Like most people, I like to take few minutes at the end of my day to get caught up on current events.
However, when I recently read news which deals directly with my industry, Employment Background Screening, I feel compelled to share my thoughts.
CNN recently released an article detailing British Petroleum (BP)’s ongoing cleanup efforts in the gulf coast region of the United States.
In a nutshell, BP contracted with a staffing agency that provides BP with temporary workers to aid in the massive gulf coast cleanup. One of these temporary workers was given an assignment in Pascagoula, Mississippi and claims that after leaving work feeling extremely ill, she asked her supervisor if he could take her home.
Upon arriving at her temporary housing location, the supervisor allegedly asked if he could use her restroom. He then allegedly entered her room, went to the restroom, and sexually assaulted her.
The two main players (besides of course the victim and the alleged perpetrator) in this story are BP and the staffing agency contracted by BP, Aerotek. Like every other employer, BP has a duty and obligation to all of their employees to promote and foster a safe workplace. When hiring for the gulf coast cleanup project, BP hired contractors through Aerotek and implemented a drug screening policy, requiring all contractors that were assigned to cleanup locations, including Pascagoula, Mississippi to undergo drug screening.
However, this was the full extent of BP’s background screening efforts; they did not verify the identity of the contractors (name, date of birth, and Social Security number match), or determine if any of the contractors had any previous criminal records.
Aerotek’s position is that because they are a staffing agency hired by clients to find employees/contractors, it’s ultimately the responsibility of their client, the Employer to conduct background screening. Aerotek went as far as stating that BP should have conducted background screening at the physical location where the employee/contractor reports to work.
The simple fact of the matter is that a crime allegedly took place that could have potentially been avoided by running a proper background check.
If the alleged perpetrator had been convicted of sexual assault (or any misdemeanor or felony) and the record was reportable (convicted of the crime within the last 7 years), background screening would have barred this individual from employment with BP and this entire nasty situation could have been premptively avoided.
BP’s predicament in this instance is not uncommon; many companies don’t have properly implemented hiring and background screening policies until they get their “noses bloodied” in the court room. Once they are hit with civil litigation, they quickly realize that a background screening policy is vital to for all businesses. I have a strong feeling that a employee lawsuit is looming for BP.