January 21st, 2015 | Sterling
Who Is Screening Your Contractors?
Montgomery County Public Schools has come under fire after a school contractor was accused of sexually assaulting students. The incident occurred at John T. Baker Middle School, when a contractor hired to service the security cameras allegedly groped a 12-year-old girl in the hallway. The incident was witnessed by a teacher and was caught on the very cameras that the contractor was hired to work on.
The contractor had two previous sex offense charges, one of which involved the groping of two women in a pharmacy. The pharmacy manager told police that the accused had been banned from the store due to past complaints of inappropriate touching. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and therefore did not need to be listed on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry.
So how did he manage to get a job that would allow him to work in schools, and even more troubling, grant him access to these schools’ security footage? The current legislation in Maryland does not require background checks for school contractors – it only requires that the employees of hired contractors are not listed on the state sex offender registry. The gap in the screening process gave this serial groper the opportunity to work in 58 schools within Montgomery County. The contracted company relied on an inaccurate background check provided by a temporary staffing agency. Had a thorough background check been conducted by the contracting company or the school board, the contractor likely wouldn’t have been permitted on school premises.
This case is an example of why it’s important to regularly review your screening policy to identify potential gaps. It’s a brand new year and a good time to give your screening policy some much-deserved attention. Block off some time in your calendar to review your screening practices to avoid becoming the next case study for botched background checks.
Here are three helpful tips to get you started:
Tip # 1: Evaluate Your Screening Policy… Rinse and Repeat
There is a good chance that your organization already has a background screening policy, but when was it last updated? The legal landscape is constantly changing with many jurisdictions adopting legislation that affects how and when backgrounds checks can be conducted, such as Ban the Box. Take the time to do a thorough review of your policy and look for inconsistencies or gaps that might allow an unsuitable candidate to slip through the cracks. Once you’re satisfied with your policy and received the stamp of approval from your counsel, set a reminder to re-evaluate. Your screening policy should be reviewed a minimum of once per year. Larger companies or those that operate in several jurisdictions may want to review on a more frequent basis.
Tip #2: Implement Screening for the Contingent Workforce
Apply your policy to your extended workforce, including contractors, temporary employees, and volunteers. Depending on your business, you may even need to expand screening efforts beyond those who work for you. For example, some long-term care facilities screen prospective residents prior to accepting them.
Tip #3: Adopt and Follow Your Policy
A policy will only be effective if it’s successfully implemented and followed. Generate buy-in from managers, key stakeholders, and leaders within your company by asking for their feedback, ideas, and support. You should also ensure that individuals with questions about the policy know where to go for help.
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