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An ounce of prevention

November 3, 2017

By Susan Chance, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Why should I run background checks on my applicants? What do other employers check on backgrounds? These are questions that I get quite often from our customers. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” ― Benjamin Franklin.

Most employers run background checks on their applicants for the safety and protection of the company and its employees, while others add reputation to the list of reasons for pre-employment screening. So how does a background check protect companies and their employees? Background checks help to mitigate the risk of:

  • Theft
  • Fraud/embezzlement
  • Workplace violence
  • Claims of negligent hiring

The first three reasons are fairly self-explanatory, but what is “negligent hiring?” Negligent hiring is a claim made by an injured party against an employer based on the theory that the employer knew or should have known about the employee’s background.  It claims that if the employee’s background was known, it would have indicated a dangerous or untrustworthy character. Running a background check is seen as making a reasonable inquiry or investigation into the background of potential employees.

Added to these items is making sure that applicants have the education and experience they claim to have on their resumes and employment applications. These items also help to prevent negligent hiring.

It is important to have processes and policies in place when running background checks to make sure those checks don’t lead to problems with discrimination in the hiring process. According to EEOC statistics there was an increase of nearly 500 bias charges from 2015 to 2016, for a total number of 7,349. A little more than 50% of those charges were filed under Title VII. The second most prevalent charges were filed under ADEA, followed by ADA charges in third place.

The EEOC provides a helpful document, “Background Checks – What Employers Need to Know.”

It is not just running the background that provides the “ounce of prevention,” it’s also what you do with that information once it is collected. Each background profile should be given individual assessment when questionable items appear on the profile.

Following the FCRA required Pre-Adverse Action process, provide your applicant with a copy of the profile and their Summary of Rights. Give them the opportunity to dispute or explain the item(s) in question. If an applicant does dispute any of the information, make sure the applicant contacts the background screening provider to start the dispute process.

Once you have had a discussion with your applicant, and you have all of the facts, make sure that you consider each item in relation to the job itself. Other factors to consider, to name a few, are:

  • How much time has passed since the offense?
  • What was the person’s age when convicted or released from prison?
  • For how many offenses was the person convicted?
  • Rehabilitation efforts

Make sure that your processes include an ounce, or more, of prevention because the pound of cure in the form of legal fees can be very costly.

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