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Staff / Safety
January 2014 Contractor Success

Background Screening For Quality Hires

Employers must make an informed decision to avoid hiring a 'walking lawsuit.'

January 06, 2014
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After just a glance at the Internet or a newspaper, it’s quite evident that we’re not living in our father’s world anymore.

With the borderless market, a strained national economy and the maturing of the World Wide Web as a business tool, the 21st century presents entirely new challenges for businesspeople, especially in hiring.

The second decade of the new century has demonstrated that hiring should not only be intuitive but also be based upon the empirical and demonstrated past behavior of the applicant.

Every day people with criminal records, falsified educational credentials and other serious liabilities are hired by companies who fail to thoroughly check their backgrounds.

The result can be acts leading to theft, fraudulent actions and expensive negligent hiring lawsuits.

An employer today must make an informed hiring decision to not hire a “walking lawsuit.”

The tool to accomplish that objective is pre-employment background screening.

Employment Background Screening Regulations

The background screening process is regulated by both federal and state laws to ensure accuracy and fairness in protecting the rights of the applicant, while providing the needed information to the employer.

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates the use of investigative consumer background reports as they pertain to adverse decisions, notification to the applicant and the destruction and safekeeping of records.

There are additional limitations on what can be reported in California and other states.

Compliance with these laws is not optional, as many shocked employers have found when utilizing online criminal record services that are not suitable for employment purposes.

Negligent Hiring

Employers have a duty of care in protecting the public, their staff and their clients from the intentional acts of their employees.

Failure to do so, when an employer knew or should have known through a reasonable effort that an employee had a demonstrated dangerous history, is called negligent hiring.

Casual hiring practices could ultimately result in civil liability that could damage a business beyond financial repair.

The judgments run in the millions of dollars and are not covered by liability insurance.

The courts have ruled that employers have an obligation to make their work environment is safe.

An employee with a conviction for assault represents a ticking time bomb that will eventually explode while on your payroll.

Workplace harassment is an illegal act, and an employer can be dragged into a lawsuit for failure to act properly with someone that should never have been hired to begin with.

Traditionally small businesses are most vulnerable.

When just a few people have overlapping responsibilities and work closely together, a false sense of security develops.

After the business has been looted, the non-monetary pain is that the perpetrator was viewed as “a member of the family.”

An employee with a history of theft should never be given the keys to the safe.

Criminal Records

While background screening can’t predict the future, it certainly will uncover the demonstrated past behavior that an employer is held responsible for.

Should employment be denied for any conviction as an example of a flawed character?

Absolutely not, as we are a nation that believes in second chances, and painting with such a broad brush could be considered a discriminatory act.

A possible solution for an otherwise quality applicant would be not placing them in an unsupervised environment where those past actions could possibly be repeated.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse in the workplace is a national epidemic without any social or economic boundaries.

The habitual drug user has increased absenteeism and causes more workplace accidents that drive up the Workers’ Compensation experience modifier rates.

The quality of their work is not their primary concern, and they very well may be soliciting while on the job.

There is no upside to hiring someone with a drug addiction problem.

Testing methods include the traditional urinalysis, hair samples or instant oral swabs.

A solid substance abuse policy allows you to administer reasonable suspicion drug testing that will hold up to litigation.

Every workplace accident needs a drug test, which could eliminate claims for Workers’ Comp or unemployment benefits.  

Credential Fraud

Workplace fraud occurs at all levels, from undocumented workers to chief executive officers (CEOs).

Desperate economic times and a shrinking job market contribute to situations where people go to extreme and outright fraudulent means in order to get jobs.

Bad behavior becomes easy to rationalize during difficult economic times.

One national study showed that half of all reference checks done on prospective employees differed between what the job applicant provided and what the source reported.

These are not just “fibs” anymore.

When an employer hires someone with a falsified academic or employment record they are paying for talent that they’re not receiving.

These lies can cost a business dearly in the lack of skills and training that will never become part of the finished product.

Undocumented Workforce

The hiring of undocumented workers has taken an entirely new turn with the creation of Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE).

In the recent past, legal right-to-work enforcement was sporadic and focused primarily on the individual workers.

Now owners, officers and hiring managers are being criminally charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

The federal government now contends that overtly hiring undocumented workers comprises a criminal conspiracy to break the law.

With the advent of the electronic E-Verify system, the acceptance of the counterfeit documents purchased at the flea market is no longer a defensible position for an employer.

The help of a professional investigator and these tools can assist any size business in minimizing their exposure to liability, remaining compliant while reducing fraud and maintaining a legal workforce.


Alfred Firato is a licensed CA Private Investigator (#25313) and the president of Data Research Network Inc. dba: HireSafe, established in 1997. HireSafe is a nationwide provider of pre-employment criminal background checks, drug testing and Form I-9 document management with E-Verify. Learn more at or call (888) 792-4473.

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