Tag Archives: Workplace Violence

CAUSE Shows Background Checks Needed To Uncover Unsafe Service Employees Working In Homes

When a hired worker enters your home to perform a service that you requested, do you know to whom you are opening your door?

So asks an article on HuffingtonPost.com — ‘Could You or a Loved One End Up Like Elizabeth Smart?’ — that shows why background checks are needed to uncover unsafe employees working in and around homes of other people, and how background checks can help people avoid tragedies like the one experienced by Lucia Bone, the founder of ‘Sue Weaver CAUSE’ Consumer Awareness of Unsafe Service Employment.’

The article title references the case of Elizabeth Smart, whose father hired a contract day-worker who then later returned to the house to kidnap Elizabeth. The girl survived the ordeal, but Sue Weaver, Lucia Bone’s sister, was not so fortunate even though the worker who entered her home was hired by a large company.

In 2001, according to the article, Weaver was raped and beaten to death in her Florida home. Six months before her death, Weaver had contracted with a major department store to clean the air ducts in her home. Both workers sent to her house had criminal records. One was a twice-convicted sex offender on parole who — like the worker in the Smart case — returned to a home where he had once worked to commit a crime.

Sadly, the article reports Weaver’s murder is not an isolated case, since many consumers are robbed, assaulted, and murdered each year by workers with jobs that allow them access into homes. Because of this, Bone started Sue Weaver CAUSE to both honor her sister and to fight for standardized background checks of all in-home service employees. Through consumer awareness and legislation, Bone wants to ensure that big, reputable retail companies like Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, and others perform thorough criminal background checks on the contractors and sub-contractors they send into homes.

Since there are currently no federal or state laws requiring companies to do criminal background checks on contractors or sub-contract workers sent into homes, Sue Weaver CAUSE is demanding legislation for CAUSE Certification compliance. When interviewed for the article, Bone says the CAUSE Certification would require annual background checks following CAUSE minimum screening standards on all employees, contractors, and subcontractors. Bone adds that these standards were determined from survey results from questions asking background screening professionals what minimum screening should be conducted on workers going into homes of elderly mothers, pregnant wives, and people with special needs.

According to Bone, the minimum requirements for CAUSE Certification are:

  • Social Security Number (SSN) Address Trace;
  • County-Level Criminal Check (Search records for past seven years in counties where applicant lived, worked, or attended school);
  • Multi-jurisdictional/”National” Criminal Database, and;
  • National/State Sex Offender Registry.

In addition, Bone says consumers “never think about (criminal background checks for in-home service workers)” and automatically assume the company they hire would not send criminals into their homes. She advises consumers to be proactive and not assume companies properly screen workers sent to homes. “Bonded and insured is not a background check.”

The Sue Weaver CAUSE website is located at: http://www.sueweavercause.org/.

For more information on background checks, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.esrcheck.com.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janet-kinosian/could-you-or-a-loved-one_b_559526.html

Background Check Bashing -Either Too Much or Too Little Depending upon the Most Recent Headline

By Les Rosen, Employment Screening Resources

The recent headlines dealing with background checks demonstrate that to some extent, Americans are conflicted about the whole topic of background checks.

On one hand, as reported in past blogs by Employment Screening Resources (ESR), discrimination and privacy advocates feel that background checks are too intrusive and unfair. The EEOC has filed a test case alleging that a large national employer used credit report and criminal records to unfairly discriminate against members of protected groups. The state of Oregon and others are considering limitations on credit reports. Scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California have succeeded in taking their complaints all the way to the United States Supreme Court that government mandated security checks revolving around background checks and entry into facilities are overly intrusive and an invasion of privacy. A recent study conducted at a major university suggested that after a relatively short period of time, criminal records are not a predictor of future misconduct.

Conversely, the recent tragic shootings at University of Alabama-Huntsville and Ohio State University have lead to many to question if background checks should be even more in-depth. Those shootings had horrific impacts on the victim’s families and the communities involved and questions have been raised if even more background checks should have been done.

