As I have learned from TV shows such as NYPD Blue and Law and Order, and as I believe to be true in real life, the toughest crimes to decipher are often "solved" by obtaining a confession from the accused. Lock the suspect down, use "carrot and stick," play "good cop, bad cop" and - Voila! - case closed.
|I'm Innocent, I Swear!|
Let me share with you two ways in which confessions come back to haunt employees.
IF YOUR EMPLOYER IS TELLING YOU IT IS DOING AN INVESTIGATION, BUT THAT YOU ARE NOT IN JEOPARDY OF BEING FIRED, BE VERY, VERY CAREFUL
In my experience, employers that conduct investigations into an employee's alleged misbehavior often make up their minds about firing the accused employee before he/she is actually interviewed during the course of the investigation. In such cases, the employer is looking for one thing, and one thing only. A Confession!
Why? Two primary reasons.
First, the employer can use an employee's admission of wrongdoing to defeat a claim of unlawful termination. Remember, the key in such cases is often whether the employer's stated reason for terminating the employee is a pretext, a lie - or otherwise so patently unfounded that it is not worthy of credibility. A confession of wrongdoing by an employee makes the employer's burden of proof in this regard much easier.
Second, the employer can use the confession to defeat a subsequent claim by the employee for unemployment benefits by simply establishing that the employee admitted to engaging in wrongdoing. Click Here to read our Post on how "making a confession" in the course of applying for Unemployment Compensation benefits can lead to a denial of your claim.
COMMON TACTICS EMPLOYED BY COMPANIES TO OBTAIN CONFESSIONS
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACH TO AVOIDING CONFESSION
The first thing to bear in mind, in these caustic times, is that employers who believe employees have engaged in misconduct are in many situations unforgiving and relentless. Thus, your should be aware that you will likely not be rewarded, and you will likely not be forgiven, if you confess to wrongdoing. This is sad, but true - not true for all employers, to be sure, but true for many (most?).
If you are called into a meeting and asked to confess to wrongdoing, odds are you cannot win by being forthcoming (if you actually did the crime) or apologizing for something you did not do. Odds are, and perhaps many of you will read this and disagree, believing that American employers still reward loyalty, hard work and honesty is akin to believing in the tooth fairy. The fact is, corporate America by and large stopped giving out gold watches to loyal employees a generation or two ago. Nowadays, a generous early retirement offer (made years before the employee wants to retire) is about the best you can hope for.
|"I cannot tell a lie." But Will Your "Honesty" Be Rewarded?|
Additionally, here are some things NOT to do:
* Do NOT write out a statement wherein you admit to responsibility. Trust me, if they are asking you to write out a statement incriminating yourself, odds are you are dead man/woman walking. That being the case, why write out your own death sentence?
* Similarly, if they have prepared a statement/report for you to sign, you may sign to acknowledge you have been shown a copy of the document, but Do NOT sign off on its accuracy.
NOTE: Try and get a copy of anything they show you (although in the majority of cases you will be refused).
* In fact, it is my view that you should strongly resist ever writing any kind of statement. Remember, whatever you say can and will be used against you.
|Anything You Say....|
* Do NOT explain your actions by saying "everyone does it." If your 10 fellow employees steal money from your employer every day, you are not "innocent" if you do the same thing - if you have violated company policy, you have violated company policy. Moreover, saying everyone else does it is seen as "blame-shifting", which is a troublesome and undesirable employee characteristic.
* Do NOT agree to resign in lieu of termination. Let them fire you. That way, you will have a much better chance of obtaining unemployment benefits.
LESS IS MORE
To be clear, I am not advocating being dishonest with your employer. If you are truly innocent, methodically state your position without being argumentative - and do not apologize for some bad thing you didn't do! If, on the other hand, you are indeed guilty as charged, say as little as possible, hem and haw, be contrite, but do not confess!
|Never Helpful, Legally|
What does the term "willful misconduct" mean under Pennsylvania Unemployment Law? Check out our Video on this topic:
Philadelphia Are Employment Attorney Representing Employees
|Helping Pennsylvania Workers Since 1991|
John A. Gallagher is an employment lawyer who represents employees in Pennsylvania.
John typically represents employees who need an employment lawyer in Philadelphia County, Chester County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Berks County, Lancaster County and Montgomery County.
Pennsylvania Employment Attorney Provides Free Telephone Consultations
If you are looking for an employment lawyer, and live in Malvern, Wayne, King of Prussia, Downingtown, Glenside, Doylestown, Radnor, Newtown Square, Exton, Philadelphia, West Chester, Skippack, Langhorne, Haverford, Nether Providence, Broomall, Drexel Hill, Reading or any of their surrounding towns, feel free to send me an e-mail or give me a call. I am always glad to spend some time with people via a free telephone consultation.
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