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Background screening lawsuits shows value of outsourcing

Jul 29, 2013 Quinn Thomas

Pre-employment screening is used by many companies that want to ensure they are hiring the best candidates possible. From analyzing consumer credit reports to criminal histories, such investigations can provide valuable insight about a job applicant.

However, some businesses don't understand some of the more litigious barriers that arise when screening employees. Federal and state laws are constantly in flux, which can be difficult for companies to keep track of. Also, legal precedents are still being set, ensuring that the process is a grey area that is extremely challenging to navigate.

A recent lawsuit filed against BMW shows just how confusing background screening can be. According to the Larkin Hoffman law firm, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought the lawsuit against the automaker on behalf of 69 employees. Many of these individuals worked in a BMW-owned warehouse for a contractor that was hired by the auto manufacturer.

However, once the contract expired, BMW forced all employees to resubmit to a new screening process, despite having already been subject to one when first hired. Because the process was different - the contractor was required by BMW to scrutinize all criminal records - many employees lost their jobs. As a result, the EEOC drafted the lawsuit, alleging that BMW used a blanket exclusion policy to deny employment without analyzing each case on an individual basis, the source reported.

Legal and third-party consulting
This shows how dangerous it can be to approach the screening process without comprehensive knowledge of the laws regulating the practice. The Small Business Administration recommended that enterprises should work with a lawyer before conducting such investigations. With policies differing from state to state, it's incredibly important for businesses to follow this advice, especially if they operate across state lines. What may be legal in one state could result in a lawsuit similar to the one BMW is facing in another.

Larkin Hoffman encouraged all employers to make sure that hiring policies adhere to EEOC guidelines and state laws. However, this can be challenging given the numerous tasks that business leaders are tasked with. Instead, they should consider using the services of third-party screening organizations that specialize in such operations. These firms employ industry professionals that understand the complex laws for each state and the nuances of EEOC recommendations. Using these services will help enterprises avoid litigation.