Thursday, December 01, 2005

Does your employment screening policy place your employees and customers at risk?

Wonders never cease to amaze, particularly in my business. Each day I look at records of serious violent acts, and shake my head in disbelief. Currently, I'm shaking my head over a felony rape charge reduced, by plea bargain, to a misdemeanor assault count. Yesterday, it was an aggravated robbery charge reduced to a misdemeanor theft count. The day before, a felony stalking charge, plea bargained to a disorderly conduct charge.

In each case, serious violent crimes reduced to misdemeanors. In each case, based upon the client's internal company policy, not reportable to them. The reduction of serious violent crimes, by plea bargain, to lesser misdemeanor offenses has become commonplace in our court system. In fact, as police, courts, and judges communicate less and less with one another, we see applicants with histories of violent crimes charged as felonies and adjudicated as misdemeanors in an effort to move cases through the judicial system. Last night's Law & Order television show dealt with a violent sex offender who stayed out of jail because his many violent offenses were reduced to misdemeanors. Avoiding incarceration, he went on to commit the most heinous of crimes. As a professional, I am here to tell you that this example was a clear depiction of what comes accross my desk every day.

What does this mean to the employer? The answer is everything, if your employment screening policy is working against you and the safety of your workplace! If your employment application asks about felony convictions only, you may be placing your company at risk. If your employment policy allows you to consider felony convictions only, your policy may be placing your employees and customers at risk.

Here's what we recommend:

1) Review your hiring practices and policy against the current reality - a majority of violent offenders initially charged as felons are adjudicated at the misdemeanor level. Believe me, you want to see misdemeanor offenses too. What you don't know can hurt you

2) Work with your background screening agency to understand legal terms like deferred adjudication, probation, deferred sentence, probation discharge, probation revocation, nolle pross, nolo contendre, etc. Understand which pleas and dispositions you can consider and which ones you must take extra care when considering.

3) If you don't have a background screening policy, create one. Your background screening agency and your legal delartment can work together to develop one that will protect you and your company.

4) Have a thorough understanding of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other state laws that may guide how you implement your policy. Every day I hear "I thought the law only allowed my to ask about felony convictions". Or, "the FCRA says I can't ask about convictions over 7 years old". Neither statement is true! Remember, some states, like California, may restrict what employment screening data you see. But, such restrictions are the exception not the rule. Unless your business is primarily California based, we advise against basing your overall screening policy on this state's model.

Asset Control wishes you all a happy and safe Holiday season!


At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a great article! Thanks!


Post a Comment

<< Home