What we don’t know won’t hurt us.” “Ignorance is bliss.” “Putting your head in the sand protects your head.” “The unaware are innocent.” We have all heard one or more of these anecdotes and probably have subscribed to their premises once or twice. I submit to you though that there is at least one time when what we don’t know CAN hurt – maybe even destroy us. That time is when we go to hire someone to work for us. Courts have ruled again and again on “negligent hiring” or “negligent retention” citing that we have a duty to know or at least to try to know what risk a future employee might cause not only to our company but to our customers and public in general. This requires us to exercise due diligence in trying to learn about future employees as we have shown again and again that past performance predicts future success. One way to mitigate any potential damage and exercise good due diligence is to conduct employee background checks.
As a police commander I was involved in the hiring of police officers and we took this responsibility very seriously, conducting extensive checks through NCIC (National Crime Information Center) and the state criminal information system databases; driver’s history checks; extensive interviews with neighbors, employers, relatives, friends, and others; and administering a polygraph (lie detector) examination. Unfortunately, we do not have the option of having trained investigators and confidential databases at our fingertips like law enforcement.
Pre-employment screening done by a reputable background check company can help us find out things about that applicant that we have a duty to know and give us the knowledge to make a sound hiring decision. It has never been more important in our history than now to have a strong background check company that can navigate the legal waterways and get us our information ethically and legally. How we conduct this process is being closely scrutinized in light of “ban the box” movements across the United States.
Ignorance is not an option. I have seen many examples of “not knowing” hurting. One example would be the employee who kidnapped a young girl and held her at his home for days at which time it was found out he was a convicted felon and pedophile. Another might be the convicted felon who staged a robbery in our store and gave our money to the criminal gang with whom he was affiliated. A third might be the incidents with racial unrest occurring in a store with gang graffiti showing up and then finding out that our manager was a convicted felon and leader of a major criminal street gang. It would have been nice to know all of these things and we could have known and should have known if we had conducted a pre-employment screening.
Most of these were incidents of embarrassment but it could be worse. There was the incident where a convicted felon was hired and sexually assaulted a female customer in the store during store hours. He is serving a long criminal sentence but the female victim suffered lasting consequences from a sexually transmitted disease and the potential for civil liability still looms. This is not unusual and is the chance you take if you decide to put your head in the sand and “not know.” At least if you conduct employee background checks and find out information that might be a red flag you can make a hiring decision. You can also include that information with your other screening tools and your interviews to make an intelligent decision as to whether or not this applicant is one you would like to take a risk on and bet your store. That is what I said: bet your store. That is what some of us do when we ignore pre-employment screening or don’t rely on the results from our background check company. We bet our store that the person is not going to do anything that will expose us to liability that could take away our store.
Employee background checks give us knowledge and remove our head from that hole in the sand. We can’t make a good decision if we don’t know and we have to make a good decision. Knowledge is our ally and ignorance our enemy!
For more information on employee background checks contact us or call 1.770.426.0547