A large majority of employers today use some type of background screening to assist in making employment decisions. Perhaps too often, we talk about this in the context of hiring. But the complete picture of ‘employment’ decisions includes the ones you make about your current employees, even if you don’t think of them in the same way as a potential employee.
Once we raise the issue, it makes a lot of sense that employers should be doing background screening on current employees under numerous circumstances. We only need to listen to the phrase we use so often — ‘negligent hiring and retention’ — to realize that exposure to risk is present with current employees as well as potential ones.
Some risks, like organizational fraud, are often associated with changes in an employee’s situation or attitude that flips them from being a trusted partner to a potential threat.
It may not be financially feasible to make routine re-screening part of every employee’s contract, but there are many times when it would be fair and appropriate to ask an employee to consent to a new background screening.
Consider re-screening employees when:
- Employees are being promoted and/or moved into a new position with substantially different responsibilities. This should include cases where a person in a position is being assigned new tasks that carry added risk.
- Their job provides access to financial assets or critical information. Annual or other routine re-screening might help to identify factors that might contribute to the employee’s perceived need to commit fraud.
- An employee’s job gives him or her the ability to manipulate financial controls. Re-screening may help to reduce the time to discovery of schemes to evade controls currently in place.
- A job requirement is to maintain specific licenses or certifications, ranging from a driver’s license to some type of professional credential. Many of these qualifications require annual renewals or re-testing, and employers’ liabilities go up if the employee allows them to lapse.
- The employee has had an accident or was involved in another type of workplace incident. These incidents may indicate a change in status of the employee that could have negative consequences for the employer.
- Regulations require routine re-screening for specific employees. For example, workers in direct contact with vulnerable people may need to have regular screening to maintain employability in their position.
- Drug testing is considered relevant to job performance. Some companies use drug screening as a requirement for work, and for obvious reasons, this has to be performed on a routine basis.
The basic point is that people and jobs change. Your background screening program should be designed to update your risk exposure when they do.
Notification Rules Still Apply
Asking an employee to submit to a background check is sensitive business. The best way to handle the request is with transparency and predictability: have a policy in place from the beginning, and make certain the employee knows about the policy (including getting their signature on a copy of it). Your policy should include the reasons that you can anticipate for re-screening, or make the re-screening a routine part of specific positions.
Beyond basic sound policy, there are legal requirements that apply to re-screening.
- You must notify the employee in writing if you want to re-screen them.
- Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you must have their consent to obtain consumer reports unless the action is part of the investigation of wrongdoing.
- To be sure, treat re-screening just as you would background screening for new hires.
Regular re-screening can help you manage employment risks of many varieties. Within an organization, background screening updates can be carefully targeted to address the risks associated with specific job positions. It’s in the employer’s best interest regularly re-screen.