Negligent hiring and background checks – who wants to roll the dice?

Not all background checks are created equal.  This is something we talk to our clients about daily.  While you may have certain requirements set by your licensing authority, client, or franchise; do those checks guard against a negligent hiring claim?   That all depends on what background checks you have conducted.

First let’s look at the general components of a background check, then we will talk about how they “mesh” together to create a tighter web of protection.

Social Security Validation and Address Trace This product may provide information regarding when a social security number was issued and in what state.  After 9/11, the Social Security Administration went to a randomization process.  While this may give you some information about the SSN, it will not directly link the SSN to the individual’s name or their employment authorization status.   We do offer other products to validate that information.  This report will also bring back a list of counties/states where an individual may have lived.   This information is based on credit headers and proprietary information.   This information is vital to running any background checks!  Especially with very common names in areas where the database information has limited identifiers, this report will help us locate possible records.

National Criminal Database The television show CSI has done a great disservice to the background screening industry.  There is no ONE source for every record out there.   There are over 4000 courts in the US (Municipal courts, county courts, federal courts) and they all house their own records.  All courts don’t have a public open list of all convictions either, so the database is a “net” with holes in it.  The size of the holes may depend on which area of the country you are in.  By not searching each jurisdiction, you could be missing vital records.   While this will cast a “net” out for criminal information, this is a very important search as this runs a national sex offender registry, the US Patriot Search and basic level OIG/GSA exclusions.

County Criminal Search We like to say the best information is found at the lowest level.  Most of the time this means going to a county court.  The county records are current and include updated information regarding any changes in status (warrant, probation violation, dismissed/expunged charges).   The best coverage is to order every county that the individual has lived or worked for the past 7 years.

What about fingerprint checks?   The Professional Background Screening Association published information from the Virginia Crime Commission regarding their fingerprint background checks.   They found a gap in what the county records returned, and what is found from the fingerprint checks – in this instance, more than 750,000 records were missing.  These were not just simple infractions, but violent offenses, drug offenses and included both felony and misdemeanor convictions.   The missing information was not isolated to Virginia but has been found in other states and the FBI database as well.

Federal Criminal Check The federal charges are housed in federal courts and are never found on county or database searches.  The federal searches can include any crime committed on federal land, high level drug charges, government fraud, embezzlement, and the commission of any crime against state lines.  Are any of these convictions discerning to you?  If you aren’t running the federal search, you may be missing these cases.

As an accredited background screening company, we are held to very high standards.  We work strictly within the regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  One of the facets of the FCRA is that we must use maximum possible accuracy to report convictions.  Let’s look at this and how this might affect your screens if you aren’t running the screens above.

Daniel Garcia applies for a job with ABC company in Baton Rouge LA.  He lives in East Baton Rouge and has an admitted conviction for cocaine possession.

ABC Company only runs the database search:  

  • The database may not contain the information on the criminal charge at all
  • If there are possible hits on the database, without additional information such as where he has lived, middle name, etc. – we wouldn’t be able to order the reports to see if that is your Daniel Garcia (there are 5,226 in the US)
  • The drug charge could be found in federal court which was not ordered

XYZ Company runs a background check that includes only the current county they live in and a social security trace.   Remember the adage what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?  That would hold true in the case.

  • Without the database, we may not find other charges outside of where he lived
  • The drug charge could be found in federal court which was not ordered

A Safe Place to Work runs a background check that includes an SSN validation and address trace, a database search, a 7 year search of all counties lived and worked, and a federal search.  

  • This is the best search available for criminal information and reduces your risk for a negligent hiring claim

You can easily see how adding additional screens will provide better coverage and reduce unnecessary risk to you and your employees.   Negligent hiring claims have increased significantly over the past 10 years.  The monetary damages could cost you millions of dollars as well as cause physical harm to your staff, clients, and volunteers.  What is a good background check worth?   Give us a call and let’s talk about it.