Multiple Employment Terminations Are a Problem – So is Lying About Them
Strength of character, trustworthiness, reliability, honesty, and sound judgement are the traits and characteristics employers want from their workers. The same goes for determining whether to grant someone access to classified national security information. So how does your behavior at work relate to whether you are granted a security clearance? There are specific questions on the SF-86 that ask the reasons for leaving an employment or if you were terminated, disciplined or counseled for any reason while working there. The purpose of this is to identify patterns of behavior that may not be compatible for holding a security clearance. Failure to follow rules, bad attitude, personality conflicts, tardiness, or carelessness are some behaviors of concern. These issues fall under Personal Conduct in the adjudicative guidelines. As an example, here is a summary of a recent Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals case involving adverse employment history and a lack of candor:
The applicant was terminated from three separate companies over the course of 6 years. On his SF-86 he failed to list them involuntary terminations and instead, couched his answers as leaving employment for a better job. When confronted by the background investigator about this he initially continued to deny he had any problems at those jobs. After further probing and multiple interviews, the applicant finally admitted to being fired for getting into confrontations with other workers, being negligent in covering his post, and refusing to accept shift changes or duties he thought were not in his job description. The judge was not swayed by the applicant’s claim that the reason for not disclosing these was because he thought they were minor incidents that were misconstrued by others.
This was a fairly easy appeal for the judge to make a ruling on and I really liked one of the citations quoted in the decision summary – “The security clearance investigation is not the forum for an applicant to split hairs or parse the truth narrowly”. In short, this means answer the questions being asked truthfully. Clearance eligibility was denied and I would also venture to say, even if the applicant had been up front about the terminations and the reasons why, it would have been fifty-fifty on him getting a favorable determination.