Employers should ensure all job applicants are fully (and lawfully) vetted and job applicants should ensure their resumes are accurate. Recent events in college basketball underscore the importance of the “trust, but verify” course.

Steve Masiello was an assistant coach at the University of Louisville under head coach and mentor Rick Pitino until he was hired as the head coach at Manhattan College on April 11, 2011. In just three seasons, the 36-year-old Masiello established himself as a rising star in the college coaching ranks. After his team was narrowly defeated by Pitino’s defending national champion Louisville Cardinals in the first (full) round of the 2014 NCAA college basketball tournament, Pitino touted his protégé to be the next head coach for the University of South Florida men’s basketball team.  Masiello and USF agreed in principle to a multi-year contract reportedly worth $5 million. Like so many employment offers, though, the agreement was contingent on USF’s verification of Masiello’s credentials.  (See http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/eye-on-college-basketball/24499847/manhattans-masiello-expected-to-accept-offer-to-be-usfs-coach.)

Now, amid a discrepancy discovered during a routine background check, not only has USF decided not to hire Masiello, but it appears his current job may be in jeopardy.

In a statement released March 26, 2014, USF announced that Masiello’s credentials could not be substantiated, and therefore he “did not meet the requirements of the position.” Multiple media outlets reported that Masiello did not graduate from the University of Kentucky as he had indicated on his resume. Later that day, Manhattan College announced it had placed Masiello on leave over a “question of the validity of … Masiello’s undergraduate degree … .” A Manhattan spokesperson later confirmed that a bachelor’s degree is a requirement for the head coaching job at the College.

USF did not cite the apparent falsification as the reason it withdrew its offer. Instead, the University relied on the fact that without the required degree, Masiello could not meet the qualifications for the position. Manhattan College appears to be taking a similar approach.

Courts and administrative agencies tend to have little sympathy with persons misrepresenting their credentials for a job. They have routinely held that resume fraud or the falsification of company documents constitutes a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason not to hire an applicant or to terminate an existing employee. This is true regardless of when the falsification is discovered (i.e., pre- or post-hire). Similarly, arbitrators have found such falsification to meet the higher, “just cause” standard contained in many individual employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements.