Thursday, December 14

An Argument For Ongoing Background Checks

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Although many employers have a solid policy regarding pre-hire background checks, most have no policy in place that dictates a regular schedule of post-hire, or ongoing, background checks? Why is this issue? Well, from an employee standpoint, you’re certainly not going to tell your employer that you’ve committed a crime that might get you fired… if you can avoid it.

But, from an employer standpoint, this is need-to-know information. Unfortunately, far too often, individuals who have worked for one employer for any length of time commit crimes that may make them ineligible for employment with their current employer. Again, an employer can’t rely on the honesty and self-reporting of its employees to police the off-duty behavior of their workforce. Yet, in many cases, performing frequent background checks can be cost prohibitive. To combat the problem, one large employer, whose employees have direct contact with children, sends out annual notices that employees must report any offenses that may render them ineligible to perform their employment duties as assigned.

Certainly, this is one way to get the word out. But, honestly, does this employer, or any other workplace that adopts the annual notice technique, really expect their employees to call a confidential number to report their criminal behavior since they were hired? Not likely. In reality, the annual notice sent out by the above employer is a cover-your-rear effort to avoid a lawsuit in case any of their employees is found to have violated the sacred bond of good moral conduct when working with children. The employer sends out a letter and can then say “hey, we asked!”

The problem is well, one of the problems – that such a weak effort of protecting their underage charges against a less-than-moral workforce is not likely to hold up in court. It is the onus of the employer, not the employee, to ensure that their employees meet the standard of morality that is required of the job, whether that job involved working with children, money, or confidential information. When something goes wrong, as it inevitably will, it is not the employee that ends up on the financial hot seat; it’s the employer.

Sure, the employee will have to pay the piper in a criminal court, but it is the employer who harbored said criminal employee that will lose revenue and reputation because of their own lack of conscientious monitoring of their own staff. After all, if you are a parent whose child has been violated by a predator, do you sue the employee who has no money or the employer who has the financial resources to pay up? Finding oneself in such a situation is not only embarrassing and expensive; it can completely ruin your company’s reputation.

Although there is no way to immediately ensure that you catch an employee’s indiscretion as soon as it happens, you can protect yourself by developing a company policy that requires regular background checks on your employees. Companies that have initiated background checks on an annual, bi-annual, or even every five year basis have had some success in weeding out the bad apples that may cause them serious legal issues down the road.

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