What Can I Do About False Information in My Background Investigation Results?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about negative information
in a background database. 

I was labeled a thief on a contributory database without any due process or them contacting my professional board. It is viewed by any company that subscribes to it. I’ve been turned down for 1200 jobs. What gives? I have three degrees!

I can imagine how terrible it would be to have incorrect information or skewed information, on such a database. Keep in mind that background investigation providers do not create the information, they combine reports from a variety of sources, put it together and present it to clients as an overview of history regarding the subject’s finances, criminal history and sometimes, their social website history. (Clients pay for the level of investigation they wish to have done.)

So, it is likely that other databases would have the same information. Often the failure with all such background companies is in delving further to find out if, for example, a charge was expunged after a sentence was served or if restitution was made and the case was then dismissed. However, nearly always the defense of background companies is that they only report what they have taken from official files, so the grievance should be aimed at those who maintain those files.

Some states have state statutes about how often reporting companies have to update their files, so if your situation is because of that, it may be they have violated a state law. But, you would need an attorney to best deal with that issue.

1. Consider going directly to the background company to dispute the information in your file. Check their website and find out what to do if you feel the information is in error. Most of them have an FAQ, with that as one of the frequently asked questions.

If you challenge the records, you will need to provide proof or statements that can be verified, to show the truth of the matter.

2. At the same time, you need to get your police records or other sources of information corrected. You may need to hire an attorney to help you with this or may be able to do it yourself, if you have good documentation to show why there is an error.

3. If you did, in fact, get charged with a crime, but it is not the crime being reported on the database, you will need to have an attorney assist with getting court records changed or police records changed, to reflect the correct charge.

4. If you get to an interview, perhaps you can be proactive and mention the situation and why it doesn’t apply to your suitability for employment. Some people incorporate positive references by current employers right into their resume letter or letter of interest. Nowadays, a lot of hiring is done online, so the personal communication is missing, but perhaps you will have a chance to talk to a real person about it.

5. If you have been doing a good job in your current work, perhaps your employer could link you with someone in the geographical area in which you are seeking employment.

Your case certainly does point out why it is crucial for reporting companies to maintain accurate records—and why prospective employees should keep track of their own criminal and financial records, before they need to have them reviewed. Most of us, including me, never think to check on ourselves or correct errors. Then, when we need to have a good looking file, it’s too late to stop the errors from going out. In your case, it seems it would be worth the money investment to have someone help you cleanse your record as much as possible.

I wish you the very best with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Rowe
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How To Regain Good Feelings About Work After Forced Drug Test?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about emotions
after being required to take a drug test. 

Question: I was accused of being under the influence at my job, I was randomly drug tested and had to wait 3-5 business days to find out that I was ‘cleared’ to return to work. It was extremely humiliating because I was made out to be drug addict, and if not that then some other personality defect was causing me to act like I was on drugs. Very hurtful!

I returned to work and I didn’t even receive an attempt at an apology from any of my bosses that were so quick to accuse me. I had thought I was more valued as an employee than to be treated like that.

How do I return to work after something like that? I don’t feel secure anymore and I will always question who smiled in my face and said such horrible things behind my back. I feel like everything about me is wrong now. How do I move on past this in a healthy way? I jumped through their hoops even though I knew what the outcome would be.

=&0=&Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. I can well understand that you feel badly about all that has happened. If I read your question accurately, you didn’t take a random drug test (in which employee’s are picked “at random” to be administered a urine or hair sample test, to see if they have illicit drugs in their system.) Instead, you were required by your supervisor to take a mandatory drug test, because something happened that was a matter of extreme concern to your supervisor or manager and they are investigating the cause of the problem, before they decide what else to do about it.  

Drug tests and how they are handled, may be regulated, at least in part, by your state’s Department of Labor. You may want to check the website for them, to find out if there are guidelines or rules for employers, so you can verify that your situation was handled appropriately. There may also be something about mandatory drug testing in some of the HR material your company has distributed.

