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Why Periodic Background Screening of Current Employees is Important

Posted by Ryan Howard on Fri, Nov 17, 2017

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When employers screen an applicant and their criminal record is clean, it doesn't necessarily mean that their record remains that way.  Unfortunately, employers facing claims of negligent hiring due to workplace violence and employee theft know this all too well. Employees face hardships and challenges in their lives that may lead to activities the employer would deem harmful. New hires may also be held to a different standard than employees who were hired years before. 

Is it normal for employers to do periodic background screening of current employees?
Why is it important?

Can Employers Rescreen Employees?

Certain industries, such as healthcare, finance, credit reporting, security, or other workplaces where employees encounter a vulnerable population, may require their employees be screened with regularity.  Some employers have made it part of their hiring policy to do periodic background screening of existing employees.

Employers who are considering rescreening employees must be aware that:

  • Depending on state laws and whether or not the employer is an "at will" employer, rescreening employees may be against the law or required for specific industries or jobs.
  • Consent must still be obtained and the employee must be advised of pre-adverse action, just as with pre-employment screening. The employee must also be allowed to dispute any inaccuracies in their background report.
    • If the employee is under investigation for misconduct or criminal wrongdoing, they do not have to give consent to a background check.
    • The employee may withdraw consent for screening at any time. Employers must state in the background screening policy any repercussions for revoking consent.
    • Employers may use consent forms upon hiring that may be used throughout the duration of employment (however, it is recommended to obtain updated consent periodically). Employees must be aware of this evergreen clause when signing.
  • Some employers may not regularly rescreen but instead require employees "self-report" if there are any arrests or convictions that may impact their jobs. 
  • A background screening policy must be created as it applies to current employees. This policy may be different than a pre-employment screening policy and all employees must be notified.
  • A termination policy must also be established if the new screening policy reveals a criminal record that would affect the employee's position within the company.
  • The EEOC Individualized Assessment Standards for assessing criminal records in employment decisions must be used. This policy must offer consistency when deciding if certain criminal convictions will disqualify an employee for a promotion or prompt termination.

EEOC Background Screening Decision Matrix Template

What Prompts Existing Employee Background Checks

Some employee rescreening may be prompted by a change in job within the organization or if something occurs, such as a workplace accident or unusual behavior, that leaves management questioning the employee's status. 

Other reasons for screening current employees include:

  • If the employee is taking on new responsibilities, such as driving for the business, access to more secure information, or company finances, it may be time to rescreen. The initial background check may not have included inquiry on the employee's driving or financial history and, even if it did, things may have changed.
  • When there is an accident or behavior that is usual for the employee, management may opt to rescreen to rule out the use of drugs or alcohol. 
  • If the employee has worked for the company over a long period of time, new hires may be subjected to more restrictive background checks.  Current employees should be held to the new and updated standards.
  • To obtain new information on long-standing employees, new screening may be necessary. Past history of the employee doesn't always dictate recent activities.

Periodic Background Screening of Current Employees is Important

Simply put, a pre-employment background check may no longer be sufficient for existing employees. Employers must manage the risk of damage to their business, their employees, and their customers.

Periodic background screening is important for employers, especially in the case of:

  • Negligent hiring liabilities: Workplace violence, accidents, and employee theft are a few reasons employers could be held responsible for the actions of their employees.
  • Updated Screening Policies: When HR updates background screening policies, it may be wise to hold existing employees to the same standards.
  • Employees were never screened: Some employees may have been working so long for the employer that they were never screened initially.

Employers must also consider the stress and mistrust an employee may feel upon rescreening. The periodic background screening policy should cover all employees, or those jobs subjected to more scrutiny, so the policy isn't discriminatory.  The policy can be presented in a positive light, with the understanding that the organization wishes to keep the employees safe and the business operational, as to not greatly affect employee morale or workplace culture.

Topics: Employee Relationship Management, Employment Background Screening, FCRA Compliance