to be inherent in the company culture…the fact the OP had to ask here and wasn’t immediately told from their superiors to find a lawyer but to deal with it somehow leaves me worried.
    – morbo
    Jun 1 at 8:44
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The following assumes your business can't survive firing all the cheaters.

One possible issue with a sacrificial-lamb / keep-it-quiet arrangement is that if there really are 100 cheaters, anyone who didn't cheat is in a position to be rightfully annoyed and cause trouble.

Might seem crazy, but perhaps take the public position that you suspect some unknown number of people cheated. Give no indication of the number. Emphasize you don't know exactly who. Re-test everyone regardless of whether you suspect them, "just to be safe". Explain they will be monitored.

That way you "did something" and aren't covering anything up in a way that can backfire, and have a response to customer concerns. "Few bad apples / took action to ensure integrity of certification".

!! No matter what, this situation requires bringing in your company's legal resources. I am neither a lawyer nor an HR professional !!

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    -1 So you would be unfairly punishing everyone who didn't cheat. Is this answer aimed at avoiding trouble?
    – o0'.
    May 28 at 13:03
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    @o0' - The rationale is that, if OP's company sends the exact 100 people they suspect to get recertified, they couldn't plausibly claim not to know the extent of the problem. It would then raise the question of why they're letting it go unpunished. // Joe W - This answer is based on not firing a subset of the cheaters.
    – Pete W
    May 28 at 13:35
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    This seems like a standard approach to most "some did it" issues: you can't or don't want to target just a few people, so do it for everyone. The principle is tested and employees seem to mostly understand it ("why do I have to retake it? Oh, right"). May 28 at 17:50
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    This answer needs a big disclaimer about how this isn’t legal advice by a lawyer retained by the company who has had an opportunity to review all the facts of the case as well as relevant case law, which is to say, no one can guarantee that this advice won’t get you sued into oblivion.
    – KRyan
    May 28 at 19:35
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    @KRyan - Agree 100%. An HR manager or director level would surely know that, but I added a disclaimer.
    – Pete W
    May 28 at 19:44
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What creative ideas exist out there for dealing with this? We need to keep it quiet but prevent it from happening again.

No, that makes you complicit with the cheating. You only have two options.

Pretend it never happened and deal with anything that eventuates if and when it does. This would depend on the actual certs and the level of proof you have.

Investigate the matter professionally and decide on a punishment that complies with any legalities. If people lose their certifications that just how it goes, they can always resit the exam. You may find that it's not as big a problem as you thought. It's unlikely for 100 employees to act together in this way.

I don't know what industry, but if it's financial compliance or safety related then you have no choice but to look into it and move forwards from what proven findings you get. The consequences to the company can far overshadow needing to recertify some employees.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 1 at 2:15
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Be compliant. Behave as if everything was to become public. Because the probability it will become public is very high.

Most companies have processes for such situations in place. They specify how the cases are documented and investigated. What you should do precisely depends on these established processes and the certification concerned.

If that's some type of a government certification, that's a huge deal. Contact the issuer and discuss the way to act.

If that's something "less critical" like some technology certification (it doesn't sound like it but who knows - some tech certifications are also just valid for a year or two), collect evidence and punish everybody who cheated. The organizers of the cheating should probably be fired. What happened boils down to cheating and you don't want to have cheaters in your team. They damage the reputation of your whole company. You don't want other employees to think such a behavior is accepted either. Of course the prerequisite here is, as mentioned, a thorough investigation according to your processes.

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    "The organizers should probably be fired." The ones who organized the cheating not the ones organizing the certification, right?
    – Chris
    May 28 at 9:12
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Recertify and audit immediately. Then once safe, hold individual meetings and address as a disciplinary issue.

Your immediate pressing problem is that right now you have important team members and projects being handled uncertified , and they have been for a while. Depending on the industry that could be anything from humiliation to death of the business to criminal action. So we need to safeguard the business first.

Citing "irregularities", generic "issues", handwaving due to covid, or any other reason, retest and recertify everyone - involved or not.

Also audit work done since the cheating, for any disclosure or quality issue. That could be expensive but its essential for liability coverage, since the mere fact of non certification may mean liability if you can't show the work is okay.