If there was absolutely no event that could have been used as a justification for a mandatory drug test, perhaps you can make a complaint to your organization’s Human Resource person or department. If you have coworkers who will testify to some aspect of the situation, it would be helpful for supporting your complaint.

However, I will assume that your supervisor or manager could justify to higher levels, a mandatory drug test (whether or not you agree with their reasoning). I think it is imperative that you take the initiative to talk about this to your supervisor as soon as possible. If you were required to take a drug test, it was probably just one part of an investigation about an event or a series of events, which created a disruption or was a violation of policies, procedures or rules. You say that you were made out to be a drug addict or if not, that some personality defect was causing you to act like you were on drugs. You didn’t mention it in your question, but you probably know what the behavior was that caused the problems.

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Is There a Time Limit for Reporting Inappropriate Touching at Work?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about
reporting inappropriate touching at work.

I was with my co-worker and he told me that a guy likes me. Then, he asked me, “If you don’t mind, can I take pictures with you to make this guy feel angry?” He was joking with me, so I replied OK.

Things started getting weird when he started getting closer. He put his lips near my chin and I told him I’m feeling uncomfortable. Then he started doing it again and kissed me on my lips. I was shocked! He took the picture really quickly. I told him he could take photos from a distance and he took a selfie of us sitting together. He sent the pic of us sitting together, then I asked for his phone and deleted the picture. When I was deleting his picture he started to touch my breast. I told him “Please stop, I don’t like it” Then I left the scene and never reported it to anyone.

Four days later I told my sister and I told my parents. I told them I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid people will spread rumors about me. Even though I didn’t tell anyone, another coworker called the perpetrator’s wife and told her that we are having an affair. He called me and apologized. He also told my sister I didn’t say anything to him.

I told him that I gave consent to take the pictures, but I didn’t know he would make me uncomfortable and offend me. I didn’t give him consent to kiss me or touch me. I would like to know how many days is the right time to report an incident. For example, is it too late to report, after a week. And, is this sexual harassment and psychological harassment by my coworker for spreading false rumors?

I get the impression you do not live in the United States, so the company policies in businesses there, may not be the same as here. I also don’t know the kind of workplace culture you deal with. If you are in a professional office, it would probably be different than if you were in a restaurant or a small shop. However, there are nearly always rules and policies, in any country and in any workplace, about behaviors that create problems between employees or that could create a negative reputation for the company. According to what you can prove about the actions of the employee, there might even be a law violation.

In answer to your question about the time factor for reporting harassment or inappropriate activities: You should report any incident of any sexually inappropriate behavior by an employee to you, right away. However, even if you delay for a long time, you can still report it at any time in the future and most organizations will be concerned enough to investigate it. What happens will depend upon how severe the violation was and what the circumstances are now.

In your case, only a short amount of time has passed, so it is certainly not too late to make a complaint about the coworker who touched you inappropriately. It is also not too late to report the potentially very harmful actions of the other coworker who called the other first coworker’s wife about it. Neither behavior is probably going to be considered harassment, unless it has happened repeatedly. But, your employer or organization will probably have rules and guidelines about actions that create conflicts in the workplace.

That is the answer to your question, but I would like to add this as well: This situation was completely avoidable and it points out how both men and women need to take personal responsibility for the things that happen at work. I’m sure one reason this is so upsetting to you is because you want to have a very positive reputation. That is a worthy goal and you can achieve it by being excellent at the work you are paid to do and by being pleasant and a positive member of the work team. Be appropriately friendly to everyone, but don’t get involved in personal conversations while you are work, especially in situations like the one you describe.

Your coworker wasn’t joking around in a friendly way, it sounds to me as though he was being sly and trying to look for a way to get close enough to touch you. He clearly wasn’t acting in a professional manner and he wasn’t looking out for your reputation when he talked to you about someone else liking you. He said he wanted to make the other person angry by getting a photo with you. That should have been your warning that he isn’t a nice person to be around and that getting your picture taken was a bad idea. If you have encouraged that kind of conversation and actions in the past, he may have felt you wouldn’t mind. If you have never done anything to encourage it, he was doubly wrong.

