Background Checks: Better Safe Than Sorry

Background Checks: Better Safe Than Sorry

Despite some debate and even legal questions on method, I consistently recommend that my clients conduct background checks on all employees they intend to hire.

Some of my clients are required to conduct background checks by state or federal statutes. This is especially widespread when employees will provide services to frail or vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or children.

I have screened and selected vendors that provide background checks for my clients. I am also aware that the Department of Labor recently took legal action against some employers who declined to hire individuals who failed to pass criminal background checks. The applicants had backgrounds that contained criminal conduct. However, courts later overturned those actions.

I am also aware that the federal and state governments want employers to create an environment that is fundamentally inclusive. They want employers to make room for all individuals, regardless of any need for any accommodation. My position is that employers should create a business environment that is fundamentally exclusive.

Background Checks: Better Safe Than SorryAn exclusive environment in my definition means that the employer, without discriminating relative to Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or other employment laws and rules, should be able to specify the policies he or she expects employees to follow, the values the employee is expected to hold, and the work ethic the employees are expected to display.

Imagine if the Navy SEALS were inclusive, rather than the exclusive organization they are. What kind of service would they be able to provide? If any owner or manager cannot control the environment that is created by their workforce, what kind of service will they be able to provide?

My recommendation to my clients and my experience of nearly 40 years in HR, management, and organizational design is this: background checks are effective tools that should be deployed. As a business-related psychologist and expert, I know that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Since most employers are not promoting from within, where they have firsthand knowledge of the individual’s past performance, the background check provides insight into past performance, which then provides insights into that individual’s likely future performance. Since the employer is clearly held accountable for what their employees do or don’t do, having the information from a background check is prudent and even essential.

Category: Leadership Talent Management

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About the Author: Steve Cohen

Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO.Often described as a “mess management” expert for his ability to skillfully resolve people prob…

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  1. There might be room at the margin to debate whether a particular items should influence a hiring decision, but would you hire an applicant for a driver position if he or she had a DUI? Someone with a horrible FICO score to manage your cash?

    You’d be surprised at the egregious stuff applicants conveniently forget to put on their applications.

    Here’s the test a few of us use: if I found this out about an average worker, would I not care, or regret making that hire? Given the overt and hidden costs of terminating someone, background checks are definitely worth the time and money.

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