Why Employers Should Conduct a Criminal Record Background Check on Potential Employees

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A disturbing story about a worker who compiled a lengthy criminal record over decades “including embezzlement, unlawful imprisonment, domestic abuse, and rape” while working on and off for the same company serves as “a cautionary tale” on why employers should always “conduct a thorough background check” on each and every potential employee, according to an article from Workforce Magazine.

The article ‘A Cautionary Tale on Why We Background Check Employees’ describes how three women filed a negligent hiring lawsuit against the Scott Fetzer Co. (doing business as “The Kirby Company”), Crantz Development (a factory distributor of Fetzer-manufactured Kirby vacuums), and John Fields in 2013, claiming that Fields had sexually assaulted them “on numerous occasions” between 2012 and 2013.

In their civil lawsuit, the women claimed that “Fetzer and Crantz were negligent in hiring Fields and allowing him to go on sales trips with them” and also asserted “Fetzer alone for negligently failing to take appropriate precautions to prevent its independent contractors from hiring employees like Fields, and for negligent supervision of its independent distributor in its hiring practices,” the article states.

The women claimed “Kirby conducted a limited background check on Fields, which showed that Fields had lied about his prior criminal record” and also alleged if “Kirby conducted a national search instead of a regional search, it would have discovered his criminal record was much more substantial than he disclosed (including rape).” Instead, Kirby approved Fields to be a Distributor Trainee, according to the article.

The women also claimed that when Fields applied to become a Factory Distributor, he “again lied about his criminal record and Kirby again learned of his criminal record” and “Kirby approved Fields’ application” despite again learning about his criminal past. In the following years, Fields allegedly committed crimes including “forcible rape, first degree domestic violence, unlawful imprisonment, and assault,” the article states.

Kirby terminated Fields while he was awaiting trial in the forcible rape case when the company learned that he had defrauded elderly customers. However, Kirby rehired Fields to sell vacuums again after his release from prison in February 2012 and it “was during this period of employment that he sexually assaulted” the three women who subsequently filed a negligent hiring lawsuit, according to the article.  

The author of the article, Jon Hyman, “pulled these horrible facts” from the case of The Scott Fetzer Co. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., which he described as “an insurance coverage dispute relating to the long-since-resolved underlying claims” brought by the three women. The complete article is available on Workforce.com at www.workforce.com/2019/05/02/a-cautionary-tale-on-why-we-background-check-employees/.

“When an employer fails to exercise due diligence and a person is harmed by an employee, that employer can be sued. The name of the legal action is called negligent hiring, sometimes referred to as the negligent hiring doctrine,” according to Attorney Lester Rosen, the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), and the author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual.’

“If an employer hires someone who they knew – or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known – was dangerous, dishonest, unfit, or unqualified for the position… then the employer can be sued for negligent hiring,” wrote Rosen, who also explained that along with negligent hiring that employers can be sued for negligent retention, negligent supervision, and negligent promotion.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers Criminal Records Searches that include County Court Searches, Statewide Criminal Searches, Federal Searches, ESR Criminal Insight, Sex Offender Registry Searches, Fingerprint Solutions, and International Criminal Records Searches. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Criminal-Records-Search/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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