The employee who contacted the coworker’s wife is also not a nice person! Decent people who care about others would not do something like that. However, I would imagine you don’t have a good relationship with her and she wanted to cause problems for you as well as for the other employee. Someone who liked you wouldn’t have done that. Aim to have a pleasant and courteous relationship with all employees and have a reputation for not joking around inappropriately. It reduces the chance that anyone would want to cause you problems by telling a lie about you.

This was a very negative experience, and I can understand how you would have been upset and not wanting to say anything about it. But, you can learn something positive from it. You can move forward and make it a good reminder about how joking around at work, without using good judgment, can lead to big problems.

You can laugh and enjoy the fun things about work. But, you should not let the conversation become personal, sexual or gossipy. And, the second you feel uncomfortable, move away and stop the conversation completely. Don’t let anyone push you into thing you don’t want to do.

I would bet that the next time someone wants to take joking photo or video or wants to talk to you about something personal, alarm bells will go off in your mind! It is a lot less likely to happen again, if you make a point of communicating with others in a way that shows you are a mature person who wants to perform and behave at your very best.

When you are at work, be the kind of person you want to be in all areas of your life. Be a coworker, friend and family member who others can admire and respect. When you do that, you will find that you can avoid upsetting experiences such as the one you’re dealing with now.

When you talk to your supervisor or manager, state the facts just as they happened and say you want their help to make sure you can work without being embarrassed or fearful about the actions of your coworker or the gossip of the other coworker. If your own behavior is questioned or criticized, just say that you didn’t realize how your efforts to be friendly by joking with the coworker might look, and you won’t do it again.

Best wishes to you with this situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how it works out for you.
Tina Rowe
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My Work Group Gossips About Patients

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about unprofessional communication of a work group:

I work at a clinic/hospital as a nurse or dr’s assistant and I love my job, but, I am unhappy with the level of unprofessionalism of my coworkers. They tend to gossip about the patients and share information that should be kept private. I’ve tried to change the subject, but no one listens to me. This also makes it difficult for me and other nurses to focus on getting work done, which can lead to other issues and mistakes. How do I get my gossipy coworkers to follow protocol and focus on our work rather than talking about patients private information? Signed–Unhappy With Gossip

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What Can Happen About an Accusation That I Started a Rumor?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being accused
of starting a rumor at work. 

Hi, I’m going to try and do this without names as I feel like I’ve been singled out for a witch hunt. I have been accused of starting a rumor about my supervisor (A) while she was on maternity leave. The rumor I am being accused of starting is that I said our manager (B) was unhappy with the work my supervisor(A) was doing and that she would be not welcomed back into our department. That the supervisor(A) would be re-positioned elsewhere or fired and replaced, and that a specific employee(C) would be taking on my supervisor’s(A) position. read more

I’m a Target of Coworkers

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworkers’ gossip:

I work in a call center where we take incoming calls. Two of my coworkers whom I work with on the weekends has accused me of several things:

  1. I go on breaks but set my phone on admin or training. Also that I logout of my phone during the shift to spend time with colleagues or go to the local supermarket.
  2. I watch videos on the computer using earphones by covering it up with my headscarf.

Their evidence is that they has seen me do these things and that I have told them I do it (I have not). read more

Should I Tell My Boss About Rumors?

I was approached by upper management about rumors of a suspected romantic relationship between my boss and his now ex-boss who left the company several weeks ago. Both of the accused are married.

I understand the rumors – they traveled a lot for work, often driving long distances together, and he’s out of the office a lot since his ex-boss is no longer employed by same company. However, there is no evidence at all that anything has happened.

I have been asked specifically if I knew of anything that would incriminate either or if I had anything to share. I honestly don’t. And even being brought into personal affections between two of my coworkers, that I was clueless about beforehand, has really made me uncomfortable.
I am inclined to let it die on its own but what are your thoughts? Do I speak up and let my boss know there are rumors? Do I share the awkward conversation with HR? What’s one to do?

