Using Criminal Background Checks to Reduce Workplace Violence
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), 2 million assaults and threats of violence occur each year against Americans in the workplace. This includes 396,000 aggravated assaults, 51,000 rapes and sexual assaults, 84,000 robberies, and 1,000 homicides. In addition to assaults and threats, a substantial number of employees report being bullied or harassed on the job.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of workplace violence, prevention comes from thoroughly pre-screening all new applicants. Pre-employment background screening, including a criminal background check, is important for the following reasons:
- For the safety of your current employees and associates
- To avoid negligent hiring law suites
- To minimize employee theft
- To Insure the applicants credentials are legitimate
Searching for Criminal Records
A criminal records search should be performed in the jurisdictions for each of the applicant’s previous residences. If an applicant has a criminal record, the search will provide the offenses and dates as well as the dispositions or convictions and dates.
Criminal records information is obtained from sources that include county and state criminal court records, federal court files, and sex offender databases. Each level of search provides important information, as detailed below:
County Criminal Searches – The county criminal records search offers the most current detailed information, as it is being retrieved from the source. Note: If a crime was committed in county “A,” a search of the records in county “B” will not reveal the crime committed in county “A.” Search the records in each county where the applicant is known to have lived or worked.
County Criminal Databases – Not all counties maintain their criminal records on a database. Arcane and fragmented record keeping systems still exist in many jurisdictions. Databases may not be current or accurate. If a name match is made, the actual records must still be retrieved for review from the county courthouse. In many jurisdictions, older records have been placed in storage. Therefore it is important that one’s search be thorough so as to not overlook any possible information of value.
Felonies & Misdemeanors – Most counties maintain separate records for felonies and misdemeanors. In some counties felony and misdemeanor records are maintained in a combined index. Felonies are the more serious crimes that carry a greater potential punishment, but misdemeanor convictions can include assaults, threats, weapons charges, and drug or alcohol related crimes. Check both categories and not assume that misdemeanors are simply related to traffic laws or noise ordinances.
Statewide Criminal Records Search - A search of the State Criminal Repository, where all counties in the state are required to report their criminal records. There are several states that do not maintain a statewide repository, so availability vary according to state.
Federal Criminal Records Check - Identifies crimes that occurred on federal property as well as federal violations such as tax evasion, mail and wire fraud, drug trafficking and immigration law violations.
Sex Offender Records Search - May be conducted nationwide or on a state by state basis, based on an applicant’s present and previous addresses. Please note, the national sex offender registry may not include all levels of sex offenders.
Companies that implement pre-employment background screening as standard procedure in the hiring process can help to prevent workplace violence and insure that their employees do not become a statistic for assault in the workplace.