What All Employers Can Learn from the Allegations of an Epic Collegiate Cheating Scam

The widely reported allegations of a mass collegiate cheating scam have stunned and enraged students, parents, educators, and many others.

In case you happen to have been vacationing for the past several weeks without internet service, the contours of the alleged scam involve fraudulent test taking and numerous bribes to college officials at various levels, including coaches. If the allegations are true, the scam will prove to have been of epic proportion. To be sure, the scam has engendered countless dinner table discussions about “right vs. wrong”, is there really such a thing as a true “meritocracy”, and many other soul searching questions.

The alleged scam should serve as a cautionary tale for employers about the importance of establishing sound hiring practices and consistently following them. Employers that fail to adopt and/or consistently apply sound hiring practices and procedures invite claims of discrimination and favoritism, weaken and jeopardize employee trust, cause employees to wonder (justifiably) if everyone is actually playing by the same set of rules, and weaken their brand.

In practice, what does this mean and what constructive steps should employers consider taking? At a minimum, employers should consider the following:

  • Review, preferably with experienced counsel, existing hiring practices and procedures to ensure that job descriptions properly reflect the primary duties and responsibilities that employees perform and will be expected to perform.
  • Establish practices for selecting candidates that are quantifiable and appropriate for the particular position.
  • Train (and re-train) managers on questions that they may legally ask and not ask during the hiring process, as well as information that they may lawfully obtain about candidates (either directly or indirectly).
  • Ensure that only designated individuals are authorized to communicate offers of employment.
  • Ensure that the conditions associated with an offer of employment (i.e., background checks and reference checks, etc.) are consistently applied to all candidates.
  • Establish sound procedures for orienting new employees.
  • Establish and consistently apply procedures for mentoring.
  • Establish and consistently apply sound procedures for monitoring the performance of employees, particularly in the first 90 – 120 days of employment.

The full nature and extent of the consequences associated with the alleged collegiate cheating scam remain to be seen. College and other school administrators who use the allegations as a clarion call to scrutinize their application procedures stand to position themselves well in the months and years ahead.

More broadly, employers of all types that strive to understand the parallels between the college application process and the employment hiring process; scrutinize their own hiring processes and procedures; and remedy actual, perceived, or prospective flaws in those processes and procedures are likely to be rewarded by job candidates, existing employees, customers, and in the marketplace.

Marc Engel is an employment attorney experienced in providing successful strategies for managing employees and preventing employment claims. For more information, contact Marc at 301-657-0184 or [email protected].