I often get called upon to share the insights Hillard Heintze has gained in our pursuit to prevent workplace violence through our Threat + Violence Risk Management Practice. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Martin Berman-Gorvine, a reporter with Bloomberg Law, about the importance of screening job candidates in order to identify potential behaviors that could lead to a workplace violence incident.

I’m grateful to Mr. Berman-Gorvine for taking the time to delve into this critical area of violence prevention. I think you’ll enjoy reading his article, too, and included it below – with permission from Bloomberg Law – for all of us to gain more insights into what background checks can reveal about potential employees.

I’d also like to thank Hillard Heintze’s Senior Vice President of Investigations, Jennifer Mackovjak, for her keen insight on the issue of background checks. She works to read between the lines of these documents on a daily basis for our clients.

How to Prevent Job Violence: Do Background Checks, Repeat

Applicant background checks can’t prevent all workplace violence, but they can red-flag job candidates with violence in their pasts, security consultants say.

By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Bloomberg Law

Applicant background checks can’t prevent all workplace violence, but they can red-flag job candidates with violence in their pasts, security consultants say.

The topic never seems far from the headlines. A recent tragedy was the Sept. 20 shooting murder of three workers at a Rite Aid Corp. distribution center in Aberdeen, Md. The shooter, temporary employee Snochia Moseley, also injured three people and then took her own life.

There were 866 workplace fatalities in 2016 due to what the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as “violence and other injuries by persons or animals,” including 500 homicides. More than one-eighth of the homicides were committed by a work associate or co-worker.

Perhaps the surest way of keeping out violence-prone employees is to examine applicants’ history and character in depth.

“After doing hundreds of background checks in the law enforcement arena, there are two things you want to discern,” John Sakoian, president of Command Excellence™ LLC and ACTION™ Training, told Bloomberg Law. “One is the record of the individual—criminal history, driver’s license, social media postings, educational background, military history, employment history, personal history, personal references, credit history, credit references, family references, and a canvas of the neighborhood where the individual grew up.”

Character is the other crucial factor, Sakoian said, citing “resiliency” and a lack of narcissism as the best guarantee a new employee will not react violently to difficulties or setbacks. “Why do people commit violence? I go into the deeper cause—because they put themselves before others.”

To evaluate such character traits as integrity and responsibility, Sakoian suggested potential employers ask, “Do they work well under supervision? With others? Have they ever been disciplined and how did they handle the discipline?”

Bret Jardine, executive vice president and general counsel of background check firm First Advantage, notes that there isn’t one universal set of red flags, because these can vary by the type of business. Some businesses such as financial services or health care have specific regulatory or statutory requirements of searches, with lists of findings that may disqualify a candidate for a particular job position.

“Likewise, think of jobs that interact with vulnerable populations such as children,” he says. “Do you want to allow someone with a criminal history involving violence to minors in a role at a child-care facility?”

Once May Not Be Enough

Vigilance isn’t necessary only before hiring, Jardine said. “Arguably employers should consider re-screening their employee population on a periodic basis of at least every two years, if not more frequently,” he said.

For some positions that require an extra level of trust, he said, employers can consider using a criminal monitoring product. “Where it is permitted under applicable laws, the monitoring product alerts employers to the criminal histories of existing employees and contractors post-hire while they are current employees, in near real-time.”

Screening is essential and “can root out such things as inconsistencies in resumes and a pattern of short-term employment that could point to a problem employee,” Matthew Doherty, senior vice president of security risk management for Chicago-based security firm Hillard Heintze, told Bloomberg Law. Background checks also can reveal problem behaviors and more serious warning signs, such as a history of domestic violence, restraining orders, or stalking, he said.

Prospective employers also can learn much by talking with a prior employer, even a reticent one, Doherty said. “Oftentimes, an employer will say ‘he or she worked here’ and nothing more, which gives a subliminal message that there was an issue that they can’t discuss openly due to liability.”

Avoiding Bias

Some cities and states have restricted employer background checks, such as New York City, where employers can’t ask applicants if they have a criminal conviction until after extending a job offer, Doherty said. And the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires employers to notify applicants and get their authorization when obtaining credit reports for criminal background checking.

To avoid unfairly excluding applicants based on long-ago or irrelevant crimes, employers should consult the 2012 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records in employment, Jardine, advised. “An individualized assessment is recommended by the EEOC to take into consideration the age of the individual at the time of the criminal history and the job-relatedness of criminal history.” The EEOC says employers should also factor in how long ago the offense occurred.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at mbermangorvine@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

Reproduced with permission. Published Oct. 5, 2018. Copyright 2018 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com