There are many instances when an employer may not be expected to look into a new hire’s criminal background. For instance, a hotel groundskeeper who has no direct access to guest rooms may be subject to different hiring requirements than cleaning personnel who may have keys and direct access to each room. It stands to reason that the groundskeeper may not have to submit to a criminal background check while the cleaning personnel would.
This scenario may have been true in the past, but due to the increase in job-related crimes, savvy employers know that they should require thorough background screening of each and every employee they hire, including, in the case of the hotel groundskeeper, those with no direct access to guests.
The reason for a comprehensive policy of background checks across the board is that it’s not just guests, clients, or customers who sue. Employees themselves have a right to expect to be reasonably safe on the job. And they have the right to hold the employer responsible for ensuring that safety. So, using the example of the hotel groundskeeper, although he may not have direct access to hotel guests:
1. He could commit a crime against a guest even though he has no direct access.
2. He could commit a crime against a coworker.
3. He could commit a crime against someone in the immediate vicinity of the establishment.
4. He could commit a crime against a contractor or vendor present on hotel property.
Looking at such scenarios, it’s a wonder why all employers don’t automatically screen every employee. The reason most don’t, the reason why they play Russian roulette with the safety of their employees, clients, customers, and contractors, is because it can be cost prohibitive to perform background screening on all employees. But, in the long run, inviting a negligent hiring lawsuit just isn’t worth the risk of failing to exercise reasonable care when hiring. After all, a negligent hiring lawsuit can not only be expensive, it can ruin the reputation of an organization. Again, using the example of the hotel employee who rapes a coworker (or a guest!), the hotel could lose a lot of business from the adverse publicity generated by such a lawsuit.
Hindsight is Better than Foresight, but Foresight is Smarter
It seems that in this new age of negligent hiring lawsuits, employers are expected to be clairvoyant. But, victims don’t quite see it the same way. Any employee, guest, client, customer, or contractor who becomes the victim of a crime due to the failure of an employer to thoroughly, if not properly, screen their employees for anything that may affect the rights of the victim can be reasonably considered the responsibility of the employer. This is because it is assumed that it is not just the individual who is responsible for his or her behavior; it is the employer who has to ensure that all employees hired meet a certain standard. After all, victims aren’t likely to receive financial compensation from the perpetrator, are they?
Ultimately, it’s not less expensive to cut corners on pre-employment screening. A lawsuit can be damaging in so many ways. Smart employers require all employees to submit to thorough background screening.
Hiring managers generally fill positions according to which applicant is best for the job. They consider aspects of an applicant’s education, past work history, experience, etc. But, rarely, do hiring managers consider what can often be the most important aspect of what an employee brings to the workplace – criminal history.
Negligent hiring occurs when an employer fails to properly screen prospective employees, leading to the hiring of someone who has a criminal history that may have otherwise made the hiring of that individual undesirable primarily because doing so would have exposed other employees to unsafe working conditions.
For instance, if an employer hired someone who had been convicted previously convicted of rape to supervise an offsite group of female employees, that employer could be held legally liable should something occur on, or off, the job site. One the job site, the employer would be obviously liable. Off the job site, the waters become murky, but the case of a BP oil spill cleanup supervisor who offered a female coworker a ride home, then allegedly raped the woman, shows that employers may be liable for what happens outside the workplace if that employer’s actions, or lack thereof, could be viewed as the reason someone becomes the victim of a crime perpetrated by a coworker.
What all this means is that employers have to make sure that the people they hire don’t have a criminal background. An employer who becomes liable because an employee has become the victim of a criminal act perpetrated by a coworker, may be in that position because the law assumes that the employer should have known, had they performed a background check, that the employee they hired may have been a danger to those around him/her (or even to a client/customer of the organization).
The law requires employers to exercise what is called due diligence. Due diligence is the responsibility of vetting prospective employees for not only basic job skills and previous work history, but for personal factors that may be an issue within the workplace as well. Existing employees and customers have a right to expect a safe workplace. And, although there are certainly many things that can change after hiring, an employer’s failure to properly screen employees may leave them vulnerable to lawsuits and even criminal negligence.
The only way for employers to protect themselves against a negligent hiring lawsuit is to ensure that they have a sound and comprehensive pre-employment screening policy in place. A good pre-employment screening policy should not only include a check of educational information, prior employment history, and other “usual” employment-related requirements, but it should also require that anyone offered employment be subject to a thorough criminal background check.
All employees hired by an organization should be required to submit to such a screening. It is no longer good enough for employers to screen only those employees who may be in a position to directly damage the company’s bottom line – such as executive-level employees, those with access to company funds, etc. – but all employees. The people an organization hires are now, in many ways, considered the responsibility of that organization, both on, and in some instances, off the job. Employers have to protect themselves and their employees.
Fleeing fugitives are a growing risk in America.
Tampa, FL October 20, 2008 — According to a recent investigative series in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, between 1.9 and 2.7 million felony fugitives (including rapists and murderers) have eluded capture by crossing state lines.
Companies that unknowingly hire felons or fugitives put themselves at increased risk of embezzlement, fraud, lawsuits and workplace violence. Employers should be alert to the possibility that a fugitive criminal may be hiding in their workplace.
AccuScreen, Inc., a leader in employment background screening, frequently uncovers job candidates with criminal records or fraudulent credentials when it conducts background searches for employers. AccuScreen has a large network of field agents working across the nation to retrieve criminal record information at the local, county and state level, as opposed to relying on database searches.
Post-Dispatch reporters found a persistent problem with outstanding warrants across the country. If local or county police departments don’t enter all their warrants in the FBI database, fugitives not listed in the database can escape detection for their prior crimes.
“It’s alarming that so many criminals get away with their crimes and go on to victimize new people in another state,” says Kevin Connell, chief executive officer and founder of AccuScreen. “Our on-the-ground criminal background searches result in a more accurate ‘criminal hit ratio,’ which prevents these law-breakers from endangering companies.”
Key facts about this national crisis include:
- A statewide dragnet across Florida last month dubbed “Operation Orange Crush” led to the arrest of 2497 fugitives, including those of 113 homicide suspects, 255 sex offenders and 55 gang members. The U.S. Marshalls-led sweep targeted the “worst of the worst” offenders. According to the Post Dispatch report, 35 % of Felony Warrants in Florida are not entered into the FBI Database.
- Organizers of Philadelphia’s “Fugitive Safe Surrender” program were astonished when 1205 felons turned themselves in at a local church in mid-September. The program was designed to encourage non-violent fugitives to settle their outstanding warrants.
- More than one third of all felony warrants are not entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database checked by police across the country.
- Local police often refuse to pick up fugitives from other states, even when they’re wanted for violent crimes.
“Corporations and hiring managers that engage employment screening experts can dramatically reduce their risk of hiring an employee with a hidden criminal record,” said Connell. “AccuScreen’s in-depth criminal background screening services can give employers that additional peace of mind.” AccuScreen has created a complimentary white paper, “Felons Who Cross State Lines Pose A Hiring Threat,” so that hiring professionals may get additional information on this important topic. To view the report or to download a copy, visit AccuScreen at http://www.accuscreen.com/.
About AccuScreen, Inc.
Since 1994, AccuScreen, Inc, has been an industry pioneer, leader and expert in employment background screening, specializing in criminal background checks. Its reports are delivered to companies across the world in 24-72 hours. CEO Kevin G. Connell founded the company with a burning desire that companies hire the right people from the start, resulting in greater cost control and better safety in the workplace. Mr. Connell also serves as a national speaker and expert in negligent hiring, resume fraud, employee theft, and embezzlement.