July 8, 2021
It seems that all is not fair in love and war, as a former LANL employee is appealing his firing over doing a background check on his date, Santa Fe New Mexican reports.
Last year, Justin Vermillion was a worker at Los Alamos National Labs (LANL). After chatting to a woman on a dating app, he decided to take things further by inviting her on a date. However, due to the woman being from a “sensitive” foreign country (according to LANL’s classification), Vermillion decided to use the lab’s resources to run a background check on her as a precaution before their in-person meeting.
After the news got out, Vermillion was fired on August 5, 2020. The reason for his termination was a breach of the lab’s policy. According to the policy, employees are prohibited from using its cybersecurity systems for personal matters.
However, the former LANL employee is now contesting the outcome of his termination. In a petition filed last week in the First Judicial District Court, Vermillion is complaining about the state Department of Workforce Solutions denying him jobless benefits after his termination. He claims that he was an exemplary employee during his time at LANL, or, as the complaint states:
“When an employee who has no prior disciplinary record and has received an award recognizing his outstanding contributions to the Lab as well as received an excellent performance evaluation engages in a single act of bad judgment, does that … rise to the level of misconduct warranting disqualification of receipt of unemployment benefits?”
The complaint adds that personal relationships were never clearly defined in the ethics and conflicts of interest training from the lab. Also added was the claim that Vermillion had no personal relationship with the subject of his background check, as it had happened before he met her.
The Ethics of Background Checks
Nevertheless, Vermillion breached his employer’s policy and is suffering the consequences of his actions. Working in the cybersecurity field, he had access to resources an everyday person doesn’t, so the use of these resources for personal reasons is against the law.
Although background checks do contain publicly available data, there still are certain rules surrounding them. For example, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “It’s illegal to check the background of applicants and employees when that decision is based on a person’s race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information (including family medical history), or age (40 or older).”
As a viable alternative for “regular” people, background check websites can prove useful for many situations, such as getting more details about a new acquaintance and especially dating. A “tamer” version of background check websites are people search websites that only focus on locating a person of interest.