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Human Resources - Mandatory Background Checks and Negligent Hiring

Updated on July 11, 2012

Negligent hiring is known as the problem that occurs when an employer fails to obtain background information on an employee prior to hiring that person. The employee later causes some sort of harm to his or her coworkers and becomes known as a negligently hired worker. Mandatory background checks may help suppress negligent hiring to a degree, but I find it hard to say that they will eliminate it entirely.

Benefits of Background Checks

On the one hand, there are several positives to performing mandatory background checks. For starters, there is the obvious safety concern. There have been numerous accounts of employers failing to obtain background checks, only to later find that employee in a position of criminal judgment. Safety ought to be a priority in the workplace and no one should ever feel uncomfortable or be a victim to a coworker’s abusive action. This to me is the most clear cut and important reason that mandatory background checks should be conducted before making personnel decisions. Another thing I believe to be a positive of mandatory background checking is the fact that in many cases, it helps ensure that a company will not be wrongfully sued for an action they never suspected the criminal to commit. In court, the plaintiff may see the company responsible for what happened himself or to a loved one. Yet, if the company is able to show records of all background checking and in depth information they acquired on the individual before hiring him, and see nothing that would preclude him from being hired or being viewed as suspicious, I believe a jury would see that as clear evidence the company couldn’t possibly be the ones to blame. The two positive reasons I have suggested above include one positive to an individual, and one positive to an employer. They are the two major benefits to background checking and in my opinion are difficult to find fault in.

The Downside of Background Checks

Though, there are negatives. For instance, some have said that while background checks prove good in theory, they are all too often inaccurate or misleading. For instance, one article I recently read discussed a drug store employee who was accused of something he did not do. That later prevented him from being able to secure a job in numerous places who used the same background checking database. Personal grudges and emotional motives may play too much of a part in the manager-employee relationship. A manager may have the ability to manipulate and tweak actual actions after closely monitoring an employee and in turn, use this as justification for adding it to his or her background information. The information may be based on something that could never be proven. Yet, it will remain on the record. Another issue is the fact that background checking has become a big business. Certain databases and investigation companies offer a wide array of products for business to use. That in turn has helped them generate big profits. The “in depth” services they offer take it as far as to visit with former bosses or colleagues. One may wonder if this is not getting too personal or off topic. Is what someone’s friend thought about them 8 years ago at Pizza Hut really a good precursor to whether or not this person will commit criminal activity now, as an MBA graduate with honors? The industry of investigation services may not be regulated quite enough. This is the side taken by those who do not believe that background checks will prevent negligent hiring. Their case is strong and relevant in many ways.

Finding a Solution

I agree safety should be of main concern. I agree that businesses ought not to be wrongfully accused. Still, I also believe that many of these checks may be quite inaccurate and misleading. Further, I find it hard not to acknowledge the notion that many investigating firms have a for-profit agenda above all else. So where do I really stand? I would say on the fence. I do not believe that a background check will completely eliminate negligent hiring. No human being can be predicted with 100% accuracy. We see this plainly when we see people talking of how shocked they are that it was their friendly, easy going neighbor who murdered someone. Yet, I think on a basic and fundamental level, background checks will help ease negligent hiring. If we see that someone spent time in prison for indecency with a child, we can most assuredly see him or her as a subpar candidate for a teaching or daycare job. I also feel that companies who provide these information checking services ought to be better regulated. What and how information is collected needs to be reconsidered. Also, any inputs into a person’s background information need to be more closely monitored. I think in addition to a basic background check, people with authority in behavioral analysis should create in depth personality tests aimed to recognize a suggestion of negative behavior. This may actually ease negligent hiring substantially. Until investigative services redirect their efforts at learning how to better predict inappropriate or harmful activity, negligent hiring will never be eliminated with background checking. It will continue to suppress it, but nothing more. We ought to develop more innovate and advanced ways to rid our workplaces of such individuals. That is what will empty the courtrooms.


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