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We are in a Software company, and I am managing a development team.

One of our senior developers has shown a weird performance, making simple mistakes, and lacking some knowledge on basic topics.

I have developed a strong gut feeling that his credentials and degree may be fake. Reason being, I did some "smoke" checks, such as consulting some initial services about degrees in his Original Country, and found no records of him.

When he entered the Job, there was no background check(we actually don't do it).

If he has a fake degree, or no degree at all, we may be dealing with a complicated situation, because he is under a work-permit that requires a degree as well, I don't know how to proceed.

I obviously don't want to investigate that openly, because I don't want to expose him, in case I am wrong.

What would be legal procedure that I could perform to check his diploma and certifications?

Can I ask him to bring the copies? Can I enter in contact with the University?

Update:

We have come to discover that he has lied the institution name in his CV, he said Institution ABC, and it was from another University. Is this a crime?

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    "Can I ask him to bring the copies?" This is the standard in Germany. I'm actually surprised that he wasn't asked to submit them to HR during the hiring process. Of course, you can ask to see copies of the certifications but I would let HR do that. – Roland Dec 28 '16 at 8:29
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    If he is senior, check his previous employers, not university. I have a computer science degree from a reputable University in Germany (not overseas) which is not fake at all. I am a "Senior Developer", having 5 years of "experience" with C# and JavaScript. Yet, nearly every other Senior Dev would be better than me in how they design and write C# code. I would be making basic mistakes. University has nothing to do with it, because they never taught me to write code. In my 5 years of experience, on the other hand, I had to fight alone, no pair programming, no code reviews. – Alexander Dec 28 '16 at 11:27
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    @JoeStrazzere If his probation (max. 6 months) is over, and the company has more than 10 employees, you can fire him for insufficient performance only if certain conditions are met. And even then it's necessary to first hand him a warning, laying out all the options, and then maybe even a "dismissal with the option of altered conditions of employment" (e.g. other work, other hours, reduced compensation, ...). It takes no less than 6 months to get rid of him that way. If you find his diploma to be fake, you can walk him off the premises that very day - or even let police do that for you. – Alexander Dec 28 '16 at 11:37
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    He has actually gone beyond the "6 months" period. He was working in another project for the company that for some reason he was not caught under low performance. And I ask if it is legal to ask for his credentials, because I don't know the german laws. Can I establish a deadline for his papers? – Vampire Dec 28 '16 at 12:58
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    If the work permit requires the person to hold a university degree then it's probably a blue card (§19a AufenthG). To get that, the university and the type of degree (e.g. _Computer Science) need to be ilsted in anabin or recognized individually. In any case, an apostilled copy of the degree is part of the things they need to give to the German embassy (or Auslaenderbehörde if they apply from within Germany). There, it would be checked thoroughly. A fake degree is thus unlikely. However, if they underperform, why do you care? – simbabque Dec 30 '16 at 16:50
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Falsifying your qualifications is a severe offense, which will lead to him being fired, his visa could be revoked, and he might even be forbidden to come work again in the country. Before you commit to checking his background, you might want to talk to him about his underperformance. Schedule a meeting ASAP with him, and try to understand if his trouble can be fixed, or if he's not qualified for the job. For the rest of the answer, I'll assume you have had this meeting and you concluded he is not qualified and there's not much you can do to improve his skills.

We may be dealing with a complicated situation : Having a fake degree is a breach of contract. In the case where he put false information on his resume and claimed it was true, he lied on his qualifications, which led to you hiring him, which you wouldn't have done otherwise. The situation will be complicated for him, but not for you. If you consider he is not fit for the job, and you can prove he falsified his qualifications, you can probably fire at will (please forgive the pun).

Can I ask him to bring the copies? Can I enter in contact with the University? You can do both of these things, but it would be better if the actual request came from HR. HR simply has to say "We need these documents for administrative reasons" and that's it. They can also call the University and ask them for his transcript, to ensure he did follow the classes he claimed. If he cannot deliver and/or the university claims he has no transcript, he's probably guilty.

In any case, when you have determined your steps, contact a lawyer. You're dealing with a law-heavy case.

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    Maybe in Germany. In France, surprisingly, you lie in your resume, the company believes you, the company is wrong.....but can still fire you during the trial period(7 months) without reasons. Just, they cannot get any law money against the liar. – gazzz0x2z Dec 28 '16 at 11:14
  • Hi @Thalantas, I have already had the conversation with him about his low performance, but he is not doing a good job, and just promised a lot of changes that did not happened, he just gave me a lot of words and no action. – Vampire Dec 28 '16 at 13:00
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    Then you probably concluded he's not qualified, and you wish him to leave the company ? Conduct your background check through HR, and see what comes out. – Thalantas Dec 28 '16 at 13:32
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    A fake degree is not a breach. Wrong term. It's fraud. – Xavier J Dec 29 '16 at 0:17
  • You don't have to do anything yourself. You don't need to research that. The person requires that degree to claim a valid visa. If you think that's not the case, contact your Auslaenderbehoerde and tell them about your concerns. They will happily go and check it, and then the person will quickly not be your concern any more. You don't even need to fire him, because legally the contract is void if he doesn't have a work permit. You might even be able to ask for salary back. In any case, I don't think you can avoid him getting into serious trouble regardless of your action. – simbabque Dec 30 '16 at 16:57
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The background check is a waste of your time. Okay, so you do the background check, and what he's provided is valid. Then what? You've spent money, and now you're still in the same place.