Those two steps, means that you are now valid to work, and that if any issue comes out you now have damage control. At worst "yes there were lapses in certification, but the employees concerned were immediately recertified and their interim few months work rechecked." That should safeguard the business and its reputation, against the worst outcomes.

Once that is done, call the people involved in one by one, with the ringleaders first. Tell them exactly what you know, so its on their employment records as gross breach of contract. Tell them that the matter has now been fixed, the company lost X amount over it, or Y per person involved. Offer them an ultimatum/deal:

  • The company clearly is horrified and disappointed, and has been defrauded. They may not realise it was a criminal act as well as a firing offence. Point out it was,and that it threatens their career, what were they thinking!. (Which is what that is: the staff faked qualification status via cheated exams, to keep employment, which they didn't have. That's fraud.)
  • Clearly people are now qualified again. So we can carry on, and we hope life will continue. We need our team, most of our team want to stay not go.
  • But the matter cannot be left unaddressed. Coverups usually come out (by rumour if no other way). They put everyone's jobs at risk. There will be a gross misconduct record on employee files. The company is not presently intending criminal action but may need to if it recurs. And of course those involved will forgo financially, to make clear the seriousness of the matter(bonuses, foregone pay, whatever). Alternatively they may accept leaving without pay or notice.
  • ideally fire some ringleaders if you can afford to. Or "glass ceiling" them if not. They'll get the hint at next years annual review, but by then, too late.
  • state explicitly that this will close the books provided nothing else happens.

The aim of this is to keep the bulk of your team, but establish/impress the seriousness, and that your company is not a soft touch over it. Grumbling and resentment but most will understand it's fair, and be grateful it wasn't worse.

By doing it this way round, you remove the threat of up-front resignation/blackmail/"over a barrel". Your team are now recertified so they are invested in continuing paid work. The minority you lose won't fatally harm operations. They can be replaced.

If you aren't a jerk, after a while you'll be humming along again.

Update/comment

To be clear, this is ruthless but pragmatic. The question explicitly asks how to "punish the act" without harming the business. I take "punish" to mean "make a strong impression" and address the misconduct, not "be a vindictive jerk".

As described, the choice facing your team members at the 1 on 1 disciplinary meetings will be, they have their jobs and certifications back. They are told there will be penalties (lost income, gross misconduct on file). If they stay, they lose money (but know its "really" fair), but guaranteed to keep their job and income, are certified, and subject is closed. If they decline and leave, they have no job, and have to also worry what their next employer will be told - can they even get another job? Will they lose their ability to work in the industry?

Its for that reason I believe that despite grumbles they'll stay. They've already invested their time in recertification,and are still working. Their cheating is known and yet unexpectedly they have a path to recover from it, which is generous and unusual. The grumbles will be diluted over time because they'll mostly know its fair and also want it to stay closed. And that's the importance of genuinely welcoming them back and not being a jerk, to further dilute any remaining resentment.

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    Solid pragmatic answer. I could suggest firing for the managers who turned a blind eye (if any) to this and better supervised recertification are the minimum requirements.
    – StephenG
    May 29 at 13:30
  • Why you think that removes threat of "blackmail"? You've just admitted to them that you knew and they know you didn't report to authorities. You're basically present to them case against you. May 30 at 4:55
  • The blackmail risk I'm thinking of is "You can't fire us all", which I think by that point, wont be a realistic position to hold (it might be true but realistically there must isn't likely to be a mass action by then if the staff concerned are addressed 1 by 1 as described). As for the risk you name, of exposure, that's not a risk full stop. Its been exposed internally, and fully remedied, by that point. Frankly also I'd * expect * it to come out, or even require self disclosure, hence the focus on fixing the business problem first. So its a big "so what", as I'm expecting it to become known
    – Stilez
    May 30 at 5:53
  • @Stilez No, in many jurisdictions your blackmail risk is "if we report that you knew everything but tried to cover-up instead of admitting to authorities, your company never sees any other contract ever, will face major fines, might get closed and those who failed to report as required and tried to play cover-up game first might go to jail". May 30 at 8:03
  • That's true, * if * you cover up. But I'm not advocating that. There's no point. Re-read.
    – Stilez
    May 30 at 8:55
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First of all, do not assume that number is necessarily correct. That number could have been higher because some could have been smart enough to use their personal phone instead of their work computer. Or that number could have been lower because it's possible that some idiots just spammed their colleagues with the answers to the exam on chat without having been explicitly asked to do so. So stop mentioning a specific number of cheaters. Only speak of your suspicions that some of your employees cheated.

