Background Checks For Retailers – Is The Focus On Sex Offenders Enough?

Robert Capwell

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Retail LocationA 2011 survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF) reminds us all as to the importance of background checks and drug testing to the retail industry.  Executives representing department/big box stores, discount, drug, grocery, restaurant and specialty retailers that responded to the survey revealed some interesting statistics and potential gaps in overall background screening tools used by retailers.  Nearly all retailers polled (96.6%) utilized background screening as part of their application/hiring process on either a pre-hire or post-offer basis.  Retailers continue to take a selective approach to screen by job title; however, should conduct more in-depth screening on positions where there is higher risk to the public or safety, or greater risk of theft, fraud or embezzlement.  The survey reveals the use of the following screening components by retailers: criminal checks, SSN Trace, Sex Offender Registries, Motor Vehicle Records, Credit Reports, Education Verification, Drug Testing, and Mutual Association databases. 

Let's focus on the breakdown of the use of criminal record checks and also the use of sex offender registries as revealed by the survey.  Criminal record checks are defined as searches of government and public record sources to uncover any prior criminal history that could come from a variety of local, state and national sources.  The survey does not get into specifics on what sources are used; however, a thorough criminal background screening program should be conducted using multiple sources.  Sex offender registries referenced within the study refers to registries that are maintained by individual state and other local jurisdictions.  The study reveals a large disparity between the use of criminal record checks and sex offender searches within retail background checks.

Here is a breakdown by job function and use of these two background screening components as stated by the survey respondents:

Job Function Criminal Record Search Sex Offender Registry Search
Senior Executives 95.8% 54.2%
Corporate Employees 95.9% 50.5%
Support Manager 93.4% 50.5%
Store Manager 96.0% 51.5%
Assistant Manager 93.9% 50.5%
Distribution Center Employees 95.1% 50.6%
Store Employees 80.2% 51.3%

 

 

 

 

 

 

The background check focus on conducting criminal record checks continues to be high across all job classifications identified within the survey; however, the concentration on searching sex offender information is just over 50%.  This is an astonishing statistic considering the high level of contact retail employees have with the general public and concerns about sexual predators.  For retailers in the clothing industry, fitting rooms, storage areas and close contact with customers is always a high rate of concern.  Retailers that provide extended store hours or late night services may provide an environment with limited staff or customers that could pose heightened dangers and areas of increased concern.   Safety and security risks in retail are even higher when dealing with children or vulnerable classes.  Retailers that provide home delivery, door-to-door sales, or in-home services are at an even higher risk.  The search of all state sex offender registries is a must for retailers.  I’m not advocating that retailers discount sex offenders as potential employees, as each employer must consider the particulars of the offense, time-line since the offense occurred and how it relates to the position applied for, corporate policy, along with federal and state laws governing usage.  There are actually a few states that prohibit employers from using such information to make a hiring decision or to discriminate against sex offenders.  Sex offender registry information should be used responsibly and as a research tool to find the specifics of the criminal act behind the registration.  Additional research will also ensure you have the right individual as only a limited amount of subject identifiers may be available on a public site.  This can only be done by searching criminal records within the court where the case originated or where the final disposition was recorded.  You must have a complete understanding of the particulars of the case that resulted in the sex offender registration.   Employers should always know all the facts around each criminal case and assess each on an individual basis along with a thorough understanding of individual state laws around proper use.  Always consult your legal counsel for proper use and to develop a legally compliant policy.

By incorporating a solid screening program, retailers can assess, screen and credential their applicants and employees and alleviate the overwhelming cost, risks and liabilities that theft, fraud, embezzlement and workplace violence bring into the workplace.  Employment Background Investigations (EBI) works with retailers globally to provide a full range of comprehensive and legally compliant employment background check, drug testing, occupational healthcare and electronic form I-9 solutions.  Our "Just One Solution" suite of services will help reduce the risks and liabilities of a bad hire!  EBI is committed to providing employers with valuable education and resources on changing legislation and cutting-edge and compliant solutions to meet federal, state, local and international mandatory requirements.  EBI is not providing legal advice or counsel and nothing provided on this document should be deemed as legal guidance or advice.  Readers should consult with their own legal counsel to determine their legal responsibilities or if they have questions on any information provided by EBI.

 

Background Checks

Robert Capwell

Posted By: Robert Capwell

EBI’s Chief Knowledge Officer, Mr. Robert E. Capwell, is considered one of the leading experts in the background screening industry with over 22 years of experience in the field. Mr. Capwell was a contributing author of the second edition of the ASIS Pre-employment Background Screening Guidelines and has written numerous articles and whitepapers for various publications including a periodic column on background screening for The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Online. He has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Human Resource Executive Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and several HR-related publications. Mr. Capwell speaks regularly to industry colleagues and HR Professionals both nationally and internationally.

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