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This is a throwaway account to preserve anonymity. Details below has likewise been anonymized as much as possible.

I have been in the interview process with a company in California. There is nothing sketchy about the company itself—they are a small-ish startup that was recently acquired by a household name brand. Their work is interesting, and I would be keen to work for them.

During the technical screen portion of the interview process, I was set to interview with an engineer who we'll call "John." The recruiter gave a link to John's LinkedIn, and I Googled his name, thinking I might find a personal blog, GitHub, etc. These can often be good talking points for interviews, if you find an interviewer has similar technical interests to you.

Instead what I found was a court case titled United States vs [Interviewer's Last Name], detailing how his personal computer was seized by federal authorities for containing a large number of explicit images and videos of underage children, as well as other details which I cannot share without potentially doxxing him. He lost that case. His name is also on the public sex offender registry, which includes his photo (exact person I interviewed with), a charge for possession of child pornography, and other information that leave no doubt that this "John" is the same one who interviewed me.

A couple of considerations:

  • The company was originally started in a different country, and their US office is very new. The hiring process thus far has been informal by tech industry standards, and to my knowledge they do not yet have an HR team in the US. I believe "John" has only been working there a few months. It is entirely possible they have done no sort of background check on him and aren't aware of his sex offender status, or that such things are public record in the US.

  • Given the above, I feel a moral obligation to bring this to the company's attention.

  • Lastly, if the company is aware of the interviewer's child pornography history and has chosen to hire him anyway, I do not feel comfortable working for them. "John" would be someone I would be working with daily, in-person, and while I would not normally care about a colleague's criminal background, this is an exception.

My current plan is this: wait until after my next interview with the company, which is final-round, and then ask the internal recruiter (who has been my PoC) to connect me with an HR person, so I can ask share some information of a confidential nature. I would prefer do this over email, both to lessen the chance of any potential communication with an HR person that is probably in [Foreign Country], and also to have a written record. I plan to do this regardless of if I get an offer from the company or not.

So finally, my questions:

  1. Is there anything wrong with handling the situation in this way?

  2. Is there a better way to bring this up?

  3. Is there any reason I should not wait until the main interview process is over to bring this up? I am doing so mainly because they are on a tight hiring timeline and I don't want to disrupt the process (and my final interview is in a few days, anyway).

  4. If the company is aware of John's background, is it unreasonable for me to expect some level of justification for why they have still employed him? Again, normally someone's criminal background would fall strongly into the "not my business" category, but I feel there is an exception with something as strong as sexual crimes involving minors.

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    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on The Workplace Meta, or in The Workplace Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 5 at 9:17
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    Clarification question: Is John employed in a position that gives him access to children (school, social services, religious services, etc.)? I think this is relevant information for the further course of action.
    – gerrit
    Feb 5 at 9:26

5 Answers 5

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I've been part of something like this, telling an organization that they have someone representing them who is on the sex offender list. While some firms immediately part ways with the person, not all do. They may have written policies not permitting them to discriminate against felons. They may want to support someone building a new life, give someone a second chance. And no matter how it turns out, they generally won't thank you for throwing everyone into a spin and making them consider all this. They like the person and find them useful to have on the team. And now that maybe has to change?

Here's what I recommend to you. You need a long hard think. Now, not after your "final" interview.

  • are you able to work with someone who has this record? Someone who has served their time and is presumably rehabilitating themselves by, among other things, working in this industry? If yes, you don't need to do anything. If no, then you need to either decline the job for this reason or give them a chance to remove the person.
  • if you were sure you wouldn't need to work side by side with or be in a meeting with this person, are you able to work in a company where you know it's possible you might see them across a room once in a while? If no, then you need to either decline the job for this reason or give them a chance to remove the person.
  • if it's not about being in the same room as this person, but about a company that could knowingly choose to employ someone with this background, then you need to establish whether they do in fact knowingly employ them, and if it wasn't knowingly, decide if you can accept the job or not.

The best thing to do here is to send a very short email very quickly. "I Googled my interviewer and found link." Then you need to figure out how to write your feelings in one sentence. "I find this very concerning" or "I would not be able to work with this person" or "I would not be able to work anywhere that could employ this person" or the like. Close with a question, one that probably starts with "Can you assure me that..". Only you know what you wanted to be assured of.

If you wait, then it looks like it's not really that urgent for you, maybe not even a deal breaker. Like you want to wait and see what your chances are. Like it's some sort of bargaining chip. If it's urgent, you act as soon as you find out.

