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Hidden convictions, litigation, and other lies by employee lead to sanction of dismissal

March 27th, 2013  |  Lorene Park

An employee who lied about his criminal and educational background on his employment application, to the EEOC, and during discovery was sanctioned by a federal court in Oklahoma with the dismissal of his race discrimination and retaliation claims (Jones v Warren Power & Machinery, Inc, WDOkla, 2013). When prompted by his employment application to reveal felony convictions from the prior seven years, the employee only disclosed a single DUI. He later testified that he could not remember any other felony convictions and didn’t “keep up with” his past life. Not fooled, the employer’s attorney searched public records and found two additional felony convictions including one for carrying a firearm and another DUI.

But wait, there’s more. The employee’s discovery responses stated that he had not been involved in a legal action, lawsuit or court proceeding in the last 10 years. But, in fact, he was divorced, plead guilty to a public intoxication charge, filed for bankruptcy, filed a personal injury suit against Dollar General, and was sued by healthcare provider. His bankruptcy schedules, filled out under penalty of perjury, stated his income at $18,000 for a year that his application, deposition testimony, and a W-2 form listed it as $30,000.

And more. In both his employment application and EEOC charge, the employee stated that he had a bachelor’s degree in business management. His EEOC charge claimed that a white technician with lesser qualifications was promoted ahead of him. Likewise, his complaint also stated that he had a degree and had more tenure than the white employee promoted over him. In fact, he did not have a degree and admitted as much in deposition. Notwithstanding, he later again testified that he did. Moreover, he claimed to have attended another college full-time but school records proved otherwise.

Dismissal as sanction. In light of the foregoing, the employer filed a motion to dismiss the employee’s race discrimination and retaliation claims as a sanction for his lies, some of which were under oath. Granting that motion, the court explained that it was plain the employer suffered actual prejudice because the lies cast doubt on all of the employee’s submissions, requiring time and money to corroborate information. Nor was this an isolated incident of confusion or misstatement; it was a pattern of dishonesty. Moreover, the lie about his educational history went to the merits of his claim that the employer promoted a white employee over him despite his “bachelor’s degree.”

In addition, his false testimony and discovery responses constituted interference with the judicial process despite his claim that he testified “to the best of his recollection.” The explanations rang “hollow” to the court based on the sheer number and breadth of his falsehoods. As to culpability, the employee claimed that when he responded to discovery, he had just been diagnosed with a serious kidney condition and it “weighed heavily” on his mind. In the face of the many misstatements of fact, the court viewed this self-serving claim with “a great deal of skepticism.” In the court’s view, his “unsatisfactory after-the-fact attempts to minimize the egregiousness of his behavior cannot protect him from the consequences of his own actions.” Accordingly, the case was dismissed.

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