Background checks now can avert problems later

Last updated on May 13th, 2022 at 10:19 pm

By Michael John, for SBT

The hiring process is time-consuming and expensive enough without adding possible litigation to the list of employer concerns. Unfortunately, recent statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that many companies, ranging from family-owned businesses to major corporations, make mistakes that leave them open to unnecessary risk:

•    Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that 50 percent of all resumes and applications contain fabrications.

•    The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that employee theft causes 33 percent of all business failures.

•    According to Department of Justice statistics, workplace violence accounts for 18 percent of all violent crimes.

•    Overall, 66 percent of negligent hiring trial cases result in jury awards averaging $600,000 in damages, and the Workplace Violence Research Institute reports that the average jury award for civil suits on behalf of the injured is $3 million.

While most companies provide applicants with standard employment applications, review resumes and conduct interviews, in today’s society, additional steps are required to create a thorough and thoughtful hiring process, even when recruiters are involved.

Relying solely on applicant-provided information, a recruiter’s vetting activities or the consensus of interviewers is not enough and may lead to a false sense of security that can leave a business exposed to damages, losses and costly litigation.

A comprehensive background check from this source can provide a “second look” at a potential candidate that can create peace of mind for the employer, reduce risk and create a safer and more secure working environment for employees and customers.

Employers who conduct thorough background screenings, including reference checking, experience better employee attendance rates and lower turnover.

In addition, employers may see reduced health care and workers’ compensation costs. While costs associated with health care, job-related accidents and workers’ compensation may seem unrelated to background screening, there is a correlation. Hiring the best overall employees makes a difference in terms of attitude, safety and performance.

When a drug-free workplace program is also in place, employers experience even greater cost savings.

Employers can conduct a post-conditional job offer workers’ compensation search on applicants for jobs that require manual labor, standing for long periods of time or performing other duties that can lead to stress injuries such as chronic back pain. Unfortunately, fraud associated with workers’ compensation claims, especially in regards to back and other chronic pain that is difficult to measure, is well-documented. Employers who search workers’ compensation records take an important step toward protecting themselves from professional claimants.

Overall, employers who conduct background screening experience fewer incidents of employee theft, fraud, embezzlement and shrinkage. Screening may reveal past theft or other criminal behavior, possibly preventing a bad hire, and it also sends a message to employees that the employer is concerned about who has access to financial or material assets and that the company will take appropriate action if necessary.

Under the legal doctrine of negligent hiring or retention, an employer has the duty to protect its employees, clients and the public from injuries caused by employees whom the employer knows or “should have known” pose a risk of harm to others. Background screening can help reduce the risk of accidents, criminal activity and violence – all of which may result in litigation. While no screening program can completely eliminate the possibility of a lawsuit, a company with a comprehensive screening program in place will have documentation to demonstrate that it took reasonable measures to investigate the employee’s background pre-hire.

Consequently, exposure to a courtroom trial, bad publicity and hefty penalties is greatly reduced.

When a company screens its applicants, the company is more likely to find qualified employees for its open positions. Employment, education and professional verifications are just the beginning when determining whether an applicant will appropriately fit a company’s needs.

In today’s society where identity theft is a common problem, employers should verify potential employees indeed are who they claim they are. Confirm an applicant’s Social Security number by running a check on whether or not the number is valid. In addition, a critical post-hire check is the I-9 verification, which must be conducted within three days of an employee starting his or her job. This search allows an employer to know whether or not a person can legitimately work in the United States.


Michael John is the director of communications for U.S. Investigations Services LLC (USIS), a North Falls Church, Va.-based pre-employment screening and security company. John formerly held executive positions at Wisconsin Energy Corp. and Menasha Corp. He can be reached at

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