In The Workplace

We’re having difficulty fact-checking all information and other documents submitted to us by our newly-hired workers. We can’t get the cooperation of the employees’ past employers, their character references, and other institutions. They’re saying we can’t do it under the privacy law. It appears now that we can only do fact-checking through the help of private investigators. Unfortunately, we don’t have a budget for that. What would you advise us? — White Lily.

A farmer bought a horse and was told by the seller that the animal he’s buying had one fault. He likes to stop and eat mangoes. The farmer said: “We’ll that’s all right. I will make sure we don’t encounter any mangoes on our way. Besides, I don’t even have a single mango tree in my farm.”

He put down his money, mounted the horse and started home. On the way, they had to cross a stream. In the middle, the horse sat down and wouldn’t budge. The farmer walked back to the horse dealer and explained what happened. “Well, now you never said nothing about water, river or even a stream.”

The animal trader explained: “If he can’t get mangoes, he sits where the fishes are.”

In many instances, buyers are often told only half-truths, if not white lies by sellers. The same thing can happen to employers who would want to hire new workers right away, even at the risk of hiring people with dubious backgrounds. That’s why it has become imperative for employers to fact-check.

But how do you intend to do background checking of new employees under the Data Privacy Law and with a zero budget for private investigators? That’s perfectly acceptable if you have a low turnover rate and do not hire many employees. Otherwise, fact-checking becomes a full-time job for you and your organization.

In general, using a combination of the following practical techniques should help you discover the truth, save money, and inject a little breathing room into your busy work schedule:

One, read, study, and comply with the Data Privacy Act of 2012. It’s the law that governs the collection and processing of all information pertaining to employee data. According to the website of Villaraza and Angangco, any “employer is a personal information controller under the Data Privacy Act when it is involved in controlling the collection, holding, processing and use of the information of its employees.

“It is required to implement ‘reasonable and appropriate organizational, physical, and technical security measures for the protection of personal data.’ Employers must register with the National Privacy Commission if they employ at least 250 employees.”

Two, require all newly-hired workers to give their written consent. This can be done by requiring the workers to sign an application for employment form and an employment contract in which they vouch for the accuracy of all information they have submitted to you. This authorizes you to verify the same with the concerned character references and institutions.

Note the difference between an application for employment and an employment contract in this context. These documents provide “shotgun” protection for you and at the same time simplify and reduce the number of documents you require employees. Aside from these two “shotgun” documents, be prepared to handle requests by organizations that may require you to have specific consent signed and addressed to it by the new employees.

Three, make a distinction between staff-level hires and officer level. Or between employees holding key positions and non-key positions. “Key positions” here include both management and rank-and-file jobs that perform confidential and sensitive functions related to the company’s trade secrets, product formulas, financial data, compensation, and other related information.

For employees from cooperatives and manpower agencies, you may seek their written guaranty that they vouch for the character and competence of their workers assigned to work for your organization. If the hire is executive or management level, you can seek the endorsement of the head hunter. It’s also advisable that these third-party service providers stand behind their recommendees with an airtight one-strike policy written into your service agreements with them.

Four, verify the employees’ credit history and standing. This is often ignored by employers who think it has nothing to do with the employees’ capacity to perform their jobs. They are partly correct. Unfortunately, what many people don’t know, including employers who are often in a rush to hire people, is the fact that people with bad credit standing are susceptible to committing fraud, theft, gambling, even illegal drugs and other illegal activities.

According to Glassdoor, “(e)mployment background credit checks aren’t necessary for all employees, but they’re strongly advisable, even essential, for those who handle large amounts of cash or other kinds of financial transactions, bookkeeping, or the management of company accounts.”

Five, network with as many industry management professionals. Networking is key. It is one single approach to make your life easy. If you’re personally known to people and their organization, it would be easy for you to know many important information that could not be put down in writing. A simple phone call would solve the problem and you may not even need a written employee consent to do all of this.

There’s one caveat though. You must earn the trust of these people and should be able to reciprocate as by giving the same information, even exceed their expectations when they ask for your help in the future. At times, your network could help open doors for a lucrative job opportunity that you don’t know about. Indeed, the more industry professionals you know, the better for your job and personal career.

Last, give substantive and procedural due process to employees who mislead you. Dismissal from employment is not automatic. Be sure to follow your company’s disciplinary policy in terms of giving the concerned employees the right to explain themselves. To avoid a protracted labor case, it is imperative that you follow the law on due process.

Once a management decision is reached to fire someone, it should be done promptly and without fanfare. Whatever happens, give the employee the chance to resign voluntarily if it’s allowed by your top management. Firing someone is not an easy thing to do. You may need to do it if only to protect the company’s interests.

ELBONOMICS: Stand up for truth even if it means hurting and firing someone.


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