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Can I be charged with false statements for lying to my employer?

Can I Be Charged for Lying to My Employer?

Getting caught lying to your boss can definitely get you fired. But could it also lead to criminal charges? In some cases, yes.

If your lies are serious enough, you may face charges like fraud or falsifying records. For example, if you lied about having a college degree to get hired, your employer could potentially press charges. Or if you lied about hours worked to get paid for time you didn’t actually work, that could be considered theft.

What Kinds of Lies Can Lead to Charges?

Some of the main types of lies to an employer that could lead to legal trouble include:

  • Lying on a job application, resume, or during the interview process – Saying you have credentials, education, or experience that you don’t actually have in order to get hired can constitute fraud under the law.
  • Lying about medical issues or injuries from work – If you fake an injury to collect workers’ compensation benefits, that’s insurance fraud.
  • Lying about hours worked – Getting paid for hours you didn’t work essentially means stealing money from the company.
  • Covering up mistakes or violations – Falsifying safety or financial records to hide mistakes on the job could lead to charges like obstruction of justice.

What Laws Cover This?

There are a patchwork of laws, both federal and state, that make it a crime to lie or misrepresent in certain situations. Some of the main ones are:

  • 18 U.S. Code § 1001 – Broadly makes it a federal offense to lie or conceal facts from any federal agency or department. Lying to a private employer is not covered under this statute.
  • State fraud statutes – Most states have laws against false representations made to secure employment or benefits. For example, New York Penal Code Section 175.35 makes it a misdemeanor to falsify credentials or lie about qualifications to obtain employment.
  • Perjury laws – Lying under oath, such as in a deposition or court case against an employer, can lead to perjury charges.
  • Obstruction of justice laws – Covering up violations or lying to investigators looking into workplace misconduct can constitute obstruction.

So in situations where your lies interfere with an official investigation or proceeding, lead to unjust enrichment, or violate specific fraud laws, criminal charges are possible.

What Are Some Examples From Case Law?

There are many real-world examples of employees getting prosecuted for lying to their employers:

  • In United States v. Kloess, an employee was convicted of wire fraud after lying about being an architect to get a job. He had dropped out of college but fabricated transcripts showing an architecture degree. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison.
  • A Texas man was convicted of felony theft after lying about the hours he worked as a security guard, pocketing over $200,000 for hours he didn’t actually work.
  • In State v. James, a police officer was charged with felony obstruction and misdemeanor false reporting after lying about how a suspect was injured during an arrest. She was found guilty and sentenced to 60 days in jail.

As you can see, lies that enable bigger offenses like fraud or theft, or that obstruct official investigations, frequently incur charges.

What Are Some Common Defenses People Use?

Those facing charges for lying to an employer have a few legal defenses that may apply in their cases:

  • Free speech – The First Amendment protects some lies as free speech, unless they cause specific material harm. But lies used to gain employment, compensation or benefits often fall outside this protection.
  • Mistake or lack of intent – For some fraud charges, prosecutors must prove you knowingly and intentionally meant to mislead or conceal facts from your employer. If errors result from misunderstandings or carelessness instead of willful deception, it can defeat charges.
  • Duress – In some cases, employees can claim they lied because of threats or coercion from a superior or others in the company. But this can be difficult to prove.
  • Statute of limitations – There is a limited time period after lies occur during which charges can be filed. If it has expired, a solid limitations defense can dismiss the case.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate whether arguments like these apply given the specific charges and facts involved.

What Are the Consequences If You’re Convicted?

The penalties for lying to an employer depend on what offenses you end up charged with. Common consequences can include:

  • Fines – Most false statement and fraud statutes allow fines up to ,250,000.
  • Jail or prison time – While short jail terms are common, some fraud convictions carry years in prison.
  • Restitution – You may have to pay back any financial gains from your lies, like wages for hours you didn’t actually work.
  • Probation – Terms often include community service or ethics classes.
  • Loss of licenses – Some professions require licenses that can be suspended or revoked if criminally convicted.
  • Immigration consequences – Non-citizens charged with employer fraud often face removal proceedings.

These consequences can follow you for years and seriously impact your finances, freedom, and career. That’s why it’s critical to have an attorney challenge the charges against you or negotiate a favorable plea deal.

Be Cautious About Workplace Lies

While small white lies are generally no big deal, bolder lies solely to benefit yourself can definitely cross legal lines. And with whistleblowers and sophisticated fraud detection, getting caught is increasingly likely.

So before fudging the truth, educating yourself on the law and understanding the risks you run are wise ideas. An ounce of prevention here can save you from very unpleasant legal headaches down the road.

18 U.S. Code § 1001
New York Penal Code Section 175.35
United States v. Kloess
State v. James

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