Are employers as vigilant as they should be with their employee background check policies? Every time a new story breaks about an employee hurting a customer, embezzling money, or otherwise committing wrongdoing, people this question. In some cases, the employer has taken shortcuts or skipped background check steps that might have helped prevent the incidents in question. Other times, the events are flukes: first-time offenses that no criminal history search or reference check could have foreseen.
To get a better sense of where employers might be missing the mark with their vetting, we looked at several incidents in which more thorough background checks could have made a difference.
1. Murderous Deliveryman
On Monday, August 19, a 75-year-old woman in Boca Raton was murdered in her home by a deliveryman who was there to install a washer and dryer she’d purchased at Best Buy. The killer, 21-year-old Jorge Lachazo, beat the woman to death with a mallet and burned her body with acetone seemingly without motive.
Lachazo was an employee of X.M. Delivery Service, a Miami-based delivery company that had been contracted to deliver the appliance. Best Buy contracts outside companies to deliver and install appliances rather than handling these services in-house. In this case, Best Buy contracted the Arkansas-based shipping company J.B. Hunt for the delivery, which in turn contracted X.M. Delivery Service.
At this point, it isn’t clear if Lachazo had a criminal background or other past red flags that might have predicted his behavior. Best Buy hasn’t been very open about its policies for vetting subcontractors, though the company has promised to “review [its] existing screening, audit, and safety programs.” The case does highlight why it’s crucial for businesses to vet their contractors just as thoroughly as they vet their employees.
2. Challenges with Comprehensive Hospice Checks
Writing for Hospice News, Chicago journalist Jim Parker shed some light on how common deficient background checks are in the hospice industry. According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report, 87 percent of all hospices in the United States “had at least one deficiency identified during a regulatory or accreditor survey” between 2012 and 2016. The most common type of deficiency was a lapse in background checks or background check documentation.
The challenge, Parker writes, is that background checks for hospices are sophisticated, involving criminal history searches, verifications for education, work history, professional licenses, abuse and neglect registry checks, searches of the OIG exclusions list, and more. The result is that many hospice employees work with vulnerable patients even though they don’t have full background checks on file.
Despite their complexity, healthcare background checks must be comprehensive to protect patients and avoid potential negligent hiring or malpractice lawsuits.
3. 6,000 Skipped Background Checks
In Iowa, a recent audit of the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) found that a clerk had skipped running nearly 6,000 background checks. It was the job of the clerk, Joe Sheehan Jr., to initiate background checks for individuals seeking private investigator or security guard licenses.
To receive this type of license—known as a “guard card”—applicants must pass both an Iowa state criminal history check and a federal background check. Individuals with certain convictions are not allowed to hold guard cards or work in the security or private investigator industries. Sheehan Jr. skipped the federal background check step for 5,817 cases.
DPS has since fired Sheehan Jr. and processed federal checks for most of the 5,817 guard cardholders. So far, DPS has revoked about 25 guard cards over out-of-state convictions that should have disqualified those individuals from receiving the cards in the first place. DPS has opened a criminal investigation into Sheehan Jr. and is trying to determine if he was bribed to skip the background checks.
This case shows that background checks should not just be the responsibility of a single person. Additional oversight or redundancy at DPS could have helped the organization to avoid the situation.
Employee background check vetting is an extremely important step whether you are dealing with contractors, healthcare workers, individuals receiving valuable professional licenses, or full-time employees. In most cases, when employers cut corners with their background checks, they aren’t doing so with malicious intent: these shortcuts might happen out of sheer laziness, to save money, or simply forgetfulness or lack of oversight. Regardless of the reason for neglected background checks, they can be extremely costly for businesses—whether in the form of tragedies, lawsuits, or negative PR.
Don’t let your business risk these outcomes by skimping on background checks. Instead, contact backgroundchecks.com today for help establishing an ideal employee vetting policy for your business.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments