Criminal background checks make good sense from a safety and a liability perspective. Providing those assurances to potential customers is an excellent marketing tool that shows your company is willing to go that extra step to protect customers’ homes and families. Along with the expense that criminal background screening adds to your bottom line, you must carefully and consistently carry out your background program to assure you don’t unwittingly expose your company to additional liability.
When it comes to choosing a criminal background screening company, take care. Like anything else, you get what you pay for, so it’s important to select a reputable company that has the wherewithal to conduct national as well as local checks because local convictions may not always appear in national databases. Your screening company needs to have the ability to do both.
Once you have set the parameters with your screening company as to which crimes will disqualify a worker from your program, you and your company should not be involved in the process of approving or disqualifying particular workers. If you second guess the screening to decide if any particular individual may have had extenuating circumstances underlying a conviction or whether any particular felony might have been “not that bad of a felony,” your program ceases to be consistent. An inconsistently applied program could result in liability for you for prejudicial practices in the workplace.
As to your subcontractors, your direct involvement could be a showing of “control” that could result in you being deemed an “employer” of those individuals. So the best way to manage your program is to set the parameters with your third-party screening company and then only allow it to provide you with information as to whether any particular individual passed or failed within those parameters.
A thorough and consistent criminal background program can give you a leg up on your competition and be well worth the additional expense to your operation.
—Richard Feeley is the president of Feeley Mediation & Business Law.
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