Ongoing Criminal Monitoring - Once Just Isn't Enough

By Michael Klazema on 8/8/2010

Checking applicants’ backgrounds before you hire them is important, but what happens if they commit crimes after starting work?

Across the board, the media focus on background screening is on pre-employment checks: whether and why you should do them, which types of checks you should do, and so on.  While these questions are undeniably important, they miss another whole aspect of screenings that can be equally important: post-employment background checks, most commonly seen in the form of ongoing criminal monitoring.

Ongoing criminal monitoring is exactly what it sounds like: a process by which you screen your current employees on an ongoing basis to confirm the employee’s continued eligibility for employment under your criminal background policy.  So, if you require an employee to have had no violent felony convictions in the previous seven years in order to begin work, you then check on a periodic or ongoing basis after the employee has begun work to verify that he still has no violent felony convictions.

While important in every company, those organizations that have a good retention rate particularly need ongoing criminal monitoring.  If your company only screens on a pre-employment basis and has a good retention rate, some of your employees may not have been screened for 10 years.

The possibilities of what could have happened in those 10 years are endless.  Maybe an employee in your accounting department has been convicted of credit fraud since he started there.  Maybe an employee who works with kids has been convicted of child molestation.  These types of employees can get out on bail before you find out they were arrested; if it is their first offense, they can receive probation, even for serious convictions, that allow them to continue working for you. Your best protection is to check your employees periodically to make sure that they measure up to the same standards they used to.

The catch is that this can’t just be done willy-nilly.  There are some additional considerations, among the most important of which is an item known as an evergreen authorization.  This is an authorization similar to one that the applicant would sign in order for any background check to occur however it is considered valid for more than one round of checks.  Another option would be to run annual background checks on your employees and have them sign a separate authorization each year.  In either case, you should check with your lawyer to make sure that your authorization is valid.

As a side note, employees may also be grandfathered in under an era when background checks were not conducted.  Checking these employees would be another form of post-employment screening, but would not fall under the category of ongoing criminal monitoring.  It is important in these situations, however, that you review your options to determine if you can run a background check on these employees.  Logically, if there is a business need for a check to be run on incoming employees, a similar check probably applies to former employees. 
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