Next, speak to upper management and your general counsel. CYA, Cover your a__. Get their buy-in. If something goes wrong, you'll need their support. Now, it may be that as an HR Strategist, that you can't take unilateral action anyway (as pointed out by Barmar), but I'm leaving that tidbit in there in case someone else with the same problem, but a different title, comes to this question.

Next, assuming that you have management's support and that you've worked out the logistics of a re-test with the Certifying Authority, announce to everyone they're going to be re-tested again, but that the test will be proctored this next time around. Telling them that they are going to be proctored is important because it warns the ones that cheated the last time to actually study this time.

And as Brian C pointed out, in case you fear that some employees are not taking this exam seriously enough, you may want to warn everyone that anyone caught cheating will be fired.

If the average score/passing rate was abnormally high, you can use that as a justification to re-test everyone again. Also, not telling them how you discovered the cheating is important also. If you tell them how you discovered the cheating, they'll come up with a different way to cheat this next time. So you're perfectly justified in keeping this information secret (but keep in mind that I'm not a lawyer and I don't even know what this certification is about, so you'll need to loop in your own general counsel).

On the day of the test, turn off access to the chat within 30 seconds of the test beginning. And get proctors to monitor the new test, preferably people that are not familiar with your employees and people that can not easily be intimidated/bamboozled by them.

Also, decide what those proctors should do if a few people decide to get up in the middle of the test around the same time to go to the bathroom. They're adults. It's not like you can tell them not to go. But prepared for such an eventuality.

As to the organizers of the cheating, if you know who they are and if they're "at-will" employees, you can fire them if you want, but you do not necessarily need to tell them why you're letting them go. In fact, it would be better if you didn't say anything because even just the rumor of it could tarnish their professional reputation. In the unlikely event that some of them are absolutely essential to your company, you may want to keep them, or you may want to wait before you fire them. You don't want to box yourself into a corner either.

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  • Crazy guess: Upper management and counsel won't be available to discuss this. What should OP do then? May 28 at 12:13
  • +1 especially for the legal (should be obvious but yes!), the rationale for the re-test, and for dismissing whoever gets dismissed in a way that they have reason to refrain from escalating.
    – Pete W
    May 28 at 13:51
  • "speak to upper management" -- I think the point of the question is what they should recommend during that discussion. Obviously an "HR strategist" is not going to be doing any firing themselves (if necessary).
    – Barmar
    May 28 at 14:23
  • @DanielR.Collins, If that's the case, the OP can tell us, and then I'll amend my answer. Right now, I think my answer is very long already. May 29 at 0:19
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    @BrianC, I've just amended my answer. With that said, I would not speak of "legal standing" or anything like that. I wouldn't want such an email to be used against the company in the future. For me, it's enough to suspect that some employees cheated. And in my mind, telling that anyone caught cheating will be fired is enough (assuming the OP is willing to say that). I also think that long email messages coming from HR are rarely fully read, so for that reason, I'd make the message as short and as concise as possible May 31 at 19:49
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If you fail to discipline them for fear of what it will do to your reputation or because it will disrupt your business, you are basically letting them blackmail you. And giving in to blackmail just invites more. Trying to paper over this and have "no disruption" simply isn't feasible in this situation.

There is the issue of how much evidence you have, and how active of a participant the people who just received answers were, but if you have clear evidence that someone actively participated, you should fire them for gross misconduct. You should hold off on making any payments, such as severance, final paycheck, reimbursement for unused PTO, etc., until you you discuss the matter with a lawyer. You should contact the unemployment office and tell them that these people were fired for gross misconduct and should not receive UI.