To summarize your question: Your boss and his former boss, who is no longer employed by your company, are suspected of having had a romantic relationship and perhaps still continuing the relationship. You were asked about it by upper management and truthfully said you saw no indications of such a relationship. You are wondering if you should tell your boss about the rumors and the investigation.

If upper management is asking you about this situation in a formal way, rather than a gossipy way, most likely HR is aware of it or will be soon. If upper management told you the investigation was confidential and directed you to not discuss it with anyone, you should not say anything to your boss. Even if they didn’t tell you to keep it a secret, there is a reasonable expectation that internal investigations will not be discussed with anyone, especially not with the subject of the investigation or rumors.

You also ask about another significant issue: If you tell your boss about the rumors and investigation, should you report his comments to HR? (If you meant should you report the conversation you had with upper management, the same answer applies). If you do that, you will probably be viewed by upper management and HR—and by your boss, if he finds out—as a covert informant for the company. That isn’t a good position to be in and not a good reputation to have. Or, upper management and HR may view that you were wrong to discuss the investigation and you will be in more trouble than your boss.

Because of the potential negative results, I don’t think you should tell your boss that you were contacted by upper management and asked about the relationship between him and his former boss. If there is nothing to the rumors, the investigation may, as you put it, “die on its own”. If there is something provable and the company wants to invoke a sanction of some kind against your boss, telling him about it won’t make any difference in the outcome. He may be aware of the rumors and the investigation anyway and has chosen to not discuss it with you or anyone else.

It’s unfortunate that you have been placed in this awkward situation, but you should keep your responsibilities as an employee of the company in mind as you decide how to handle it. You have already helped your boss in the best way possible, by being truthful about not seeing evidence of a relationship and by not adding to the gossip and rumors.

Best wishes to you about this matter. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decided and how it works out.

Tina Rowe
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Get Them Off the Gossip Train

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about dealing with gossip and office problems as an assistant:

My workplace is very small (12 people). I just began working there in January. Even though I am a very positive and upbeat person, sometimes the gossip that goes on is tough to maneuver around.

I really like people, and I like everyone to be happy. While I know that I cannot always make everyone happy, I do want to try to do so as often as possible. I am the assistant office manager, and sometimes, others come to me and tell me about issues they are experiencing in hopes that I may offer them some empathy, or that I will join in on their side. While I’m happy to offer empathy if it is deserved (i.e. someone is not feeling well), often, it’s talk about others and office problems. read more

Should I Apologize?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a big mistake caused by gossip.

I recently gossiped about a coworker and I feel horrible about it. The story may be long but it may help to get where I’m coming from. I’m an inexperienced, shy, young guy and I met a girl who caught my interest at a job I got a few months ago. My first mistake was telling a couple of my coworkers about my interest with this girl. It spread throughout my entire department and everyone made it their mission to get this girl to go out with me. I awkwardly talked to her a few times and I thought I wasn’t going to get anywhere. One day my coworker said I should message her, I did and got nervous. I asked him for advice and he took my phone and asked her out for me. She agreed to my surprise, I wouldn’t have gone out with me at that point, considering that we hardly spoke to each other. We went to a Starbucks she wanted to go to and it was not a proud moment for me. I knew I was boring, I was uncomfortable and I wanted to go home but stayed for an hour until she “had” to leave.

It was obvious she wasn’t interested but it didn’t end as bad as I thought so I asked her out a few days later. She gave me an excuse of why she couldn’t go out with me so I waited until I saw her at work. I was nervous when I talked to her and she gave me an uninviting response so I was going to leave and get over her. That little voice in my head said I was over thinking it so I waited until her shift was over. I talked to a male coworker of mine while I waited and it turns out he was waiting for the girl I was waiting for. She hurried out the door with him and I was upset. I went to work the next day and I vented to a coworker who was working her last day. I felt better but then the girl I went out with texted me saying it wasn’t going to work out between me and her.

