Run Employee Background Checks or Bear the Blame

As I reflect back on my 23+ years in the restaurant business, I’ve seen a necessary trend slowly taking place. Restaurant companies are increasingly making employee background checks part of the hiring process as courts are increasingly holding employers liable for “negligent hiring,” or failing to check the background of a prospective employee. An employee of a major restaurant chain sexually assaulted a 3-year-old customer on the property of the restaurant in Ohio. And in Nebraska, a delivery driver for a major pizza chain raped a woman after delivering a pizza to her home. In the Nebraska case, the pizza chain was ordered to pay $175,000 to the victim.

In both cases, the employees had previous sexual-assault convictions on their records. And in both, a simple background check could have prevented a personal attack and the litigation that followed.

In the past, some restaurant concepts would argue that a background check is too expensive. But I would argue that the litigation that comes as a result of not having done their due diligence and having been negligent in their hiring process can be far greater.

Along with turning up convictions for crimes such as sexual assault, an employee background check can show if a job candidate has been convicted of stealing from a previous employer. A check of a candidate’s driving records can show convictions for drunken driving or other traffic violations.

Such information could save a restaurant owner thousands of dollars by avoiding a bad hire. And at a cost of $50 or less for a basic criminal records check, the cost argument carries little weight. All it takes is one theft issue and you can pay for a background screening.

An employee background check can generally be performed in three or four days for a cost as low as $9.95 for a basic check. A restaurant brand can also get their own employee background check software to do the checks internally.

Even if a bad hire doesn’t result in a lawsuit, bad publicity can destroy a business. It is important to know what kind of employee you are getting. If you are building a business, you don’t want to be in the press because of something negative that happened with one of your employees.

While there is no sure-fire way employers can protect themselves from the occasional dishonest employment candidate, they can operate with the most due diligence possible.

A basic criminal background check can incorporate state records, county records or both, and can include information such as any felonies or misdemeanors a person has, or whether a person is a registered sex offender.

Motor vehicle reports generally have an instant turnaround time and return three-five years’ worth of a driver’s history. Information includes speeding tickets and other driving violations, such as drunken driving or whether a person is driving with a suspended license.

Social Security Number verification also can help uncover employee skeletons, experts say. SSN verification reports give a person’s state and residency history. They also give a history of where the person has lived and if the SSN the person provided is valid.

Often, simply informing a job candidate that an employer will conduct a background check can serve to discourage bad apples.

And finally, always let job candidates know that a background check will be part of the employment process, or that you employ a company to do thorough background checks. That generally encourages them to self-disqualify if there’s a problem.

Read other articles on Restaurant Manager Best Hiring Practices here.