I am good friends with the H.R. manager at our company. I confided in her that I was interested in a new employee who works for a different department than mine. He and I have talked at lunch and I am pretty sure we were headed toward a first date. My friend the H.R. manager told me that I should look elsewhere because the new employee once served time in prison. She also told me not to tell anyone else. Shouldn’t the company let us know if an ex-convict is working here so we can take steps to protect ourselves?
— Close Call
The person you need to protect yourself from is your friend the H.R. Manager. Any secret you may have told her in the past is about as private as something posted on Facebook. Be sure to get her personal telephone number if you want to stay in touch because she may not be one of your co-workers much longer. She should be fired or at least demoted if she can’t keep confidential information confidential. A blabber-mouth like her has no business running any H.R. department.
Nelson Mandela has a prison record. Martha Stewart has a prison record. Tim Allen has a prison record. Adolph Hitler had a — never mind. The Beatles have lots of records. The fact that your co-worker might have a prison record is not enough for you to avoid him. However, the fact that your H.R. Manager is so indiscrete is a reason to consider cooling things off with her. At a minimum, stop telling her things that you don’t want the rest of the workforce to know.
— Evil Skippy
You probably do not have enough information to make a sane decision. First, the H.R. Manager may be wrong (or lying). Second, if he does have a prison record, you don’t know how old that record is. If your new co-worker got out of prison last week for domestic violence related assaults – by all means stay away from him. If he served time for burglary fifteen years ago and has been a model citizen ever since, the guy is probably no more risky than any other person you might meet. (I am not just making that up. According to Carnegie Mellon researchers, after five years of maintaining a clean criminal record, an ex-convict is no more likely than someone who has never committed a crime of committing another crime.) I seriously doubt your employer would have hired a person with a known prison record if they thought the person was a risk.
Here’s what I would do. Keep talking to the fellow at lunch or when you cross paths. If it feels like a date-worthy relationship – ask him out or say yes if he asks you. Then and only then, if you still have an interest in pursuing a relationship, tell him about the rumor you heard and let him explain if he wants to do so. It’s always better not to make decisions until you know the relevant facts. Right now, you don’t know much.