Note: The Connecticut Media Group is not responsible for posts and comments written by non-staff members.

Avoiding Bad Apple Employees

Businesses are fond of claiming that employees are their best assets or biggest competitive advantage over other companies in the market. Yet, when it comes to properly practicing “due diligence” with new hires, the words and the music don’t always match. 

It is common for many small and growing businesses to begin their expansion by hiring part-timers, interns, family, or friends.  The perspective is that the “risk” is quite limited as the person is either known to the owner prior to hiring, or will be a relatively insignificant part of the business – and therefore is not “worth” checking up on in a cost/benefit calculation done by the owner in his or her head.  Unfortunately, all it takes is a single negligent hiring decision to torpedo good will with customers, lead to prospective issues due to damages, tie the business up in legal wrangling, etc.

Easier to do it Right the First Time

While it is easy to try to convince ourselves that “nothing bad will happen this time” or that it is not worth the energy, time, expense, etc. to do it “by the book” for any given employee, the reality is that continually having to train, retrain, source, select, and hire new employees and replacement employees for initially poorly selected employees can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.  In fact, according to a William M. Mercer, Inc. study quoted in “Don’t Hire a Fugitive” published by, it may run upward of $10,000 for each employee!  Therefore, taking the time to conduct the employee “vetting” process properly will save the company in the long run.

One bad apple employee can lead to significant issues for employers.

The Options

The options are that the employer can do their own background searches or investigations without any third-party intervention.  This is usually done in companies that do very little hiring and so can afford the time to devote to any one individual hiring.  Relying on things that are readily verifiable either online or through a couple of quick phone calls, this is an approach that numerous companies employ.
Companies can also choose to outsource this to professionals.  Either Private Investigators or companies that provide employee screening capabilities (through online or other employee background check methods) can provide a more complete picture of the employee beyond what is documented on a resume or in an interview. 
If a third-party company is used, it is wise to ensure that they are accredited through the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), have the capabilities to review in-state and out-of-state prospective employees, and are familiar with the hiring company’s industry and marketplace.  Just like there needs to be background checks on employees, the same vigilance should be used in choosing the background check co0mpany.
Remaining on the right side of the law is critical in conducting these background checks.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs what is permissible and what is not when conducting background checks on prospective employees.  No background check is permitted to include:
  • Bankruptcies over 10 years in the past
  • Arrest records after 7 years
  • Collections records beyond 7 years
  • And of very recent vintage – personal passwords to social network sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

Not every job needs to be “vetted” to the same level or include the same rigor.  A pizza delivery driver may be subject to driving record offenses, DUIs, tickets, etc. – that may be less critical for someone who is a dishwasher in the restaurant.  Similarly, a bank teller handling cash may be subject to background checks that are more focused on criminal activity involving money.

While it may seem like overkill to the employer to go through this rigorous review, it can save the company thousands of dollars in court case costs, reputation, and time and effort.  Removing the bad apples from the bunch before they can spoil the others is always a wise decision.

David Zahn