Imagine this: An employee admits she forged a document. But after an investigation by HR, the final decision is to not fire her. Reason: There were no specific rules prohibiting forgery, and the employee was afraid of retaliation by a co-worker.
If you’re outraged already, hold on, because it just gets better: The employee in question worked for the Connecticut State Ethics Commission. And her forgery caused another state employee to be fired.
Maureen Duggan was a staff attorney for the Commission. She wrote a phony letter that appeared to be written by an anonymous parking lot attendant about problems within the Ethics Commission’s executive director, Alan Plofsky.
To make the letter appear authentic, Duggan went to the trouble to misspell words, such as “anonimus,” according to the Hartford Advocate.
Duggan received her own letter as an attorney for the ethics commission. She and two other attorneys declared the document authentic. Investigations followed which resulted in Plofsky being fired.
Plofsky sued, and during a deposition, Duggan admitted she’d forged the letter.
‘Forgery is a crime’
“She forged a letter. Forgery is a crime. How much more just cause do you need?” asked Andy Sauer, head of Connecticut Common Cause, referring to the state’s decision not to fire Duggan.
Duggan told investigators she wrote the letter because she feared retaliation if her complaints became public.
But as a lawyer for the Ethics Commission, Duggan should have known better than anyone else that if she wanted to raise questions about something within the government, she’d get whistleblower protection.
A state panel eventually reinstated Plofsky in a different state agency.
This case raises some interesting questions for HR professionals:
- Forgery is a form of lying. How big would an employee’s lie — or its effect — have to be for that person to be fired?
- Does your company have a policy in place for when an employee acts as a whistleblower — coming forward with concerns about other employees’ conduct?
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