What Would You Do?
You drove through rush-hour traffic, grabbed your first cup of coffee and sat down at your desk at Acme Staffing, only to have your door darkened a few minutes later by the boss. “I think we’ve got a problem, maybe. We’ve been getting some complaints.” Her face reflects the doom-and-gloom in her voice. She closes your door and sits down. “We’ve got to talk.”
“It’s the background checks. They assured us that these latest new hires were honest and trustworthy, with all the right skills for the jobs, and no red flags to prohibit us from hiring them. But just look at these complaints!”
She hands you a folder, containing one page with three bullet points:
- “On February 12th of this year, I was following one of your trucks, No. X74925B, westbound down State Route 73 at approximately 9:30 a.m. The driver was driving very erratically, slowing almost to a stop and then speeding up. He started weaving from side-to-side in his lane, and then crossed the center line and scraped the guardrail in the opposite lane. I was afraid he was going to cause an accident, so I called the Highway Patrol and reported him.”
- “On July 4th of this year, I was cleaning the B Ward of the Pleasant View Assisted Living Center when I heard what sounded like an animal crying. I checked every room as I walked down the hall. All of the residents seemed fine, either resting quietly or watching TV, until I got to Room 27. There I found Mrs. Wilkerson on the floor on the far side of her bed, whimpering plaintively. I called the Floor Nurse on duty. As I tried to help him get her back into her bed, she struggled against him and kept repeating, “No, no, no!” It was then that I noticed bruises around her wrists and ankles.”
- “When reconciling our daily financial records in the first week of November, I noticed that Mr. Fletcher’s till was short by $500 when compared to his deposit slips. I began to monitor his daily financial activities. I noticed that on every Friday in November, Mr. Fletcher’s till was short by that same amount. I called him in and confronted him about it. He confessed that he had taken the money. He said he was in financial trouble and was trying to get some extra money to buy Christmas gifts for his family. On December 1st of this year, I had to terminate the employment of Mr. Fletcher, and had him arrested by the police.”
All of the above accounts are fictitious examples of a growing problem that may be affecting your company. You had background checks conducted on these job applicants before bringing them onboard. But….
- The truck driver’s marriage fell apart and he’s been doing some serious drinking….and driving. He’s had three DUIs in the last six months, and served jail time for the last one.
- The nurse in the assisted living facility has had six complaints from three different jobs that he’s been abusive to elderly patients. The last job pressed charges and he was convicted, and did jail time.
- Fletcher’s “light fingers” have been noted on every job he’s had since he was a teenager working at a convenience store after school. No official charges were ever pressed against him.
How Did This Happen?
A clean pre-employment background screening report won’t keep an employee on the straight and narrow after they’re hired. It only makes sense that you would run yearly, or at least periodic, background checks on your current employees. The type of background check you run depends on the nature and duties of their job.
A driving record check would make sense for the driver, a criminal background check would make sense for the nurse, and a credit check would make sense for the bank teller.
How could these three fictitious workers have arrests or convictions without it coming to your attention as their employer? Wouldn’t you notice their absence from work if they were convicted and served jail time?
Conviction records are not always accurately recorded. Lawyers are great at making deals. Friends and family will bail people out of jail, and sentences can be reduced to work furloughs, volunteer/community service hours, and jail can be checked into and out of on the weekends, like a hotel.
What are the Advantages of Having a Annual Screening Program for Current Employees?
- Record Accuracy: Even if there was no negative information revealed in a pre-employment background check, new information might have been added since then.
- Workplace Security: One in four workers in America have criminal records. If you have had an employee for more than a few years, it is likely that they have acquired some degree of criminal history since they went through your pre-employment screening process.
- Protection of Your Brand: Employees who are engaging in ongoing criminal pursuits can impact your brand and your company’s reputation if your customers discover this information. Your company may never recover from this damage.
- Compliance: Many state and local governments now have specific laws pertaining to background checks, especially for positions where there is unsupervised access to vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly.
It is important that your employees consent to having background checks run on them. If there is not a specific notification on your pre-employment background check consent form that lets the employee know that such checks will be conducted on an ongoing basis in the future, then you’ll need to have the employee sign a new consent form.
Make sure that you have clearly defined rules, policies, and practices in place on how to handle the information that might be revealed in current employee background checks. It is strongly advised that you use the EEOC criteria in making an individualized assessment of this sensitive information, as well as complying with the FCRA and all state and local fair-chance laws if adverse action is contemplated.
In cases of adverse action, you should give the employee an opportunity to review their background check report, correct any errors, or explain mitigating circumstances.
This is an area of uncharted waters, as annual employee monitoring and repetitive background screening is just now becoming a corporate practice.
You may encounter employee resistance, in the form of refusing to sign the background check consent form. You may be risking litigation if the reluctant employee is a member of a protected class. Be prepared and consult with your legal advisors.