I knew that already, I literally saw it with my own eyes. I assumed she thought I was stupid because she had to give me confirmation that I had no chance, as if it wasn’t clear enough. This made me angry and I told a few coworkers what happened, it spread throughout the first floor of the store and I’m not proud of what I did. I knew I should’ve kept it to myself, I lost my cool and I regretted it and I know that’s a poor excuse. I was my own worst critic and thought about quitting to avoid the drama I caused. I stayed because it would have looked too dramatic if I quit after that. Turns out that my coworkers were on my side; she was wrong for leading me on and they had a low opinion of her.

I never meant for that to happen, I was not trying to get people on my side or even take a side, I just blindly rage vented. A month has passed since then, I don’t see her anymore but I hear that the girl is still working at the store. I started working on myself after I told people about the situation; I was building confidence, keeping personal things to myself, to make sure I won’t do something this stupid again, and I started to make some progress last week. I was going to let this issue die out, but I feel awful. It’s awkward seeing her now significant other at work and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should apologize to her for telling people about her business or to leave it alone. People seem very uneasy towards me now and I don’t know what to do about any of this.
Signed, another f***up.

Dear Overthink,

I prefer to address you as overthink rather than as “another f***up.” Perhaps the better label for yourself is “Learning From My Mistakes” because your careful appraisal of the situation is evidence of that. Therefore there is no need that my advice be lengthy:

  • Let the past be past. Don’t allow this mistake to play like a broken record stuck on “stupid guy” “stupid guy” “stupid guy” punishing yourself again and again. Learning is an ongoing process, especially learning how to cope with feelings.
  • Don’t apologize. Leave it alone. If you two happened to have a moment in private (and that’s not likely) and she expresses her anger at you, then you can say, “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you as I have myself. I apologize for ever telling anyone I was attracted by you. I hope you can forgive me.”
  • Shift your focus to your job and your career.  The comment “People seem very uneasy towards me now” likely is more in your head than theirs. You are too focused on yourself. You are hired to do a job. Do it. What will make your performance the kind that you would want if you owned the place? How can you make your internal and external customers pleased with what you do? How can you be more efficient and effective? In your account of your gossip, you don’t ever mention your job or customers. How can you cut wasting supplies, cut wasted time, cut wasted energy, cut wasted money? How can you manage your own time better? If you focus on pleasing coworkers by making their jobs easier, they will see of you as the kind of coworker they want to have around.
  • Answer unstated questions that are in every encounter you have with a coworker or customer—Why you? Why me? Why are you here? What do you want? What good is that to me? Such questions are ones that will put what you are doing in perspective. They will also take your mind off of what you are not paid to do. I don’t know how this particular job fits into your career plans, or even if you have any plans. But I do know that as the saying goes “none of us plan to fail, but we fail because we fail to plan.” See today as one day lost if you are not gaining experience that adds information on your career path. Just as eventually finding someone you love and who will love you is an ongoing process of elimination and discovery and, so is a career path a process of elimination and discovery. Think big. Learn the costs of overhead in our workplace? Know how many are employed? What areas make it the most money? Gradually learn different aspects of the business, even if you don’t plan to stay there. Such knowledge will make you better at your job and to know when if ever to leave.
  • Treasure good feeling moments. By that I mean such things as completing an assignment, doing something well, getting to work a few minutes early, prioritizing what you do. Achieving even minor things tells us we deserve to be employed. Cheering on a coworker, helping someone with a task, showing empathy stirs within us good feeling moments. Good feeling moments add up to satisfaction with what you are doing now or if you don’t have them, you know it is time to change your behavior or move on.
  • Value talk. Talk to yourself. Make some of that good talk. Develop rules about what you will and will not talk about to coworkers (I know you have made a rule not to gossip about personal matters). Spell out rules about how to talk on topics that can make your area of work more effective. Talk about what should be on the agenda of your work group.
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