New Hire Loses Job Due To Mistaken Identity

It can be fun to Google your name and discover the weird and wonderful lives of your namesakes. It's not so fun however, when your employer does it, mistakes one of them for you, and that namesake was previously arrested for credit card and bank theft.

That's what happened to Renee Adams, a mother of four from the Tampa Bay area. After months of sending out 40 to 50 resumes a week, Adams finally landed a full-time job with benefits as the office manager of a construction company, reports Tampa Bay's 10 News.

The day before she was supposed to start, she was informed, however, that the position had been given to somebody else. It turns out, the family-owned company had Googled the name of its new hire, searching "Renee Adams - Tarpon Springs," according to Adams, and found a woman's police mug shot plastered all over the web.

The employers didn't have Adam's birthdate or Social Security number to perform a more accurate search, and just assumed that the woman charged with fraud and forgery was the same one about to manage their office.

"This woman is 53 years old. I'm not 53 years old," explained Adams. "This woman has brown eyes. I have green eyes."

Adams had a background check performed on herself, and gave the squeaky-clean report to the company. The firm apologized, but it was too late.

If Adams had quit another job for this new position, she would be eligible for limited damages, according to Matthew Bodie, a professor of employment and labor law at Saint Louis University. But Adams didn't forgo any wages in her plans to take this job. She was, after all, unemployed.

Many employers conduct background checks on new hires as part of standard policy, and some jobs, like ones involving work with children, the elderly or people with disabilities, almost always require such a report. These checks often include a confirmation of a prospective employee's Social Security number, past employers, education records, driving records, character references, drug test results, incarceration records, and sex offender lists. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, most employers cannot check your credit score, and in many states, employers cannot seek an arrest record, unless that arrest ended up in a conviction.

Increasingly, however, employers are going rogue, using Google and social networking sites to unearth private details from their employees' past. A survey of 350 employers by Vault found that 44 percent of them were using social networks like Facebook to examine the profiles of job candidates. That was back in October 2007, so that number has almost certainly increased. There have been many instances of individuals being fired or denied work due to information uncovered in exactly this way. Usually however, it's the right individual.





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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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