A monthly educational topic from AIS, written by David G. Mair. Call (407) 322-2380 with your questions, comments or suggestions.
Companies who do thorough Employment and Worker's Compensation background checks can effectively help eliminate inefficient and costly persons from the workplace. They also avoid the risk of financial responsibility for an employee who commits a crime.
In an industry of low profit margins, high competition and a fair share of transient staff, finding good candidates to hire is difficult in itself. However, hiring the wrong person or persons can produce such devastating results as inducing financial stress which could jeopardize the firm's ability to survive.
An Orlando Attorney, Ms. Susan McKenna states that companies are at risk of being found liable for negligence if they cannot prove they were diligent in researching a worker's background. More often than not, a past employer will only give basic information about a past employee, especially if there was nothing good to say about the candidate. 80% of the time, they fear lawsuits. 11% of the time, there is bias due to friendship. The employer should be more cautious if there is no good report, and should at least document what efforts were made to ascertain the information.
Last year, a Tallahassee woman was awarded thousands of dollars to compensate for being assaulted by a delivery man. She was also able to successfully sue the employer. They were found negligent of not checking the workers background which would have revealed that the worker had a history of committing violent crimes. A few months ago, a Gainesville jury granted a judgement of $1,000,000 to the parents of two University of Florida students as some compensation for the murder of the students by the employee of a carpet cleaning company. The Texas company was found negligent because it did not adequately check the employee's background; if they had done a check they would have learned, then candidate, Alan Robert Davis had been convicted on charges of drug possession, resisting arrest with violence, and had been fired from two jobs.
John Hinkle, President of the Employees Association of Florida, an employers trade group, calls the problem "Negligent Hiring" or "Negligent Retention". He reports this as a continuing problem for all businesses.
Lawyer Kevin Shaughnessy, an expert in employment law, also of Orlando, stresses background checks as being essential to the hiring process. Irregularities, gaps, or unexplained periods in a job applicant's work history should be suspect; they often uncover a criminal record, he said. Shaughnessy also encouraged the use of standardized forms in which the candidate gives permission for the prospective employer to question a former about that candidate's history. The form would also bear an agreement that termination of employment could result from any falsifications on the application.
Company interviewers should be highly trained so they will ask the right questions and pick up on tell-tell traits. Personality temperament surveys are often helpful in identifying persons suitable or unsuitable for the job. If the cost is not prohibitive, firms that run background, educational, criminal and credit reports are most valuable in helping to screen applicants. Costs average around $39.00 to $90.00.
Worker's Compensation claim history can be produced to cover as much as fifteen years if the candidate had been working in Florida for that time. The cost is much lower than for other types of records. For example, FCCI has a 1-800 number for members to call and the cost is $3.80 per report.
Much of the ABUSE in the cost of Worker's Compensation comes from a criminal element in our work force. These individuals have learned the system and make a practice of faking injury so that they can be paid without having to work. They even achieve permanent partial disability status on subjective grounds. If an individual is not deliberately causing injuries to him or herself, injuries may indicate lack of care, predisposition to injury from physical handicap, or impairment due to substance abuse.
Florida law allows employers to maintain a workplace free of substances which would cause an employee's ability to be impaired. The establishment of a Drug Free Program is surprisingly cost effective, and one of the easiest safety measures an employer can implement. The practice earns a 5% premium credit for Worker's Compensation. Testing is only required for all new hires and when a covered employee has a compensable claim. You can test on other occasions but this is the minimum required. The cost for each test is approximately $30.00.
Additional advantages include the elimination for candidates who would be inefficient, dangerous, and potentially costly; morale increases because everyone pulls their weight; attendance is kept at an all time high.
The tire industry invariably includes exposure to dust from asbestos brake linings. Workers who have been exposed to this asbestos may bring developing problems to your workplace. The problem may then surface when additional irritants heighten the disease. Under Florida law, the carrier covering the employee, at the time the injury becomes apparent, will be responsible for the claim even though the injury occurred over several employments. A pre-employment physical is well recommended as allowed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. A person should not be considered "able to perform work required", as a brake mechanic, if they have developing asbestosis.
What businesses can do
Steps to screen out potentially violent employees:
-Conduct a thorough background check of job applicants.
-Train your interviewer well.
-Have applicant sign a document giving permission to question past employers.
-Give candidates a personality temperament test.
Steps to help a potentially violent worker:
-Be observant for signs of loss of temper, poor control, mood swings, bizarre behavior and a change in performance.
-Refer worker to employment counseling.
Steps to take when firing a violent worker:
Do not give false hope of being able to retain the job.
Protect the person's dignity.
Do not question the worker's integrity.
Express your honest concern and encouragement.
Sources: Orlando Sentinel research, USA Today, risk management training, author's experience.