Help Wanted: Worker lies about personal life

Depending on the terms of employment, an employee Depending on the terms of employment, an employee who lies about their personal life might not be a target for termination. Photo Credit: iStock

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Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues. ...

DEAR CARRIE: My daughter and her colleagues work in a guidance-evaluation capacity in a local school district. They recently discovered that a newly hired social worker who deals directly with students and their families has created a false personal life. While she portrays herself as a widow and elaborates on her husband's death, she is, in fact, divorced, and her ex-husband is alive and well and living in another state. This woman is not aware that the office knows about her lies. Someone became suspicious after overhearing the woman refer to her "husband's" policy while she was on the phone trying to resolve a medical insurance claim. He is a doctor. The worker who overheard the conversation Googled the husband's name, called the doctor's office and verified that he is the woman's ex-husband.

They wonder if her personal life bears any weight on her job qualifications. Should she be confronted? Should her supervisor be advised, or should my daughter and her co-workers ignore this information? -- Double Identity

DEAR DOUBLE: It's an odd lie. It's more common for people to lie about their education or salary or arrest record. But this is the first I've heard of an employee lying about an ex. Unfortunately, when someone lies about a big thing, everything about the person becomes questionable. I turned to an employment attorney for a legal perspective on the ex-spouse-cum-late husband. He doesn't see anything wrong with telling the boss.

"This is the type of thing most bosses would want to know, since major-league liars are often not perfectly trustworthy in their work," said Richard Kass, a partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Manhattan.

But the school may not be able to do anything, he said.

"Because the employer is a governmental entity, and a union is probably involved, the boss might not be able to fire the employee for lying about her private life, but the background information might still be appreciated," Kass said.

Some lawyers might caution against notifying the boss, since the liar could sue the informant for defamation, he said. But winning such a lawsuit could be a long shot, he said.

"It would be very difficult for the liar to pursue a defamation lawsuit because she would have to show that the report about her was false, and that it was made maliciously and not for any legitimate business reason," he said.

DEAR CARRIE: Is it legal for a company to exclude paid days off from the overtime tally for the week? My company recently changed its overtime policy. Company holidays will continue to be included in the sum of total hours for the workweek, but other paid time off such as vacation, personal and sick days won't be. So if my workweek includes 35 hours plus a seven-hour vacation day, that day won't take me up to 42 hours, qualifying me for overtime. -- O.T. Rule OK?

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DEAR O.T. RULE: The policy is legal. It seems the company once gave you more than labor laws required and still does by including company holidays toward an overtime count. With the other changes, your employer gives you exactly what labor laws mandate. Federal laws say that nonexempt employees have to be paid overtime only for the hours they actually work. So if your workweek included 35 hours worked and one vacation day, you wouldn't qualify for overtime under the law. You must have worked more than 40 hours.

The overtime regulations apply to nonexempt workers, which generally means hourly employees. Under federal law they must earn at least one and one-half times their regular hourly rate for every hour worked over 40 in a workweek.

For more on overtime and federal and state labor laws, go to http://1.usa.gov/SWzvZo and http://bit.ly/QJuVLc

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