Thursday, June 11, 2009

Big verdict underscores importance of background checks

One would think that businesses with whom people entrust children or the elderly would conduct routine criminal background checks of its employees. In fact, in Ohio, it’s the law. At least one employer, however, an assisted living facility in Newport News, Virginia, unknowingly hired an employee with a long criminal history, including assault and battery. On May 28, a jury found the facility liable for failing to exercise reasonable care in hiring the former felon. The lawsuit involved the employee’s sexual assault of a resident. The ex-employee has been criminally charged with five forcible sodomy counts, three carnal knowledge counts, and one abuse and neglect count. For these acts, the jury awarded the abused resident $750,000 in damages.

There is a good lesson for all employers to learn from this example. Backgrounds checks are inexpensive. The potential exposure from hiring an employee with a criminal history, however, is large. Do your bottom line and the safety of your employees a favor and consider implementing routine criminal background checks for all employees. For information on how to use this information without running afoul of EEO laws, I recommend EEOC targets use of arrest and conviction records.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or