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    I was reading your first paragraph with ever widening eyes, my upvoting finger tensing in anticipation: an exceptionally sharp summary, delivered in marvelously straightforward style! ...but then I read the second paragraph... :|
    – Levente
    May 28 at 3:04
  • @Levente You disagree with it? May 29 at 20:05
  • Yes, it came off as excess, especially the part with the unemployment office.
    – Levente
    May 29 at 20:09
  • If people don't want to disqualify themselves from unemployment they shouldn't commit gross misconduct. That said, in many jurisdictions, withholding the final paycheck is illegal even if there are such allegations.
    – stannius
    Jun 3 at 14:54
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I worked a long time ago for a large company where a few workers got caught breaking some government contract rules. Us rank and file workers never did find out exactly who got caught or what they did, but from that point forward, everyone had new training and tests on that area every year.

Younger workers might not remember a time before the yearly exams, but the thing to realize is the exams are there because someone at some point got caught breaking the rules the exams were intended to cover, and companies wanted to be able to show that they did everything in their power to avoid the problem, and it is therefore not a company-wide policy or culture problem, but the result of a few bad employees.

Whatever you decide to do, you should do it with the thought in mind that the truth will eventually come out. All it takes is one former employee who is angry about something unrelated. When the truth does come out, you want to be able to show that your company is still worthy of trust, even though some employees aren't. If you think firing 100 employees is disruptive, imagine never being able to bid on their contracts again.

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    “Whatever you decide to do, you should do it with the thought in mind that the truth will eventually come out.”  I'm surprised more answers haven't spelled that out!  If you're not sure what the right thing to do is, imagine that your next actions will end up plastered across the evening news — and choose what you will be least ashamed/embarrassed about.  (That's not an infallible moral guide, of course!  But it can still be a useful exercise.)
    – gidds
    May 28 at 14:30
  • One of the largest employers in the country requires a specific certification from CompTIA to be an administrator on any of its computer systems. This employer stop recognizing the lifetime certificate many years ago, and basically requires every employee take continuing education to retain the certification. The government contractors still recognize the lifetime certification but in order to allow anyone from a contractor access to a government network they must take the exam again and earn the certificate again. To be clear these employees would be released from their position without it.
    – Donald
    May 29 at 9:55
  • (My story about certificates is just that a story, highlighting that new employees will no nothing about how it used to work, only how it works today)
    – Donald
    May 29 at 9:56
  • It's not just about what happened (the cheating) - it's also about how you react to it as a company; in fact it is just that measured and sensible reaction that generates customer trust. In the end, they will care that you took it seriously and acted quickly. It may be that as well as getting the test retaken, you need to have an internal test which precedes that external test, but includes other areas as well. This acts as preparation, and could be useful for ensuring service levels in other areas as well.
    – Brian C
    May 31 at 2:00
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A minor frame challenge: Do you really, really have "proof beyond a reasonable doubt"? Sworn confessions, the actual video of the video chat, etc.? Because that's not that common. What is very common is malicious gossip and workplace drama. That's a real threat to morale and unity, and it's your job to control that too.

It's easy (fun!) to get swept away in the drama of an accusation like this, but you have to see it from a balanced perspective. Here's a litmus test: suppose you outed them and they sued you for defamation. Are you sure you'll win?

Just retest everybody

Take the following stance:

Because of the degraded quality and security of testing done under COVID restrictions, we consider them to be only an interim certification, valid only until proper testing becomes possible.

And make everyone get re-tested in the normal format, as soon as that's possible.

You could (and probably should) report the suspicions of cheating to the testing agency, since they are ultimately responsible for the test. This should be only stated as a vague suspicion, and the company must say no more than facts positively known.

First, it is the least bad option that you can take, that doesn't involve mass firings and scandal.

It portrays that your company has a higher standard than the government, who would simply re-test them at regular interval.

And once they pass legit, it changes the optics from "cheap company sent unqualified people" ... to "qualified people rebelled against excessive and unnecessary testing".

Of course, this works best for the company if all the employees stay on and do that new round of bona-fide testing. So your best play as a company is to retain everyone, don't make them want to quit, and get them to re-test and pass.

The optics for the employees will be "Okay. So the company found out about the cheating, and their response is to re-test everyone... hopefully they're doing this instead of a formal cheating investigation, so I might just be off the hook if I pass." And you can sort of spread that hinting around: "we'll only investigate people for cheating if they fail".

