Most Airports Don't Do Repeat Background Checks on Employees after Hiring

By Michael Klazema on 2/5/2015

Ever since the September 11th terrorist attacks, airports have cracked down on security in such a way that most passengers would classify as "annoying." From metal detectors to a policy that doesn't allow passengers to bring bottles of water through security, the process for screening at airports is extensive, and adds a lot of time to air travel. However, what if these security processes aren't enough to keep commercial flights safe? And what if airports are looking at their passengers as potential threats, but aren't doing enough to screen their very own employees?

CNN investigations have revealed several holes in airport security as of late, and they all have to do not with passengers, but with airport employees. First, CNN investigators discovered that many airport employees have direct access to "airplanes and tarmac" without having to go through security themselves. That means that baggage workers and other employees don't even have to go through the metal detectors that passengers do, which in turn means that one of these individuals could easily load a bomb or some other dangerous item onto a plane.

After making that alarming discovery, CNN kept digging and found something that might be even more troubling. In most airports in the United States, employees are only required to go through background checks at their hire date. And once a pre-employment check has been cleared, a worker essentially has a free pass for their entire period of employment. Airports, in other words, don't run repeat background checks to check for developments in employee criminal records.

This fact is concerning for a number of reasons. First of all, it shows a misunderstanding of how criminal records work. It's reasonable to hire someone and think them trustworthy because their initial background check shows no criminal activity. It is no reasonable to assume that the same person will never commit a crime, or to blindly trust them for years based off a single background check. After all, criminal records are never set in stone, and a background check is ultimately just a snapshot of a person's history at a single point in time.

Secondly, this issue shows a blatant disrespect for passengers and their safety. It's not fair to assume that all threats will come from the outside. On the contrary, airport employees should be required to go through more rigid checks and security than passengers should, simply because they are at the airport every day and are therefore a more consistent and dangerous threat.

Finally, recent security breaches have shown that airports aren't doing enough to make sure that their employees are trustworthy. In December, a passenger at the Atlanta airport managed to smuggle guns onto a commercial flight. How was this possible? Because a Delta Airlines baggage handler brought the bag of firearms through security and then handed it off to the passenger.

Certain airports, as well as the TSA, do conduct random criminal background investigations on existing employees. However, such policies are not enforced everywhere, and there is no airport in the country that runs regular repeat checks on every one of its employees.

Bottom line: airports need to be better about keeping an eye on their own people. If a baggage handler can get guns into an airport and onto a plane, then bombs or biological weapons could easily be brought aboard as well. Universal repeat background checks might be a way to prevent these breaches, as would a regular airport security policy for all employees.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • December 04 Chicago Public Schools has dismissed hundreds of employees, coaches, vendors, and volunteers based on background check findings. The district recently vowed to re-check the majority of its 68,000 employees after a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed holes in its background check policies.
  • November 29 Striving to create a safer environment more conducive to productive training and leadership development, the Army has recently moved to adopt a uniform policy of background checks for certain roles. 
  • November 27 California’s biggest public school district is waiving the cost of volunteer background checks. The move is meant to encourage more family - and community members to get involved with the school district.
  • November 22 Contractors play an important role in the workforce, delivering services to both individuals and organizations. Vetting contractors for suitability continues to be a challenge, as two recent articles prove.
  • November 21 When it comes to background and pre-employment checks, it can be instructive to look at the characteristics of the ten most massive U.S. employers.
  • November 20 The #MeToo movement is bringing about legislative changes employers need to know about. We review some of the laws recently passed in California.
  • November 19

    Will a criminal conviction show up on your background check forever? In most states, there is a year limit for how long background check companies can report older criminal information.

  • November 15

    Replacing an inconsistent array of procedures, Ontario's government has passed into law a reform act intended to clarify how police departments should handle requests for information to be used in background checks. 

  • November 14 The federal government has vowed to cut its backlog of security clearance background checks in half by spring. Currently, the backlog is approximately 600,000 names strong.
  • November 12 To ensure the best hires, DFWSPF has implemented a stringent employee screening process—one that includes background searches through