By Michael Cormier Attorney at Law
As an employer, you know why potential employees should be screened with a thorough background check before hiring: other than their resume and what they told you during the interview, you really don’t know this person.
So, to round out your information, you hire a company to do a background check. The background check comes back clean, you like the candidate and you hire her. Your employee proves to be a hard, competent worker. All’s well that ends well, right?
Despite what boardwalk psychics and Nostradamus followers might tell you, predicting the future is still a fantasy. That goes for predicting the behavior of employees, too. Past conduct might seem like a pretty good indicator of future conduct, and sometimes it is. But not always. As the saying goes, “There’s always a first time.”
And if that “first time” includes behavior that could affect your company, it’s best to know about it. To be more precise, future behavior that would have caused you not to hire that employee in the first place could have just as bad an effect on your firm.
Let’s look at an example:
You interviewed a candidate (we’ll call her “Jane”) for a position with your respite care firm. Jane was an impressive young woman of 23 with a clean record. You hired her, and she has been performing competently ever since.
Fast-forward a few years. Jane became embroiled in a squabble with her roommate and beat her up. She was convicted of assault and battery and sentenced to probation. But you didn’t know it, because, like most of us, you don’t read the police reports every single day.
Fast-forward another year. Jane’s life is falling apart. The stress causes her to have a hair-trigger temper, but she hides it well from you. Only, it doesn’t stay hidden when one of her respite care clients becomes a little too demanding. Jane loses it and strikes the client. She’s charged again with assault. It hits the newspapers. The client’s family hires a personal injury lawyer, and that lawyer is looking for deep pockets . . .
Need I say more?
Things change. Sometimes people hide their dark side for a while, only to have it bubble to the surface as time goes on. Other people just fall into bad habits – drug and alcohol addiction, gambling. No one expects perfection. But if our respite care company in the example had rescreened Jane every so often, they would have caught it.
Which brings us to another important point: ignorance is not always bliss! Lack of knowledge doesn’t always excuse the employer. When determining if the employer should be held liable under respondeat superior, the court will not only ask whether the employer knew about Jane’s predilection for violence, but whether it should have known about it.
The moral of the story is that repeating background checks is a good idea. This is especially true where:
• The job involves ongoing close contact with customers;
• The employee is being promoted to a position where they are more likely to handle
money or sensitive information;
• The employee’s job description has changed to include use of potentially dangerous
These are certainly not the only instances. That’s why every employer should stop and think about the harm a bad employee can potentially do, given his or her job duties and access to company assets.
Then the employer should contact a reputable, full-service background investigation firm like Hire Authority at www.hireauth.com or (508) 230-5901, to learn about their ongoing employee screening programs.
Remember: knowledge = peace of mind.
The foregoing should not be construed as legal advice. Employers should always consult their own legal counsel for advice on labor and employment matters.