The Importance of Employee Background Checks for Public Entities
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The cost of hiring an employee is significant, but the cost of making a poor hiring decision is much higher – an organization can lose up to two and one-half times the amount of that person’s salary. Those costs include direct costs related to replacing and training an employee, as well as the resulting indirect costs due to issues such as employee violence, theft and fraudulent workers’ compensation claims.
To minimize the costs of making a bad hire and keeping a safe workplace, a pre-employment background investigation program is critical for all public entities. In the long run, an effective program can save both time and money and provide peace of mind to your organization.
Traditionally, most pre-employment screenings – and hiring decisions – have focused on a review of basic information: the employment application, resume and an interview. All tend to rely heavily on information provided by the candidate. However, studies show that at least one in four job candidates are willing to falsify information to get a job – including false claims of college degrees and employment histories and misrepresentations of why they left their previous employer. Given the current economic environment and increased competition for available jobs, this may be truer now than ever. Because of this, it’s critical for public entities to validate information provided by candidates. Types of validation include:
Reference Checks – References can be valuable in determining a potential employee’s work habits and may include information from previous employers, educational institutions or personal references.
Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Checks – Drivers bring past driving habits along with them. Giving keys to an employee with a poor driving record can subject your entity to significant liability in the event of an accident.
Criminal Background Checks – Hiring an employee with a criminal history can pose danger to fellow employees or the public; unfortunately, there isn’t a common national database for criminal histories. In general, arrest records can’t be used, and state and federal laws differ on the extent that an employer may consider an applicant’s criminal history in making hiring decisions.
Child Abuse Checks – The National Child Protection Act of 1993 gives “qualified entities” the ability to request fingerprint-based national criminal history checks on volunteers and employees. Qualified entities include organizations that provide services for children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
The type and depth of background investigations needed depends on the type of job and its scope of responsibilities. Prior to conducting investigations – and when the resulting information is used in employment decisions – there are legal issues to consider. Because of these legal issues, you should involve trusted advisors such as legal counsel or your insurance broker when developing and using a background investigation program. For answers to additional questions, reach out to an ‘A’ Team member and watch our Pre-employment Integrity Testing webinar replay.
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