Legal Trickery – Eric A. Parzianello

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How Employers Can Protect Against Résumé Lies: The Steve Masiello Story

Posted by Eric Parzianello on March 30, 2014

After Manhattan College’s basketball team nearly upset the University of Louisville in the NCAA tournament on March 20, 2014, its coach, Steve Masiello, was offered and apparently agreed to terms on a new job with the University of South Florida.  As Lee Corso might say, “not so fast my friend.”  Fortunately, for South Florida, the offer was contingent upon a background check.  Image

As reported in a story by the New York Times, the offer was pulled after South Florida officials discovered an “inaccuracy” on his résumé which said that he graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2000.  Masiello had attended but in fact did not graduate from Kentucky.  South Florida policy requires head coaches to have earned at least a bachelor’s degree.  This wasn’t Masiello’s first such misrepresentation about that degree; his bio on the official Manhattan College website – still active as of April 22, 2014 – lists his “alma mater” as Kentucky in 2000.

This story was reminiscent of football coach George O’Leary who falsely claimed that he had earned a master’s degree in education from New York University.  Unfortunately for the University of Notre Dame, this didn’t come to light until after Notre Dame offered O’Leary the position of head coach in 2001, he accepted it and a press conference was held to announce Tyrone Willingham’s replacement to the sports world.

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Five days later, the New York Times reported that “O’Leary had resigned suddenly after admitting to falsifying parts of his academic and athletic background.”

How do employers protect themselves from these types of situations?  Ideally, a formal offer and employment agreement would not be extended until after a background check is completed.  However, time constraints often do not allow for complete background checks, drug testing and the like.  Offers of employment should therefore have an “out” clause for the employer: a clause which makes clear that the offer can be revoked even after acceptance if certain information is discovered within a certain time.  A sample clause:

  • The effectiveness of this Employment Agreement is conditioned upon successful completion of a background check on Employee to be completed within 21 days after execution of this Agreement (the “Revocation Period”).  In the event Employer determines in its sole discretion that there are any inaccuracies in Employee’s representations, Employer shall provide written notice of revocation of this Agreement and Employer shall have no liability to Employee under this Agreement or otherwise.  Employee is cautioned to not take any action, including the voluntary termination of Employee’s current employment, until this Revocation Period expires.

As for Masiello, his position even as Manhattan’s coach remained in limbo until recently when Manhattan announced that Masiello would complete 10 credit hours at Kentucky this summer and then be eligible to return as Manhattan’s head coach.  Apparently, Manhattan never bothered with a background check either.

Eric Parzianello
eparzianello@hspplc.com
313-672-7300

 

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