In  the case of the Ohio State University workplace violence, a top notch and highly respected background screening firm performed what appeared to be a standard entry level criminal record search and found what any screening firm would likely have found, which was no record. However, critics note that a 30 year old conviction for receiving stolen property should have been unearthed, even though old records have been destroyed, and there was some confusion about the date of birth that should have been used.

Of course, to find a thirty year old prison record under those circumstances would normally require an employer to retain private investigators at the cost of many hundreds of dollars for each and every potential new hire, as opposed to public record background screenings. And ironically, even if the screening firm had located the 30 year old criminal record for a non-violent offense and was able to establish the record belonged to the shooter, any use of it would have been soundly criticized as unfair and discriminatory. It seems that employers cannot win either way.

As it turns out, in the Ohio State University case a past employment verifications may have raised the red flags that would have alerted the employer to take a closer look at the hiring decision. It underscores that employers need to use a number of overlapping tools to evaluate a potential hire, and that no one tool, such as a criminal background check, can be used to make hiring decisions. In addition, background checks are just one component of an overall workplace violence prevention strategy.

The bottom-line is that background screening occurs at the intersection of competing and compelling societal interests. On one hand, no one wants to see workplace violence, or to have unqualified people get jobs with fake credentials. Safety, security and honesty are core values. On the other hand, society is also rightly concerned with fairness and privacy and as well as efforts to combat discrimination. The issue is reaching the right balance.

It is interesting that nearly every time there is an objection because there is too much screening, there is often a call for even more screening after it is revealed that some crime or offenses occurred or where an inappropriate applicant was hired without a sufficient background check. With all due respects to the JPL scientists, one would assume their position may be different if it ever turned out that a failure to perform background checks resulted in a terrorist hurting the U.S., someone with fake credentials getting hired and obtaining access, or workplace violence occurring that could have been prevented.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Family of Alabama University Shooting Victim Hope Tragedy Leads to More Thorough Background Checks

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

The fatal shootings of three University of Alabama-Huntsville professors during a faculty meeting by another professor reportedly upset about being denied tenure at the school has shined a bright light on the troublesome issue of workplace violence. The tragedy has also raised concerns about how thoroughly background checks should research the past histories of employees. 

In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, two step-daughters of one victim questioned how the woman arrested and charged in the shooting deaths — Biology professor Amy Bishop, 42 — could get a job working at the school after reports surfaced about violent incidents in Bishop’s past.

ABC News reported that investigators may re-examine the 1986 shooting death of Bishop’s brother at the hands of Bishop, which was ruled accidental at the time, and also revealed that Bishop was a suspect in a mail bombing attempt on a Harvard Medical School professor in 1993. Investigators told ABC that while investigating the bombing they found a novel on Bishop’s computer describing a scientist who had shot her brother.

After learning about Bishop’s alleged violent past, the step-daughters of one victim told Good Morning America that they hoped the shooting would lead to more thorough background checks for the school’s faculty and staff. They also believed Bishop obtained a list of professors who did not vote in favor of her tenure before the shootings, which left three people injured in addition to the three fatalities. 

“Workplace violence” is loosely defined as threats, assaults, and violent acts — including murder — which occur in, or are related to, the workplace. While there is no one cure-all treatment to eliminate the threat of workplace violence, employers should remain vigilant and closely watch all conditions and events in the workplace in order to ensure the safety and security of employees and customers. 

To help prevent workplace violence, employers may choose to initiate a Safe Hiring Program (SHP) that includes a wide range of tools, techniques, and services to help mitigate the risk of hiring or retaining a potentially dangerous employee. Background checks are considered the cornerstone of an effective SHP.

Protecting workers from workplace violence is an essential reason why employers should conduct pre-employment screening — including extensive and far-reaching background checks — on prospective employees. The goal of a Safe Hiring Program is to ensure that employers follow proper procedures during background checks and pay attention while hiring and retaining workers in order to minimize the potential for workplace violence. 

For more information about workplace violence, background checks, and Safe Hiring Programs, please visit  Employment Screening Resources at:  http://www.esrcheck.com. 

