Who are you hiring

Every year despite safety programs and protective equipment people get hurt at work because of workplace violence.

In 2000, 16 percent of the 6.5 million acts of violence against adults occured in the workplace. And the Department of Justice predicts that this year 1 million people will be a victim of a violent crime while on the job.

According to OSHA, this year violent acts are expected to result in 500,000 employees missing 1.8 million days of work with a subsequent $55 million in lost wages.

While the majority of violent encounters involve employees in close contact with the public like police officers, taxi drivers and health care professionals, violence can also occur when companies unknowingly hire people with violent backgrounds.

Mark Erenburg of Kaff Systems Inc., a human resources consulting company, says one of the ways to prevent workplace violence is to change the company’s hiring practices.

“If the employer knew, or should have known, that the person they hired was a sex offender…and something happens at the workplace, that employer is up the proverbial estuary without any visible means of locomotion,” says Erenburg.

No one can predict when an employee will lash out and commit a violent crime but the best way to prevent the possibility of violence is to investigate the background of the people you hire.

Until recently, HR managers often conducted cursory background searches for fear the courts favor the privacy rights of potential employee over the rights of potential employer. The result is that employers often do little or no due diligence when it comes to hiring.

It is, in fact, legal to check into a job candidate’s past but Erenburg says companies need the complete package which includes accurate information and an analysis of what that information means and what can be used.

Mary Balasz of Taft, Stettinius and Hollister, and former attorney with the National Labor Relations Board recommends doing an extensive background search, even looking at a job candidate’s credit history before hiring.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act does guarantee a certain level of privacy regarding an individual’s credit history so requests must be authorized. “People have to sign a release to do that and the easiest time to get it is when they’re applying for a job,” says Balasz.

“Since 9-11, there’s been an incredible concern about who we’re hiring for reasons other than negligent hiring (suits),” says Erenburg. “Many employers question, ‘Do I really know who I’ve got here?’”

How to reach: Kaff Systems Inc., (440) 349-6624 or www.kaffsystems.com; Taft, Stettinius and Hollister LLP, (216) 241-3141 or www.taftlaw.com