If you're going to spend any money to mitigate this situation, you need an objective, quantitative skills assessment that covers the skills area for whatever technology stack he's developing on. Anyone can list things on a resume, but it sounds like you missed doing something like this AS WELL as the background check. You can Google "developer skills assessment" and there is no shortage of results. Find a service tailored to your environment. It should be timed, and cover things both simple and complex; multiple choice is okay, but subjective problem-solving is better.

Challenge him with the assessment at work - NOT as a take-home assignment. See what you get. Base any decision you make from the result.

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    Your answer would apply in an at-will employment country like the US, but the OP is in Germany, where firing people for simple underperformance can be quite a mammoth task. – jpatokal Dec 29 '16 at 10:18
  • @jpatokal Why? He is probably in trial period (Probezeit). In most contracts, he can be fired in 2 weeks without any reason. – Gray Sheep Jan 1 '17 at 5:50
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    @MorningStar The OP already clarified in the comments that they've been there for over 6 months. – jpatokal Jan 1 '17 at 9:41
  • @jpatokal Ok, thanks. But why? After the trial period, he can be still fired on many reason with 1-2 months. The betriebsrat probably won't really protect foreigner newbies, even if the company has one. I don't think he will fight very heavily, from the point that he is fired, his primary focus will be to make his face the possible best in the employers of his future, if you give it him (give him a good arbeitszeugnis!), he probably won't fight. No foreigner wants here to fight with German companies, this is not why are they here. They want to work with them. I was always surprised on the fear – Gray Sheep Jan 2 '17 at 2:33
  • @jpatokal and paranoia I've experienced in German companies in similar cases. If you are fired on any reason, it is far so bad, that he probably won't make this situation more bad. Firing on the reason that you falsified your papers can be enough reason for them to flee the whole country (and, if it is not groundless, they deserve it). It is absolutely not like if a big German company, for example, the Siemens, wants to fire some of its decade-old workers. Never lie and work so well as you only can, this is recipe to avoid these problems and not suing your employer, also he knows this well. – Gray Sheep Jan 2 '17 at 2:37
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During the recruiting process, as a German company, you should have surely got his personal papers and documents, between them his papers. At least electronically. Falsifying this would be a criminal offense, it is far too risky to even think on that. Particularly for a foreigner; he would lost his possibility to get once a German passport if he commits any criminal offense.

Being a foreigner programmer in .de, I would say if I had to "beautify" my CV with fake degrees, I wouldn't ever do this with false papers. It is too risky. Instead of it, I would buy real degrees from some fake University. Yes, this degree would be weak in your eyes, but already the real degrees in foreign countries are weak here.

The final word in authenticity questions is the University where he got his paper. Check their homepage, contact them. All of them can communicate on English and it is also their primary interest to make these things clear.


To the Update: I am quite surprised... double check, if there wasn't some non-trivial thing, for example his Uni changed its name (it happens very rarely). If not, then he is an amateur trickster, fire him on the spot. Note: the degree he has shown in his documents is his actual one, based on these facts you can only suspect that he lied in his CV. It is not a criminal offense, although it is probably enough reason for a firing on the spot ("fristlose Kündigung").

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Talk to HR. If the person is underperforming, then you have a clear way to deal with it. If they are not underperforming then the visa issue is the main concern. Your HR team should be able to advise you on your company's obligations and options around the visa.

In the absence of a real performance problem, and if your company is not obliged to take action on the visa side, it's probably a bad idea to "investigate".

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Update: We have come to discover that he has lied the institution name in his CV, he said Institution ABC, and it was form another University.

Is this a crime?

Let's say: i am not a lawyer, but your company should immediately consult one.

Things which immediately come to my mind:

  • Betrug/Fraud
  • If he faked documents from the other University: Urkundenfaelschung
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This may not answer you question directly. But Why do you care so much about his past?

If he cant do the job you hired him for, let him go. The fact if his diploma is real or not does not change the way he is working now. Maybe you can save yourself a lot of time and problems by just hiring someone who actually can do the job you need to be done.

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    At least in Germany, it's a lot easier to fire someone who lied on their resume than for underperforming in general. – Llewellyn Dec 28 '16 at 17:51
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    @Llewellyn Not in probezeit, and not by small companies (without Betriebsrat). Furthermore, even the Betriebsrat defends mainly the interests of the long-time employee and not the foreigner newbies. – Gray Sheep Jan 1 '17 at 5:52
  • @MorningStar Thanks! That is exactly what I was thinking. "Probezeit" in Germany is 3-6month usually and he would be allowed to fire him without giving any reason what so ever. If he didn't notice in the first 6 month, he can't be doing such a bad job. – Pudora Jan 2 '17 at 9:23
  • @GuestUserPokemon Yes. Furthermore, also I experienced multiple times that old co-workers are trying to find continously "mistakes" in my work. And yes, also the problem description in the other question of the OP is it quite visible, that his reasoning is a little bit "cloudy". I think it is quite possible, that he simply wants to eliminate this co-worker and he collects munition for that. – Gray Sheep Jan 3 '17 at 7:27

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