There is a common perception that most people lie in their résumés and job applications. Whether it be the exaggerating the seniority of a role, extending the length of time you actually worked in a particular position or describing a particular epoch as "time spent travelling" to avoid disclosing a short but ill-fated period of employment. So what rights does an employer have when it discovers that Tom never completed his degree; that Dick's referee is in fact his Mum; or that Harry was Assistant to the Regional Manager rather than Assistant Regional Manager?
A recent decision in the Fair Work Commission, Charles Tham v Hertz Australia Pty Limited T/A Hertz  FWC 3967 sheds some light on how the Fair Work Commission approaches these issues.
The case concerned an unfair dismissal application by Mr Tham who had been dismissed after nearly 9 months of employment as a Vehicle Services Attendant. The basis of the termination of his employment was that in his résumé he had claimed he had been employed by his previous employer for approximately five years, when in reality he had only been employed for less than one.
Mr Tham claimed the reason for his dismissal was not valid as he had (he claimed) informed his employer shortly after applying for the role that there was a mistake in his résumé. He also claimed that the dismissal was not proportionate as the shorter length of employment had no bearing on his ability to perform the role for Hertz.
The events that led to Mr Tham's dismissal were that – after several months in employment - Hertz began to have concerns about his character due to various conduct issues at work. Hertz therefore started making enquiries with his former employers about Mr Tham and performing some Google searches on him. One of these searches revealed that Mr Tham had brought unfair dismissal proceedings against a former employer in 2011 after having been dismissed by them that year.
This was inconsistent with Mr Tham's résumé which provided that he had worked for the employer from 2010 to 2015.
Mr Tham was therefore invited to a meeting the following day to discuss an allegation of serious misconduct regarding the falsities in his résumé. Mr Tham did not attend the meeting citing illness due to stress. Hertz then took the decision to dismiss him, despite having not heard from him in relation to the allegations.
In considering the question of whether Mr Tham had in fact brought the errors in his résumé to his employer's intention, Commissioner Harper-Greenwell preferred the evidence of Hertz (who denied Mr Tham ever did so) to that of Mr Tham.
The Commissioner then had this to say on Mr Tham's argument that the "mistakes" in his job application had no bearing on his ability to perform the role:
On the question of whether the dismissal was "harsh, unjust or unreasonable" the Commission considered those matters set out in section 387 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), and – in a win for common sense – found that despite some procedural deficiencies in Hertz's processes, there was no unfair dismissal. It put it this way:
The decision is useful guidance for employers who detect – even after some period of time, and only after doing their own detective work – that an employee has been deliberately dishonest in their job application. Given that the performance of most (if not all) positions requires the relevant employee to act honestly, the case supports the view that an employer will be justified in taking firm action where dishonesty in a job application is subsequently discovered, even if the misrepresentation does not relate to the qualifications or skills required to perform the role.
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