More than two-thirds of the HR professionals voting in the Feb. 4-11 HR.BLR.com poll
said they disagreed with a Florida employer's decision to hold open an entry-level
HR job for someone who'd been arrested the night before her starting date on
prescription drug fraud charges.
That someone happened to be Noelle Bush, daughter of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
and niece of President Bush.
Nearly half (48 percent) of the 765 voters in the poll said they wouldn't
have held the job open for Bush regardless of her family connections.
An additional 20 percent said they would have found someone else simply because
they couldn't afford to wait.
About one-quarter of the voters (24 percent) said they would have let Bush
keep the job on the condition that she passed a drug test.
Only 8 percent of the voters would have let Bush start work unconditionally.
That includes the 7 percent who said they would have done so regardless of her
family connections and the 1 percent who wanted to avoid bad publicity for their
Bush, 24, had been scheduled to start work last month with Infinity Software
Development Inc. But Tallahassee police arrested her the night before she was
to have started, accusing her of trying to fill a false prescription for the
sedative Xanax. Immediately, Infinity promised to hold the position for Bush
until she became "available to return to the workforce."
Bush has since been admitted to a drug treatment program, according to her
lawyer, Peter Antonacci. She will spend whatever time is needed there before
returning to Tallahassee to face the charge, Antonacci said on Feb. 8.
you hold Noelle Bush's job open for her?
- No, regardless of who she is.
- Yes, if she passed a drug test.
- No, we couldn't wait.
- Yes, regardless of who she is.
- Yes, to avoid bad PR.
conducted on HR.BLR.com Feb. 4-11. Total votes: 765.
Drug prescription fraud is a third-degree felony in Florida, and the penalties
can include up to five years in prison. But as a first-time offender, Bush would
likely get less if she were convicted, a prosecutor told the Associated Press.
A spirited discussion
Contrary to the lopsided poll results, the accompanying discussion in the HR.BLR.com
Community section found HR people almost evenly split on the Bush case, with
passionate arguments made on both sides.
There were plenty of reasons given to let Bush go.
Joy Miller, human resources/training coordinator for Louisiana Community Care
in Pineville, Louisiana, said the arrest was enough to raise questions about
how Bush might behave on the job. "The question is, would Ms. Bush falsify
and misrepresent while on duty?" Miller asked. "Would the agency be
She supplied her own answer to both questions: "Yes."
Others said they would have turned Bush away simply for not showing up on the
Candice Trevino of Varco, an oilfield-services company based in Houston, said
she'd assume that Bush was not an employee until the day she arrived to start
work. Therefore, "if she didn't show up I would proceed with replacing
her," Trevino wrote. "There is no indication of how long she would
need to be out."
She also asked rhetorically: "Is the company responsible for providing
leave benefits to someone who has not earned them yet? Don't think so."
But wait a minute, others wrote. Isn't everyone innocent until proven guilty?
"Since an arrest is not a conviction, this should not affect the decision
to employ this candidate," wrote Becky McClain, president of HR Strategic
Inc., a San Diego-based consulting firm. "If she were a current employee,
we would be patient and work with her while the issue was resolved. Since we
have extended a job offer that has been accepted, it is best to be a good employer
and have some patience with the candidate."
McClain added that she'd give Bush about two weeks to decide what she wanted
to do. "Thus, every effort has been made to accommodate this sticky situation
and to be a great employer."
Henry J. Mengay, an HR consultant who served 14 years as HR director for WNED,
the public radio and television stations in Buffalo, said hiring someone else
in such a situation could land a company in legal trouble.
"I would hold the job open until there was a legal resolution to the arrest,"
he wrote. "If she was convicted and her crime had a bearing on the type
of work she would do, then I would hire someone else. If you couldn't wait but
needed someone quickly I might use a temp, if that was feasible."