For the non-cheaters, the optics are "I have to re-test because others cheated". This will put just the right amount of social pressure against the cheaters.

Once everybody has passed and their qualifications are proven, then you can think about disciplinary action in cases where you are sure.

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    There are same problematic part in this answer as in many others that boils down to "cover up and lie to authorities". The truth WILL get out. And then the company WILL suffer way more than whatever legal punishment you can invent for any of those workers. May 30 at 4:58
  • @Oleg Truth is kinda the problem here, honestly. You talk as if OP's "truth" is the one true truth. What if the cheating is only rumor/scuttlebutt/circumstantial/"surely they did" etc.? So you out them to the authorities, they lose their job, and sue for defamation. See, OP doesn't have the option to "err on the side of caution" here. There is no "safe side" to err on. What I say is the least bad play. May 30 at 18:54
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    It doesn't matter. What you lose for not reporting is way, way worse than any possible lawsuits from workers. Also consider, that reporter can be anybody who knows about the cheat - not only the cheaters themselves. Any worker, including those that aren't guilty of anything and that you can't stop with any means, that has any grudge against your company - legitimate or not - can easily destroy it, if you don't report it first. The question is not "what can I do with workers" the question is "how to stop your own illegal deeds and minimize company's problem with authorities". Jun 6 at 4:26
  • @OlegV.Volkov You are guilty of magical thinking, you are presuming the cheeating to be knowable. Real world, not so easy. How can you be sure the cheating is real and it isn't just some fool going all Joe McCarthy/Don Quixote? You can't. Those scandal-mongers can say the exact same thing even if there is no cheating at all, and that could just be a disgruntled employee or a competitor slandering you. But now you can say "We doubt that's true, but we re-tested just to be sure, and everybody passed. #nothingburger". Jun 6 at 5:57
  • You don't need to guess, you need to cover yourself with paper trail. If there were cheating and you reported as required - then you did what you legally required to do. If there were no cheating you lose nothing except carrying out further investigation with authorities monitoring. But if there was cheating and you knowingly didn't report it - you lose everything. So why bet on probabilities? Jun 6 at 6:27
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Appoint a proctor for the next testing round

Your goal is to prevent future cheating. Evidently the status quo is fine except for the threat of that future cheating. You tried the honour system and that failed, so now use what universities do. Appoint a time to do the exam for everyone (or perhaps multiple times if they are spread out or if the exam is not set by someone else), designate a location, and have HR staff/contract proctors patrol to ensure that no cheating occurs.

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  • As an extension of this answer, some schools use on-line proctoring. In this example, volunteering attendees was given the choice to submit their exam with optional proctoring to earn a then qualified certificate (which includes course details, how many points of maximal points x were achieved + name and photo of the attendee), e.g. with 2 ECTS credit points instead of a standard certificate.
    – Buttonwood
    May 28 at 9:54
  • +1. This question really needed a de-escalating answer.
    – Theo Tiger
    May 29 at 23:23
  • @TheoTiger yeah, taking action this round and doing anything about it could cause so many impacts down the road. If this is an annual certification, this entire thing can be resolved very quietly within a year when they re-test under proctored conditions. May 30 at 11:38
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I would do whatever is laid out in the procedures by the certification authority. Certification authorities usually have provisions for what happens if people cheat on their exams. The most important part is that these people who cheated can't leave your company and take their ill-gotten certification to another company and use it, because that would be betraying the public good. Additionally, this would take the disciplinary measures out of your hands: you don't have to fire anyone or send a public notice to anyone; just send a note to the certification authority that you believe these people cheated, and let them handle the rest. Certification authorities like their certifications to be valuable, so if getting a certification is as easy as cheating on a test, then the certification loses a lot of value.

Likely what will happen is, the CA will revoke the certification for these people and they'll have to retest. Some of the people may not want to retest, or be angry, or think they were "ratted out" (they were), or whatever, and they may quit your company. That's fine, you don't want those people anyway. For the rest, they'll get the certification properly (or be reported a second time; if they cheat a second time then you may want to take some other action as well).

