When using criminal background checks, employers often encounter reminders imploring them to remember that the presence of a criminal record is not an indicator of future behavior. This is true—people can and do change, even if they may have committed serious crimes in the past. However, it is not a universal truth, and employers must carefully evaluate an individual’s risk to their business, its staff, and even the public. A recent news story from South Carolina highlights how a long and checkered past may be a red flag one shouldn't ignore.
According to police and media reports, a man in Charleston licensed as a real estate agent instigated an altercation at a gas station that led to the man slashing his victim with a screwdriver. Inquiries to the state's licensing board for agents revealed that the board had received an allegedly clean background check during the man's original licensing application in 2016. However, court records reveal a different story: a checkered past going back years, including felony drug distribution convictions and pending charges for burglary.
Police brought the burglary charges against the man in 2019, but the licensing board seemed unaware of the incident. With ongoing monitoring, the board could have received notice of the arrests and arraignment, providing an opportunity to revoke the man's license. Instead, he seems to have continued practicing for years even as his rap sheet grew longer. While there is no evidence that he harmed any clients or acted improperly in his role as an agent, the potential for danger is evident—especially after such an explosive episode of violence.
The lack of ongoing monitoring, in this case, highlights how important it is for employers and organizations to play an active role in protecting themselves and the public. Making a fully informed decision is essential to hiring safely and avoiding future claims of negligence. For one bar owner in Boston, that lesson came in the most brutal way possible.
According to media reports, the owner of a bar called Sons of Boston did not carry out routine background checks when hiring individuals. In April of 2022, one of the bar's armed security guards became involved in a dispute with a patron. The argument ended with the guard stabbing the man in the chest; the victim later died of his wounds.
A background check would have revealed prior drug convictions and other crimes. Though there was no history of violence in the man's record, the bar owner did not even consider this information and thus missed an important chance to make his business safer. Though the bar contends there was no way to foresee the violent episode, lawsuits remain pending.
Though a background check is not a means of telling the future, the information it provides can prove vital in keeping your business and its patrons safer. From ongoing monitoring to pre-employment checks, operating with all the facts is vital.
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