An Ounce of Prevention: Protecting Your Staffing Firm from Liability Claims

76749892When you own or operate a staffing firm, managing challenges is part of your job.  What should you do when:

  • A candidate background check reveals a prior criminal conviction or pending charge?
  • A client releases a field associate, citing performance issues – but the field associate claims she was let go because she complained about being sexually harassed?
  • A wheelchair-bound candidate applies for a position that requires physical stamina and occasional lifting?

Sensitive employment scenarios like these must be addressed quickly and correctly to enhance compliance, minimize liability and create the best outcomes for all parties involved.

New laws and an increasingly vigilant EEOC have made it more difficult – yet more important – than ever to protect your organization.

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What’s the best way to do that?

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In this case, prevention starts with educating yourself and following best practices. So today, I’m starting a two-part post that addresses three of the biggest employment practice liabilities we face in our industry. While this information is not a substitute for professional legal advice (and should not be construed as such), these posts will help you:

  • Understand your risks.
  • Follow industry best practices in recruiting, screening and managing temporary employees.
  • Reduce liability, without compromising relationships with valued clients and employees.

Issue 1: Candidates with Criminal Convictions

Criminal background checks are an essential part of the candidate screening process, but when a check reveals a conviction or a pending charge, how should you respond?

  • Reserve judgment. Any “blanket” policy that automatically rejects a candidate with any criminal history has the potential for adverse impact on minority candidates – and leaves your firm open to potential discrimination lawsuits.
  • Look at the big picture. Aside from the conviction, does the candidate meet your organization’s hiring criteria (i.e., would you be able to place him otherwise)? If unexplained employment gaps exist, or if the candidate’s skills and experience are not a good fit for employment through your agency, exclude the candidate for one of these defensible reasons.
  • Get specialized help from risk-management experts. If an otherwise eligible candidate self-discloses a prior conviction, or a background check reveals one, the EEOC recommends a case-by-case analysis to determine the individual’s qualification for employment. Contact your firm’s risk management experts or seek a specialized attorney’s advice to help determine hiring eligibility.For each case, consider the nature of the conviction, how long ago it occurred, job relatedness and client contract requirements, among other factors. Weigh all of these factors to make a determination – giving each candidate due consideration, while protecting your organization.

In my next post, I’ll examine two other employment liability issues: addressing harassment or discrimination claims made by temporaries on assignment, and placing candidates with disabilities.

MORE: NLRB rewrites rules on IC classification


Tammi Heaton

Tammi Heaton
Tammi Heaton is COO of PrideStaff. She can be reached at theaton (at) pridestaff (dot) com.

Tammi Heaton

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