The shooting at a naval building in Washington, D.C., earlier this year was a stark reminder that workplace safety can never be taken for granted. While nothing is foolproof, pre employment background checks are a practical measure that can provide a sense of security and even help prevent incidents.
A screening provides valuable information about the prospective employee and can finalize the hiring decision. Information yielded may range from education history to credit and court records. A candidate's past and present social media presence has become a popular point of interest for employers as well. However, criminal histories are at the core of most pre-employment screenings.
County and state records will show any history of felonies, but may also include misdemeanors or minor infractions.
Federal records will expose federal offenses or crimes committed on federal property.
National criminal databases such as the National Wants and Warrants, the Sex Offender Registry or Global Homeland Security Search will reveal if an applicant is listed on any of these databases.
Employers have a moral and legal obligation to provide a safe work environment, and criminal background checks can defend against negligent hiring claims. However, some employment laws limit employers from denying an offer or firing a current employee based solely on a criminal conviction, so it's important to work with legal counsel or human resources experts to weed through each state's laws. Further, employers should perform more well-rounded background checks instead of focusing solely on criminal histories. More general background screenings can uncover issues or inconsistencies in education or employment history that can be indicative of a candidate's ability to perform and may be a defensible justification for rescinding a contingent offer.
Pre-employment background checks are far from foolproof. But when conducted properly, they can highlight risks and may prevent a workplace incident. As a proactive measure, background checks can provide invaluable peace of mind.