This unfortunate topic is ripped from the headlines and from an email I received from a friend recently. In response to news of a workplace shooting, my friend wrote:
“Disturbing – are you fully insured for this? Advice to companies as to how to handle?”
Disturbing, indeed. It’s very difficult to create policies that adequately account for tragedies. However, I believe that the best insurance against problems is prevention. Could good hiring practices, background screenings, reference checks and/or drug screenings prevent this type of violence? It’s hard to say, but, as a business owner, I want to be in the position to say, “At MarathonHR, we do everything we can to hire the best people by using a rigorous screening process.” Why leave anything to chance?
Some states, it appears, are moving towards leaving a candidate’s criminal history to chance – at least at the beginning of the application process. This is known as “ban-the-box”, which refers to prohibiting employers from requiring job applicants to disclose criminal convictions on an employment application or at any time prior to an initial interview.
Six states ban-the-box – Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Oregon’s legislature has passed a bill that is expected to go into effect in January 2016. In these states, employers are permitted to notify applicants that they may later be required to disclose convictions or that a criminal background check will be performed as part of the hiring process. The primary point is that such disclosure may not be required prior to a first interview.
I am not an attorney, but as an HR professional, ban-the-box initiatives worry me. Incidents that happen in the workplace are “work-related” and could be covered under Workers’ Compensation. It seems to me that companies would be open to civil action if they don’t take all steps available, including comprehensive screening, to create a safe environment, but, again, I’m not an attorney.
My advice would be to evaluate your hiring practices and ensure you are doing everything you can to make smart decisions about candidates. Conduct the appropriate background checks and screenings. Protect yourself so that if a civil claim is made against you, you have a solid defense in place.
If you need help evaluating, developing or revising your employment policies, don’t hesitate to call us at 678-208-2802.