Should Your Business Perform Criminal Background Checks on Employees?

Employee Background Check - Yes or No?The question of whether to run employment background checks can be puzzling for company leaders. Cost is the most powerful argument against performing criminal background checks before hiring new employees. An employee background check also requires a certain amount of time, something hiring managers don’t always have.

On the other hand, consistently performing criminal background checks offers several benefits. First, background checking helps weed out any applicants who are willing to lie about their history. Many retailers perform background checks to ensure their new hires do not have a background of dishonesty. In this way, criminal background checks save retailers money that would otherwise be lost to in-house theft. Other companies run employment background checks to verify that an applicant’s resume is truthful. Running a background check now is far less expensive than having to run through the entire hiring process later because your candidate turned out to have a less-than-savory character, or because he or she simply wasn’t qualified for the job.

Ultimately, however, most companies that run an employee background check before hiring a new worker do so to protect themselves against lawsuits. American courts have established that companies have a “duty of care” toward their employees and customers; this duty requires that employers protect clients and workers against individuals who pose a security risk. If one of your employees assaults a customer, for instance, the customer could successfully sue your company if court proceedings show that your firm failed to perform due diligence on the employee’s violent criminal history.

Seen in this light, it’s clear that employers in certain industries have more incentive to perform criminal background checks that others. For instance, if you run a dry cleaning service, you may select to perform an employee background check so as to ensure that you’re not hiring someone who could steal from the petty cash fund or skim extra pay off of the top of customers’ purchases. However, there wouldn’t be a strong legal reason for your company to perform criminal background checks.

In contrast, a daycare center is much more vulnerable to criminal negligence lawsuits if employment background checks are not conducted. If, heaven forbid, one of the daycare center’s employees sexually harasses a child, for instance, and state prosecutors discover that an employee background check would have turned up a harassment conviction from another county, the daycare center would be liable.

In case you’re still wondering if your company should conduct background checks, check out the following list of circumstances in which running employment and criminal background checks is a good idea.

1. Perform employment background checks when employee safety is a concern.

The manufacturing sector should run employment background checks in order to keep current employees safe. In many manufacturing situations, workers must trust their fellow laborers with their lives. Failing to arrange criminal background checks is failing to provide good “duty of care” for other laborers.

For instance, let’s imagine that Sally the floor manager fails to stop the manufacturing line when Lon’s sleeve gets caught in machinery. Lon could sue his employer for negligence if records show an employment check would have revealed Sally’s four DUI convictions across several states.

2. Order an employee background check when children are involved.

As suggested earlier, any position that involves interaction with children requires the employer to perform employment background checks. Nanny services, school districts and any organization that works with children should carry out due diligence by running a thorough background check for each employee.

3. Order criminal background checks when customer/client safety is a concern.

Certain industries entrust employees with the lives of others. Health care is the obvious example. Hospitals, hospice care providers and any other company that works intimately with others’ well being should perform employment background checks.

4. Require employment background checks when large amounts of money are exchanged.

Banks and other financial institutions should perform criminal background checks before hiring new employees, for the simple reason that laborers in these industries can easily steal from clients and their employers.

If you do decide to perform employment background checks, be aware that there are certain restrictions on how they may be carried out. Most of these restrictions aim to protect the potential employee’s privacy. For instance, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that employers receive applicants’ written consent before obtaining their credit reports. It’s wise to consult with your attorney before creating a new employee background check protocol.


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