In nearly every U.S. state, employers have been found responsible for damages caused by employees when harm has been caused to a fellow employee or client. Financial awards and public fallout from instances where a company’s employee has caused harm to another employee can be excessively large and often unmanageable. At the heart of many of these awards is one overriding employer responsibility: responsible hiring practices.
Responsible hiring of employees means that an employer has made reasonable attempts to discover any historical crime, characteristic, or tendency that would provide ample warning in regards to the safety of his or her employment. When an employer fails to do so, they might be found guilty of negligent hiring practices, and are therefore responsible for hiring and maintaining an employee that otherwise would not have access or opportunity to commit the offense in question.
Many companies have a legal obligation to perform background checks on employees if they will be placed in certain situations. Some of these might include
- Working in close contact with children
- Supervision of children or the elderly
- Access to personal residences or personal property
- Responsibility of providing safety to others
- Driving and transportation
- Access to guns or weapons
In these cases, driving records checks, criminal and sex offender checks, and verification of identity are the norm. But even those businesses that are not legally required to perform background checks on employees can be found liable for negligent hiring, because from the perspective of the courts and the government, every single employer has a responsibility to due diligence that requires reasonable determination of the employee’s fitness to perform the job safely.
Negligent hiring lawsuits and awards may result when an employer should have recognized that an employee either was incompetent and therefore caused harm to another, or was criminally dangerous given a past history that was left uncovered. If it is determined that a circumstance could have been foreseen with reasonable investigation, the employer will be held responsible.
Employment applications and verifications of references are not always enough of a protection, either. Since employees often fabricate, hide, and embellish details, an application that shows incomplete, questionable, or unverifiable information will be no protection for an employer.
What, then, is the answer? Is there any protection for an employer against negligent hiring?
The only protection that is really available to an employer is a complete and thorough background check for every employee or contractor working under the name of the company. The key, however, is that that background check be as thorough as possible, and that the employer can use it to prove that every reasonable effort for safe employment has been made. On their own, that is very difficult for a company. With the help of a security provider or licensed background checking service, it is made far easier.
With the access, experience, and tools provided by a background check provider, negligent hiring becomes much less of a concern, because that employer has the peace of mind of knowing that he or she has indeed hired responsibly, always with the safety and security or persons and property at the forefront of hiring decisions.