Beware: giving a false CV could cost you your job

IN the current economic climate in which there are few jobs available to the unskilled, many people will try anything to secure employment.

A common problem for employers is when employees leave out crucial information in their job applications or misrepresent their CVs.

An employer relies on the information provided in the CV to hire the person concerned.

Once the misleading information comes to light, the question is whether the employer would be justified in dismissing the employee?

Furthermore, is there any protection available to an employer who hires a person but later discovers that the employee submitted a CV based on false information?

In Wium v Zondi and Others (2002), the labour court had to consider whether the dismissal of an employee was fair where the employee had failed to immediately disclose a past criminal conviction to the employer.

In this case, the employee was an educator who had been convicted for theft and failed to declare this conviction in his job application.

He was then charged with knowingly making a false statement and was dismissed. In considering the fairness of the dismissal, the court held that the employee had committed a dishonest act by failing to declare his past conviction.

The court found that the dismissal was justified.

In another decision, Hoch v Mustek Electronics (1999), the employee was charged with dishonest conduct in that she misrepresented her qualifications to her employer. After being found guilty of this charge, the employee was also dismissed.

The labour court held that even though the applicant had been an employee of seven years' standing and had been honest in her work - and even though her qualifications were irrelevant to her position as a debtors clerk at the time of her dismissal - being dishonest in her CV was serious enough to destroy the trust relationship between the employer and herself.

As a result, the court found that dismissal was the appropriate sanction.

It is an established principle that the employment relationship is fundamentally built on trust.

It is argued that even before being employed, a potential applicant must be truthful and disclose all information in a job application - or in the interview process - so as to enable the employer to make an informed decision on whether or not to hire the person concerned.

An employee who presents a falsified CV is guilty of dishonesty and such dishonesty undermines the trust on which the employment relationship is built.

There is no prescribed rule stating what measures an employer can take against an employee who presents a falsified CV - each case will need to be dealt with according to its own merits.

However, where the employer considers dismissal, it will need to ensure that the employee's dishonesty was material to the employment relationship and that continued employment was no longer possible.