Disclosing prior employment misconduct

An elected official is interested in adding a question to our employment application. Something like:

Have you ever been disciplined or counseled by a prior employer for any workplace harassment issues; such as but not limited to sexual, racial, age related discrimination?

I'm struggling with phrasing the question and concerned about those who might have been unjustly accused.

Any thoughts?


  • 14 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • My first impression is "no" for the reason that you mentioned as well as the wide range of approaches that companies may use in how they resolve issues. Another reason for a "no" is that many companies don't even bother to deal with the issue, so there won't be any counseling, etc. to report. Another is that some issues are merely misunderstandings which might be resolved very quickly. In cases like that, does the mere involvement of a supervisor or HR person qualify as "counseling". It's way too mushy.
  • Just to play the devil’s advocate for a moment, what are you going to do when the applicant answers yes to one of the questions? If you were to reject me for having been a part of a harassment claim for which I received counseling, could I somehow claim that I was made to suffer the potential loss of income (a job) and was retaliated (against) because of my having been a part of a harassment complaint? With today’s litigious society, it looks like your elected official wants to invite problems.
  • Just to play cynics advocate, since Don D isn't around to do it, what would you do if the applicant answered "no" to the question? Today's employers are unlikely to give you any information either way - they will likely answer to name, rank and serial number and nothing else.

    Then what?

  • And if an applicant answers "no" does that mean that they will never be a problem?
  • All good points, thank you. The application revision is requested after hearing that an employee may have been disciplined for current misconduct with a prior employer.
    ...And had we had the question answered truthfully or not, it may have been helpful in our process.

  • Ah, the old "if something happens once, change everything" syndrome.
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 10-25-05 AT 02:08PM (CST)[/font][br][br]But if they answer no on the application and the employer finds out later that they lied and they have a statement on their signed application that any missstatement, omission, falsification or misrepresentation of fact is grounds for dismissal then the employee could be in trouble.

    Edit: I wouldn't put that question on an application anyway but I do have the above "disclaimer" on our applications.
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 10-25-05 AT 11:00AM (CST)[/font][br][br]True, if the employer wanted to act on information that could be completely invalid - see several of the earlier posts. It wouldn't be the same as someone falsifying that they had no felony when a record exists. If I were an applicant who had been falsely accused, who had made one silly remark that got me into trouble but had apologized and learned my lesson, I would probably write in "no" because it would be unfair to penalize me.

  • The employee "might have been" disciplined at a former job? What's the proof, the rumor mill? It sounds like you're working for a Gov't entity, so you're still gonna have to utilize due proces for the employee, and I'll bet the so-called "proof" won't stand up to the light of day.
  • Just for an alternate suggestion that might get you similar information - why not ask the applicants to bring you copies of their last two employee evaluations from their current or former employer.

    Depending on how far back into the dawn of time you wish to explore - this might do it for you and would be only during the interview process.
  • I like the alternate suggestion of requesting performance evals (if they exist, if they are accurate).

    I agree there are too many what ifs with this type of question on the application. Thanks for all your responses.
  • My suggestion, raise the bar a littleon what qualifies as a serious issue by asking about DISCHARGE from a previous job for misconduct at work.

    For example:

    "In the past 10 years, have you been discharged from any previous job for misconduct at work (that is, for serious violation of workplace policies-- this would not include discharge for less-than-satisfactory job performance).
    If "yes", please explain:______________. (Note: an answer of "yes" will not necessarily disqualify you from consideration, depending upon the nature and seriousness of incident in question.)"

    And, of course, if they lie in their answer, your application should make clear that lying on the application form disqaulifies the applicant from consideration and/or is grounds for immediate dismissal if the lie is exposed after they've been hired.

  • I say no to all of the above. You will find yourself bogged down in so much minutia that your on-boarding process may become a perpetual exercise in insanity.

    First of all, you have exposure anytime you start asking questions about previous involvement in whistleblower or retaliation-protected topics.

    Second, you will need to begin defining things such as "serious misconduct" or "gross violations of company policies" at previous employers.

    My best suggestion is to stick to best practices in terms of recruiting, assesment and selection. Many of the question marks you have should be erased if you are dilligent.

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