Now, the problem being, what if the certification authority does not sanction the cheaters at all, what to do then? Well, the thing is, the certification is a statement by the CA that the person with the certification possesses some skills. It is not a qualifier that a person possesses those skills; there are plenty of people who are not certified in something who do have the skills, and there are, as to your example, plenty of people who are certified who do (may) not have those skills as well. Rather than that, the certification is saying, "We, as a panel of experts on the subject of determining whether a person has these skills, declare collectively that we believe that this person has these skills". And then, if you trust the experts to determine whether a person has skills or not, then you accept the certification or not.

Now, if a person cheats on the test, and the CA either is aware or doesn't care about that cheating, and the CA is prepared, despite the cheating, to give the person a certification, that is the experts saying "We believe that cheating on our test is good enough for us to be convinced that this person has the skill required". Which means that cheating on the test is sufficient to pass the test and earn the certification; cheating on the test is, in essence, a valid criterion for passing the test. In which case, nothing is actually wrong here; the people who cheated got their certification in a valid way (or at the very least, not an invalid way, because if it was invalid then there would be a sanctioning process for cheaters). In which case, there is nothing you have to do, just treat them as though they had passed the certification legitimately and go along your way.

Note that the perils of doing testing remotely is not a new phenomenon. This is why universities don't allow testing remotely, why a proctor has to be in the room with an examinee at all times, and so on. The perils of cheating on exams is very well known from the time that examination was invented, and surely when this CA made their decision to allow online certification for this exam, they were aware of the mire that they were delving into, and they were ok with that. The rest is not your business; your business begins and ends at the point at which your employees are required to certify, and at the point at which you notify the CA that they have given certifications which, in your opinion, may (or should) violate the CA's principles. The rest is up to the CA.

Caveat to all of the above: If this improper certification can cost lives (e.g. architecture, civil engineering, medicine), then you have a responsibility to go further than the above, for public safety reasons. You can't just handwave somebody who doesn't know how to build a bridge properly and then it collapses and kills people. That's not OK. In this case, you need to go further.

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  • This is a very good answer, it illustrates an understanding of the situation, and highlighted the fact human safety could be at risk.
    – Donald
    May 29 at 9:48
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This is a question for Head of HR, or higher. There isn't much room for doing things wrong in this situation, and as a HR Strategist I don't think you should take any responsibility for it. You might be involved in how to secure it in the future, but not in the current issue.

The Head of HR position is currently not filled and no interim head has been appointed.

This isn't your problem. If they don't have the position filled the higher ups have to step in.

Seems like leadership has decided that it will be me for at least this problem...

"Seems like" isn't the same as they have decided it. Without clear written information that you are supposed to solve this you shouldn't handle it. If you do it anyway, and it goes wrong, there's a big risk that they will blame you since you shouldn't have handled it. But even if you get written info that you should handle this you will be the scapegoat if something goes wrong.

Since this is a task for Head of HR you should be promoted first, this isn't something to handle without the power and salary for it. Of course they can't force you to accept a promotion if you don't want to risk it.

Please note that this answer is related to the responsibility. You might have to implement what Head of HR wants done.

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Deprive the people sharing answers of bonuses.

  1. They will not ignore the hint.
  2. This will happen some time after the events, so the risk of them talking too much will have less impact.
  3. Others will be happy that they are (for now) not punished and will keep quiet about the matter.
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    Does this involve telling them why they're not getting the bonus? If it does not, do you think it's likely they'll be able to link it back to that specific instance of something they did wrong?
    – Erik
    May 28 at 10:52
  • 2
    Yes. But they should be told at bonus time and not much earlier.
    – fraxinus
    May 28 at 13:33
  • Yeah, they will get the hint "they knew everything, but didn't report to CA/contractors and now we can milk those criminals, because punishment of the company would be way more severe than anything they can put on us". May 30 at 5:02
0

Administer an exam that is hand written and give them pop quizes each is uniqe so they can’t cheat. Offer some incentives some that they can put on their resume. Rent some of those picnic tables on wheels and a keg.

-4

Fire the ringleaders and threaten them with legal action if they say anything. They acted in bad faith and cost your firm money, they are over a barrel.

For the rest, make them sign an NDA as a condition of their continued employment and make them retake their certification.

Whatever you do, involve a lot of legal help immediately.

1
  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 1 at 2:16

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