Corra Daily Planet » 2010 » September

Background Checks and Sexual Offenders in the Workplace

Thu, September 30th, 2010 - 6:10 am - By Gordon Basichis

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Google recently fired an employee for breaking the company’s strict internal privacy policy.  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal,  the employee who was dismissed allegedly gained access  to information on several users who were minors.    The fired employee was a software engineer.

If the charges are valid, then there is no doubt Google did the right thing by firing its employee.   Because I must say when I read that anyone is trying to obtain personal information related to minors, then the first thing that crosses my mind is a pedophile in search of another victim.  I may be right; I may be wrong, but as the co-owner of a background checking service we are not entirely unfamiliar with employees or job applicants who populate the sexual offenders registry in all fifty states.    Not a foreign concept at all.  In fact, I would believe that for most people who read about such alleged charges one’s attempt to engage in improprieties with minors is up among the first things that crosses their minds as well.

Do we often see background checks where the final report for pre-employment screening reveals criminal records along with notation that the job applicant is a not-so-proud member of the sexual offenders registry?  Truthfully, not too often.   When we do see criminal records that relate to sexual offenses, other than prostitution, then overwhelmingly the employment candidate is a male.  In the rare times it is a female, as far as the charges and convictions, believe me…you don’t want to know.   Except of course if you are considering that person for employment.

I am told by clients that sex offenders are generally toxic to the workplace.   Once it is learned that the new employee is a sex offender, quite often office morale will diminish.   Male and female employees alike tend to express violent attitudes toward the sexual offenders.  In the case of some males, they would often prefer to express themselves in a much more physical factor.  Whether you approve or not, this is not the issue.   What is the issue are the chances for injury and workplace violence and the liability issues that are often the consequence and incumbent with  these situations.

On the other hand we have a client who manages a non-profit group.  She says her best worker is someone on the sexual offenders list.   So go figure.

Nevertheless, we applaud Google for being proactive about its privacy breaches, as protect their users and avoid what we can politely call untenable situations.   Anytime there is a zero tolerance policy for any alleged acts that can cause harm to others, it is worth noting.

Background Checks on School Volunteers

Wed, September 29th, 2010 - 5:51 am - By Gordon Basichis

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Background checks for school volunteers didn’t emanate out of the ether.  Like most things in this world, something happened that caused the more trusting in the school system to rethink their game plans.  Probably that was something pretty serious as schools and public service systems are not inclined to move all that fast unless they are motivated.  And that motivation for such things as background checks, is usually adversity.  After all, with a bad economy and budgetary constraints, if you don’t have to then why spend the money?

But life in America is different now.  Usually the schools and its volunteers are not necessarily home grown locals that everyone knows.  Maybe they even know a little too much about each other, but at least they are aware of criminal records, and probably whether or not someone is on the sexual offenders registry.   Criminal records and sex offenses are the things that can most affect kids.   These are the more specific danger points.   And no one in their right mind wants a sex offender tagging along with the class for the field trip to the local dairy.   Nobody wants the person with the criminal record and prone to violence, mixing it up with the students.

And things do happen.  Bad things.   So many school systems have mandated background checks for their volunteer workers.   A good idea.  Or not?  Some critics are claiming the schools are being way to harsh on their volunteers.  The background checks can prove draconian as evidenced by one woman featured in an article in the ArgusLeader.com where she was prohibited from volunteering because she had written bad checks she wrote ten years ago.   Maybe not the best example for growing children.   But not a violent crime.  The woman apparently cleaned up her act and wanted to do the right thing by these kids.  Not happening.

The school boards are in a tough spot because their first responsibility is to protect the kids. Yet the school board should try to be inclusive and to a degree, people should be allowed their second chances.   It is not easy for school boards to find a balance here, all things considered.   But rather than invoke a blanket policy prohibiting anyone with a criminal record from serving as a school volunteer, perhaps it is worth discriminating a little and taking into consideration the seriousness of the offense, the time of the offense, and the would-be volunteers current accomplishments and place in the community.   It’s only fair.

Check them out before you hire.

Tips That Might Help Prevent Workplace Violence

Tue, September 28th, 2010 - 6:52 am - By Gordon Basichis

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Workplace violence is a growing concern.  This is especially the case with an economic downturn and with employees depressed and fearful of losing their jobs.   Under these pressing and stressful conditions, people tend to act out.

While background checks may help filter out those who are more prone to commit workplace violence, there is always a first time for everything.   Employers should conduct background checks in order to determine if the job applicant has prior criminal records, especially episodes of violence, if they have financial problems, substance abuse problems, or is they have had issues with authority.   These are often indicators that someone may snap out and hurt someone in the workplace.  Psychological testing and aptitude testing may also be a useful part of an  employer’s preemployment screening program.

I have written about workplace violence on a number of occasions. Once such article was entitled, Getting Real About Workplace Killings.   In that article I tended to agree with James Allen Fox who in his Boston.com article opined that some of the workplace  murder statistics are inaccurate or a bit overblown.  Some workplace killings could be attributed to other factors, including robberies and domestic issues, rather than one employee acting out against another.

However, in this bad economy there are certain incidents of workplace violence are on the rise.  They may not be as serious as murders but serious enough to warrant further attention. The Lincoln  Journal Star of Lincoln, Nebraska offers tips about preventing workplace violence.   Jordan Pascale was the writer of the article.   I highly recommend the article.

Here are a couple of excerpts.  I suggest everyone concerned read the entire piece.

“Fiel said there are warning signs of potentially dangerous employees. Here’s what to look for:

Watch for dramatic changes in attitude, behavior and work ethic.

If someone is usually active and social, then suddenly quiet and reserved, it may be an indicator, Fiel said.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management says no one can predict human behavior and there is no specific profile of a potentially dangerous individual.

However, indicators of increased risk of violent behavior have been identified by the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, Profiling and Behavioral Assessment Unit in its analysis of past incidents of workplace violence.”

Check them out before you hire.

The Emotional Debris from Workplace Violence

Mon, September 27th, 2010 - 6:04 am - By Gordon Basichis

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As a background checking company, we pay special attention to all the reports of workplace violence.   We believe that background checks are of major assistance in heading off the job applicants that are most likely to commit workplace violence.  However, they are by no means any full guarantee.   There is a first time for everything, and in this economic climate where people are depressed and consequently going through financial and domestic challenges, people with no real criminal history of violence may attempt to act out.

A terrific article in Philly.com, let’s hear it for my native town, details some of the issues following an incident of workplace violence.   The article, entitled, Dealing with Emotions After Workplace Violence Comes to the Workplace, explores the shock and frustration among the surviving workers, the guilt feelings and the general disarray.   There are helpful suggestions regarding how best to deal with this serious incident.    The writer, Jane M. Von Bergen, has written one of the more interesting articles on this subject that I have seen in awhile.

As workplace violence has serious effects on many levels, I would urge employers and their human resource managers to read it.

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