Industry Specific Screening
Five Easy Steps to Protecting Yourself When Inviting Workers Into Your Home
By Les Rosen
Attorney at Law and President,
Employment Screening Resources
The news has been full lately of horror stories about innocent and unsuspecting people who opened their doors to home service providers or workers, and became the victims of serious crimes, including murder, right in their own homes. Many people routinely allow workers in their homes to perform a multitude of tasks. Workers come into homes to deliver appliances or furniture, act as nannies or caregivers, clean carpets, make home improvements, perform household repairs such as plumbing or electrical, and a multitude of other tasks.
Unfortunately, people can be particularly vulnerable in their own home. Help is harder to get, and if there are children, senior citizens or a disabled person at home, the risks can be even greater. Yet no state currently requires most workers who enter homes to have background checks. The results have been tragic.
Until there is a better solution, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) recommends the following five easy steps for people to protect themselves in their homes:
1. Deal only with reputable local businesses that do background checks. Before letting a stranger into your home, insist upon knowing the hiring polices of the company you are dealing with. A business should be able to tell you what precautions they take in hiring someone they plan to send inside your house. If the company you are talking to does not know the specifics, make them find out before you let their workers into your home. The important point is to determine if they check all past employers for AT LEAST 5 years (and 7-10 is better). Also, do they check for criminal records where a person has lived or worked for the past seven years. If the carpet cleaning firm, plumbing company or other service business will not give you the answers you need, then call someone else. It's just a matter of time before businesses get the message that safety is critical. In addition, being "bonded" is not always the same thing as being safe. The fact that a person has a bond does not mean that any firm has run a background check.
Also, don't let a small business tell you that it is too expense or difficult to practice safe hiring to make sure they are not sending a dangerous person into your home. That is simply not true. There are a number of steps any small business can take to make sure they are hiring safe and qualified people that cost next to nothing. It's just a matter of having a commitment to customer safety, as opposed to just hiring anyone they can find to do the job. See ESR article: "Five easy steps every small business can take TODAY to protect themselves and the public."
2. If you are hiring an individual and not a firm, what do you know about them? The best protection is to do past employment checks or reference checks on people who dealt with them in a business capacity. If you know that a person has been gainfully employed for the past few years, it lessens the possibility they have been incarcerated for a serious offense. Make sure they check out. If it does not seem right, then find someone else. A professional screening firm or private investigator can also be contacted to perform a criminal check.
3. For a sensitive position such as a nanny or caregiver, spend the money it takes to do it right. Contact a pre-employment screening firm or private investigator to check out the person. The most critical checks are past employment to verify where the person has been as well as a criminal check. When the well being of loved ones are on the line, the extra investment in security is well worth the small costs involved.
4. Use common sense. You may not check out everyone that comes to your home. A business for example, may come to your home just once to briefly drop something off or make a home repair. BUT use common sense. Have other people around if possible. Do not leave confidential information (such as checkbooks or credit card bills) or valuables lying around. In addition, do not tell store clerks or a person making a one-time visit anything confidential about your personal life, habits or customs that could make you a target in the future. For example, you don't need to tell a stranger if you are leaving town, or give information about your usual schedule, or if people you live with are away. And if you are uncomfortable for any reason, or something does not seem right, do not let the person in.
5. False sense of security--Be careful about do it yourself Internet solutions. There are some Internet sites that seem to suggest that they offer a national criminal record search. Unfortunately, a person may be lulled into a completely false sense of security if the name they are searching does not appear on one of these databases. In fact, the appearance of a person's name on a database is not an indication the person is criminal any more then the absence of a name shows they are not a criminal. Why? Because these Internet services are based upon databases that are best used by professional investigators or screening firms in conjunction with a number of other tools. The databases by themselves are not an authoritative source. Many of the Internet databases are names assembled from correctional or law enforcement databases, or from court repositories that are only as accurate as the individual counties that report records. There is no way to know if the records are complete, accurate or up to date, or if the record is even about the person you are looking for. Actual court files normally must be obtained to locate identifiers. In addition, there are large holes in the geographic coverage.
A consumer is much better off contacting a professional who knows how to utilize such databases, as well as numerous other tools in order to do a legal background check.
ESR is currently working on proposing legislation that would requires business to either engage in a background check of workers who go into homes or to provide consumers a notice that no checks been done. Until there is a better solution, consumers need to empower themselves by not hesitating to insist upon safety.