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Sunday, May 13, 2007

SOUND OFF: FAKING CREDENTIALS

Since I asked my readers what they would do if they discovered that one of their employees had listed on his resume a degree that he hadn't really earned, the real world has caught up with me: Marilee Jones, dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was revealed to have claimed three degrees that she had not actually earned. MIT let her go, despite the fact that, by all accounts, she was very good at her job.

Here's what my readers would have done in a similar situation: "Liars can't be trusted in business," writes Wendy Hagmaier of Long Beach, Calif. "You should get rid of the offender."

Joe Read of Anaheim, Calif., wouldn't be so draconian. If the company's policy makes such deception grounds for dismissal, he writes, he would fire the employee. Otherwise, however, he would negotiate a lower salary that better reflects his actual credentials and work with the employee to help him get something of "even more worth: his degree and a greater appreciation of integrity."

"Honesty is a two-way street," writes Leslie Ray of Portland, Ore., who brings an unusual personal experience to the topic.

For years, Ray reports, her husband's relationship with various employers would sour after a few weeks. Finally one employer told him that he had "misrepresented himself." He discovered that companies checking his credentials didn't know that he had changed his name, and for that reason were unable to corroborate his military or educational history -- a situation that he quickly remedied.

Check out other opinions at SOUND OFF: FALSE CREDENTIALS, or post your own by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business" (The Right Thing book from amazon.com) is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of http://www.jeffreyseglin.com, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 609 Greenwich St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10014-3610.

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