Watching out for the weasel words

Oh, the irony of the background check!” was the headline on a story in the Pocono Record in February. One of their readers offered the following.

A few months ago, I applied for a job at the new distribution center in Gouldsboro. I had the interview, got hired, passed the urine test, then they do a background check which they find a misdemeanor theft charge from two years ago, which was over some coins. I was accused of stealing, but since I was there, I could not prove I did not. Anyway, they told me they could not hire me.

Let’s look at this because it illustrates some issues about hiring that are important. Wording is a good place to begin.

The person refers to “misdemeanor theft charge from two years ago, which was over some coins.” Clearly he’s trying to put things in the best light. In the ad business those would be called “weasel words.”

It may have been a misdemeanor, but it was probably a conviction, not just a charge. Certain criminal databases, like SentryLink, that businesses use for background checks don’t note arrests or charges, only convictions. That’s how we interpret the Constitution’s principle of “innocent until proven […]