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/alabama-university-shooting-suspect-amy-bishop-violent-past/story?id=9839348

Workplace violence and employment screening background checks

An excellent article on how employers can deal with workplace has appeared in the Coshocton Tribune in Ohio.  It was written by Ohio human resources consultant Jim Evans is president of JK Evans & Associates LLC, a Zanesville-based human resources consulting firm. 

The article recounted some recent incidents of workplace violence and reminded employers and managers that they are tools to prevent and deal with workplace violence.  For example, employers should have policies on how to deal with workplace misconduct, and managers should be trained to recognize the warning signs and how to deal with it.  The article also cites due diligent in hiring as an important tool to avoid bad hires and to demonstrate due diligence in hiring.  See: http://www.coshoctontribune.com/article/20091115/NEWS04/911150313 

This article underscores the critical role of pre-employment background screening plays in the hiring process.  For employers, there are a number of resources available to accomplish employment screening.  Setting up a program is very quick and easy, and the cost is minimal compared to just one workplace incident.  As a general rule, screening employees cost less then their first day salary.  In fact, an employer can provide a great deal of protection just by a well designed application, interview and past employment checking process. 

For job applicants, background checks are NOT an invasion of privacy.  The items being checked are what a person has done in their public life, such as where they worked, where they went to school or if there are relevant criminal records. Applicants also have a great deal of rights under federal law to view any report and to correct errors, and must give their specific consent and be advised of their rights.  There are rules about using criminal records unfairly. 

The bottom-line is that workers also want the protection of a safe workplace with qualified co-workers that have the credentials claimed.  More information on how to conduct employment screening and available resources is available at www.ESRcheck.com. A specific game plan for hiring is set out at: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/730/cost-effective-employment-screening-and-safe-hiring-techniques-for-large-employers.

California Case Demonstrates Outer Limits to Negligent Hiring Exposure

The case involved a plumber that was hired in 1999, even though the plumbing company knew the person had been convicted of domestic violence and/or arson involving the plumber’s ex-wife. Four years later, in 2003, the plumber performs a service call at the victim’s home. The plumber and the victim started a relationship that eventually turned romantic in nature.  About a month after the service call with the victim, the plumber was terminated for misuse of a company vehicle, drug and alcohol use and an allegation of threatening a co-worker.

By 2005, the victim apparently had enough and ended the relationship and applied for a restraining order against the plumber. The plumber shot and killed her and was convicted of her murder. Continue reading

Negligent hiring and retention leading causes of employment lawsuits

A recent article in the Connecticut Law Tribune re-enforces what ESR has been telling employers for some time—that lawsuits for negligent hiring and negligent retention are among the most common claims against employers.

Per the articles, “The difference between the hiring and retention claims is when the employer became aware of a threatening employee; often, the arguments are that employers inadequately screened job applicants or failed to act on complaints about an employee who later committed a violent act.”

The story concern workplace violence and employee behavior that can be hostile, threatening or violent.  This can lead to lawsuits seeking damages for emotional distress, a hostile workplace all the way to damages stemming form violence where a person is the victim of a workplace crime.  The article noted that, “In a bad economy, stress increases and people’s fuses get shorter.”

The article cites a study in the 1990s, where “liability expert Norman D. Bates conducted a study that found workplace violence tort cases averaged $500,000 per settlement and a $3 million per jury verdict.”

According to the article:

“The potential for litigation seems to be high, based on U.S. Department of Labor statistics. On average, more than 2 million acts of violence occur in the workplace every year. When it comes to assaults, women are targeted at a much higher rate than men, both in Connecticut and nationally. From 2005-07, the U.S. Department of Labor tracked 1,250 non-fatal workplace assaults in Connecticut, and women were the targets in 77 percent of those cases. On the national level during the same period, women were targeted in 63 percent of the more than 47,000 non-fatal assaults.”

The article discussed that while many employers are focused on preventing workplace homicides, there are many lesser acts of hostility, such as workplace intimidation, bullying, sexual harassment and psychological abuse that can be red flags for future violence that also need to be addressed.

The article suggested solution that employers can utilize to minimize the chances of a lawsuit stemming from workplace hostility and violence.

See:   Taking Aim At Workplace Disputes at http://www.ctlawtribune.com/getarticle.aspx?ID=35073