A recent opinion issued by the Attorney General for the State of Tennessee underscores the importance of pre-employment background screening. The Attorney General’s opinion relates to the constitutionality of the state’s “firearms-in-parking-lots law.” Along with twenty-one other states, Tennessee has enacted a statute entitling employees to bring their guns to work, as long as they are kept locked and out of sight in their automobiles. The question before the Attorney General was whether this law was unconstitutionally vague; that is, can the ordinary citizen understand what is permitted and what is prohibited? The Attorney General concluded that the statute was indeed constitutional: Tennessee citizens were given fair notice as to the manner in which they could bring guns to work.
The advent of these guns-in-the-workplace laws naturally generates anxiety among employers. And for good reason: between 1997 and 2010, the United States Department of Labor reported 8,666 workplace homicides. Of that number, 689 occurred in the employer’s parking lot. Another 644 occurred in an industrial place, such as a warehouse or factory. And 4,574 employees were killed in commercial buildings, such as banks, office buildings, or convenience stores.
Considering that employees are legally entitled to bring their firearms onto the private property of the employer in nearly half the states in this country, and considering further that a substantial fraction of these workplace murders occurs in the parking lot, an employer has both the moral and legal right to take steps to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence. Legal liability considerations aside, no decent employer wants people to be violently maimed or killed at work. And, of course, most – if not all – of the states in the Union have some version of negligent hiring tort law, which places a duty upon employers to make a reasonable hires.
This is where a reputable background screening company comes into play. While a violent act could erupt unexpectedly from the gentle soul of a gregarious employee, it is much more likely to flow forth from that person who is already an habitual offender. A thorough check of a prospective employee’s criminal history record can at least at identify those who have been previously convicted of violent crimes and who therefore may have a pre-disposition to harming others in your workplace. Make sure you are checking more than the so-called “national criminal” databases. A national search is a good starting place, but it is not where a background search ends. Your background screening company needs to have the capability to competently drill down into individual counties to obtain an accurate and complete criminal history record. To learn more about the competencies of ESS, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.