Under the microscope

Conducting background checks can be a good idea—but legal pitfalls await

In the current litigious business environment, you face a broad range of potential liabilities, many of which are brought on by employees. These employee-based liabilities range from offenses such as workplace assaults and battery to statutory claims of discrimination and harassment to offenses against you and your business, such as theft, embezzlement and unfair competition, among many others.

As an employer, you are held responsible for the liabilities you create by intentional action and inaction, as well as for your negligence in discharging your duties as an employer (such as hiring, retention and supervision).

All these issues make it more critical for you to carefully screen and consider those you hire. Doing so will help protect you, your employees and others in your workplace.

To this end, you should adopt a comprehensive and well-framed set of background checking procedures tailored for your particular workplace and each job position. These procedures should be designed to ensure to the greatest extent possible that the individuals being hired or, in the case of promotions or transfers, brought into certain positions are honest, trustworthy, reliable, qualified and, perhaps most important, nonviolent and nonthreatening.

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