And one final tip, when they tell you "Oh wow, we're utterly shocked! Don't worry, we will totally deal with this! Thanks for letting us know!" do not assume you know what action they are going to take, or that it would be the action you choose. If you can't work there if he works there, wait until he doesn't work there to accept an offer from them. Which probably means, don't accept an offer from them, because firings move much more slowly than hirings.

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    Thank you, I am glad to hear from someone who has actually been involved in a similar situation. I will carefully consider everything you've said here.
    – user143603
    Feb 5 at 0:55
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    Can you clarify who the OP should send the email to? (Recruiter, recruiter-introduced HR member, company help desk...)
    – Mars
    Feb 5 at 8:39
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    It's been brought to my attention in the comments to the original post (now moved to chat) that in California, discrimination in hiring based on being a sex offender is illegal unless it directly hampers the employees ability to do the job. If I'm reading the laws right, that also means the company cannot terminate him based on CP history. Given that, I no longer see any upside to bringing this up. However, I'm keeping this as the accepted answer because it hews best to the spirit of the question and was answered by someone with experience in this situation.
    – user143603
    Feb 5 at 13:56
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    In my case the person had not only child sexual abuse imagery offenses but also sexually assaulted an adult and was convicted of that. Many people expressed worries about that person being in a position of leadership over vulnerable younger members of the organization (a role he sought out) given the context of the assault and some other details I won't supply. While others felt it wasn't related to work and shouldn't be a problem. Feb 5 at 14:41
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    If someone emailed me this kind of information, regardless of whether I previously knew about it or not, I would not hire that person. This kind of general interference and eagerness to impose their own superiority onto the life of someone else indicates they are not someone worthy of any kind of trust. Feb 5 at 21:05
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Is there anything wrong with handling the situation in this way?

This isn't your concern other than how it relates to whether or not you want to work at this company.

Is there a better way to bring this up?

Do not bring it up. Again, this isn't your concern other than how it relates to whether or not you want to work at this company.

Is there any reason I should not wait until the main interview process is over to bring this up? I am doing so mainly because they are on a tight hiring timeline and I don't want to disrupt the process (and my final interview is in a few days, anyway).

You shouldn't bring it up at all.

If the company is aware of John's background, is it unreasonable for me to expect some level of justification for why they have still employed him? Again, normally someone's criminal background would fall strongly into the "not my business" category, but I feel there is an exception with something as strong as sexual crimes involving minors.

It is unreasonable for you to pursue this in any way, shape, or form. They have no obligation to justify anything to you or anyone else.

Regardless of the nature of the crime, or crimes, your only obligation is to yourself in deciding whether or not you want to work at this company. You're proposed idea is a vast over-reach.

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If you are not comfortable working along this person, it's fine you can withdraw your application.

This person was caught, tried, convicted. He has therefore paid his debt to society and is trying to contribute positively again by working.

There is no moral obligation on your part because this person, as far as you know, is not actively committing a crime. It's not like you discovered something about him that he can conceal, all this information is public.

If the company did not check it's either because they do not care, or because they believe in second chances, if you do not, maybe you are not a good cultural fit.

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    "Paid his debt to society" This sort of offense is one where the payment doesn't even cover the interest on the debt. Feb 5 at 0:14
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    @TheDemonLord I do not have the details of the case. He's not in jail and he's working so according to the law he paid his debt.
    – meop
    Feb 5 at 0:21
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    would you feel the same way if it was your child in one of the pictures on his computer? Feb 5 at 0:22
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    You may confuse justice with revenge. The way I or you feel about a crime is irrevelant.
    – meop
    Feb 5 at 0:31
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    @TheDemonLord "would you feel the same way if it was your child in one of the pictures on his computer?" This is why the judge, the person administering justice, would recuse themselves if it was their child. Feb 5 at 0:32
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If company personnel fail my due diligence checks I just write them off.

There is no point in stirring trouble. It's not your company. If you think you can say anything to HR and remain anonymous, think again.

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It depends on the nature of Johns job.

If John has a job where he has access to children, such as in a school, church, child welfare services, scouting, or a similar role, then I think you would do good to confidentially reach out to an appropriate contact person at the company, to make sure that they have access to this information. Even if John has paid his debt according to the law, the risk of recidivism means that, to protect the safety of children, the employer may want or have to take additional safeguards, possibly limiting the roles in which they would employ John. This may also be demanded by parents/caretakers who bring their children in the care of Johns employer, who may be hesitant to do so if they are aware of Johns past convictions.

If John has a "regular" office job where his role does not give him any more access to children than others, then I would second joeqwertys answer in that it is not your responsibility to inform the employer of facts that do not impact Johns ability to do his job.

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