As the weather gets cooler and the autumn leaves begin to show their colours, many begin to look forward to seasonal activities that define this time of year. For many who love the "spooky season" of October and Halloween, visiting a local haunted house is often on the agenda. Almost always operated by a local business owner and drawing from community members, these creative pop-up adventures give people of all ages the chance to indulge in harmless scares.
At one haunted house in Ohio, however, poor hiring practices led to the potential for real harm. Though nothing serious occurred, the risks were potentially huge—and it took an employee quitting in protest for changes to occur. What happened?
According to one employee, two convicted sex offenders worked in the haunted house area of the business, where they would interact with guests—including children—during scenes. Both individuals were convicted of serious crimes, and one was listed on the state registry as a habitual child sex offender following two convictions for rape. It is unclear how the employee learned about the criminal backgrounds of her co-workers, but she remained employed for only one day before quitting in protest.
Following intensive media scrutiny, the business fired the two individuals. In statements to the media, the owner of the haunted house said that the two employees had only worked for "three or four" days. She was unaware of their convictions or registration status, she said, as the business did not use a criminal background check when hiring. The owner said that in the future, all employees would need to pass a background check before joining the crew of the haunted house.
In Ohio, there are currently no laws that definitively prohibit registered offenders from working in certain positions where interactions with children are a possibility. The state legislature has a bill in committee that would change that, but there is no clear timeline for its potential passage.
Seasonal employees serve to bolster workforces in many industries at different times of the year, but especially from October through January. The holidays and the extra demand they create mean many businesses must hire quickly and in great volume to achieve a positive outcome.
Despite this pressure, it is obvious that the rush is not more important than safety. Conducting the same due diligence you would use for a full-time employee on a seasonal applicant might add some time to your process, but the consequences of failing to do so are too great. In the case of the haunted house, it is chilling to consider a habitual child sex offender being in a position of interacting with children in a dark, confined space.
Background checks are fast, simple, and easy for businesses to use—even under the hiring pressures of seasonal demand. Skipping this simple step to save time and a bit of money is not worth the potential impacts on the community, your employees, and the business itself. A stronger policy is better for both protecting others and for ensuring a strong, functional team on the job.
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