Trial Lawyers Target Businesses that Screen Applicants

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Businesses that screen applicants are threatened by liability exposure to massive government penalties and lawsuit claims, warns former FBI agent Hank Balevic of Fidelity Data Service, who has released an e-book on the subject, entitled Seven Secrets that Background Screening Companies Don’t Want You to Know.

Businesses at Risk

The e-book explains why vehicle dealers, homeowner associations, landlords, property managers, retailers, distributors, and manufacturers are at particular risk.

Five Types of Liability

“Liability from background screening falls into five categories,” explains Balevic. “Procedural errors that violate the law, illegal hiring paperwork, mistakes in identifying individuals, criminal behavior by employees who should not have been hired, and unfair waivers in contracts. Businesses must avoid lawsuits, as well as penalties for non-compliance. Plaintiff lawyers make much more money suing, versus helping a business avoid liability.”

Prominent cases of screening-related liability include:

  • Home Depot paid $3 million to resolve a class-action lawsuit.
  • Whole Foods paid out over $800,000.
  • Class action lawsuits cost Publix $6.8 million, Dollar General $4 million, and K-Mart $3 million.

“Despite their access to outstanding legal resources, these companies still fell into the liability traps,” notes Balevic.

Seven Secrets that Background Screening Companies Don’t Want You to Know explains that human resources departments – and the law firms they use – do not specialize in the pitfalls of applicant screening and hiring paperwork and procedures. Balevic lists the underlying causes of liability exposure:

  • Automation and careless service: Most screening companies don’t use trained personnel to spot mistakes that can trigger lawsuits. “When your applicant has any popular name, there absolutely is a felon with that name, and proper identification is crucial.”
  • Lack of thoroughness: “Background screening companies often fail to check for misdemeanors that actually represent felonies which were downgraded for expediency – to get a fast guilty plea – and free up the court docket.”
  • One-sided business practices: Background screening firms often require their customers to sign waivers that indemnify the screening company, even if it is negligent or knowingly commits an error that triggers penalties and lawsuits.
  • Lack of specialized knowledge: HR teams have too many other critical functions to stay date on the minutiae of screening liability. Business lawyers are also unlikely to know the details of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • Personal injury lawyers: Always on the lookout for juicy, poorly defended targets, law firms find it relatively easy to win million-dollar settlements or awards in cases where an applicant was treated incorrectly.

“One plaintiff’s attorney in Florida filed three Federal lawsuits in a single day,” says Balevic.  “The lawsuits all allege the same mistakes: technical and procedural errors in screening job applicants.”

Balevic recommends that all organizations which screen applicants get informed and take action. “The owner, CEO, or general manager should engage directly with a specialist to make sure their paperwork, procedures, and actual screening are all in order.”

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