Without carefully verifying background information and references, the hiring process can go very wrong. It is important to follow a standard procedure when hiring and to dot every i.
A nursing home in Texas hired a janitor for their facility. After a resident was raped, the nursing home discovered that the man they hired was using a false name, fake Social Security number, and had five prior felonies on his record. When a judge awarded $1.1 million to the family of the victim, the nursing home was held responsible for half of the amount because of negligent hiring practices.
This may an extreme example, but it's clear in its message...we must be diligent in screening potential employees!
Background and reference checks should be performed on all candidates who are not eliminated during the preliminary phases of the hiring process. Resumes and job applications may be full of interesting data, but if the information is not honest or accurate, you open yourself to liability. Make sure you look for common red flags and follow a series of important pre- and post-hire steps:
- Ask about gaps in employment history
- Carefully check references
- Confirm educational records
- Verify the accuracy of Social Security numbers. You can check up to five numbers by calling the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-6270
- Once an employee has been hired, complete INS I-9 forms. This verifies, through examination of one or more documents, a new employee's identity.
Before you begin the process of conducting background checks, ask yourself one question..."Do I want to run a background check on every employee I hire?" If not, and you are inconsistent, you could be accused of unfair hiring practices. In addition, be sure to disclose to the applicant in a separate document your intent to conduct the checks, or use a third-party service and obtain proper release from the applicant.
We've detailed some important background checks you can conduct yourself. But I recommend outsourcing the job to one of many qualified companies that specialize in the screening process. The next page outlines the benefits of outsourcing, and provides contact information for two national companies you can use.