Background Checks: Not Just Another To-Do Item

employee background checksWe hear stories all the time about an employee or vendor who goes off the rails in some predictable way, with tragic consequences. What’s really sad about these events is that they likely could have been prevented by using a well-designed background screening program. At this point, background screening is not a mystery, and it works.

A recent blog post from our parent company, Lowers Risk Group, on preventable human capital risk highlighted these stories:

A Philadelphia building collapse was caused by an excavator operator, killing six people. The operator had prior drug convictions, and there is evidence that he was using marijuana at the time of the accident. His boss, the demolition contractor, also had prior criminal history and bankruptcy filings. Neither man was screened.

A level 3 registered sex offender (the highest risk level) with four felony convictions was hired as a maintenance worker in a nursing home in Albany, New York. He sexually assaulted a 91-year old resident, and was later convicted and sent back to prison. The nursing home is now under criminal investigation as well. A criminal background check was not performed.

The first example emphasizes the importance of knowing who you hire as a third party service provider. The vendor in this case had an easily discoverable history that would have made him an unlikely choice. In part, screening vendors should also include asking about their own employee background screening practices since the employees they choose also represent you, if only indirectly. The vendors you hire may be considered your liabilities when something goes wrong.

The second case is even more inexplicable. From a risk management perspective, it is difficult to digest the chain of events that led to putting a person with a documented violent past in direct contact with defenseless elders. Even a very basic background screening process would have found the obvious unsuitability in the case of the sex offender—he should never have been hired. And we do wonder whether anyone will ever willingly enter that nursing home again. Even under new management; its reputation is in the dumpster.

What You Know Can Make You Safer

We have said many times that a background check needs to evaluate job-related factors to avoid discrimination, and ensure your compliance with the law. But these cases emphasize reasons to make sure your background screening is well designed to screen out those unfit or unqualified for a specific job.

In both of these cases, an appropriate background screen would have made the difference. You do not want to hire a drug user to operate heavy machinery. And you really, really do not want to be the employer who hires a convicted sex offender to work around vulnerable adults.

Employment screening is important. It’s more than just another to-do item to check off your list. It’s a matter of protecting people, brands, and profits from avoidable loss.


elements of a comprehensive background check

About MichaelGaul

Michael is a results-oriented marketing executive with over two decades of experience in employment screening, physical security, and business process management. Michael has deep experience in human capital risk management and a passion for educating business leaders and HR professionals on strategies that tangibly protect their interests. Michael serves on the Board of the Secure Cash and Transport Association (SCTA) and is a member of the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA), and the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS).
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