How Background Checks Protect Employers from Negligent Hiring Lawsuits

How Background Checks Protect Employers from Negligent Hiring Lawsuits


Get the employee you need.

Trust is fundamental in any employer/employee relationship. But unless you’re your only employee, you’ll need to check the background of anybody you’re thinking about bringing on board. Otherwise, you might not just wind up with a bad employee, you might wind up getting sued over hiring them in the first place.

What Is Negligent Hiring?

“Negligent hiring” isn’t a term you often hear unless you’re a litigation attorney or being sued over it, so it needs an explanation. Essentially, it boils down to a company having a legal obligation to know who it’s hiring.

As a hypothetical, let’s say that an employee gets into a car accident while delivering for a business. A background check run by someone injured in the accident uncovers multiple car accidents, license suspension, and other problems in your employee’s driving history. Under the law, the company should have checked to ensure the employee had a good driving history. By failing to do so, that company put others at risk by allowing a dangerous driver on the road … or, legally speaking, that the company engaged in negligent hiring.

This is just one example. Depending on potential situations or problems your employees can run into, there are many situations a negligent hiring suit can be filed under; they can even be filed between employees over unrelated disputes. Even if the claim itself is ridiculous, being unable to prove you checked an employee’s background can land you in an expensive court proceeding. As a result, it’s important to know how to forestall them … which is thankfully a simple process.

How To Prevent Negligent Hiring Lawsuits


Hire right.

The best prevention tool is a background and reference check at the time of hire. Look in particular at criminal records; keep an eye out in particular for crimes that might be the basis of a suit depending on their responsibilities. For example, if an employee has an arrest for fraud on their record, you likely don’t want them handling any client money. For any employees that will be on the road as part of their jobs, whether in a company vehicle or not, also check their driving record. Even if they’re not driving a company vehicle, you may still be liable if they’re working for you at the time of an accident.

You should also administer drug tests for any employees operating heavy equipment, supervising customers, or otherwise responsible for the safety of others. Depending on the employee, you’ll even be legally required to administer a test. Employees passing a basic drug test can protect you from legal liability over negligent hiring.

Also, ensure that you’re familiar with state law regarding background checks. Some states limit your ability to use background checks to make hiring decisions, for example. Similarly, you should apply some discretion when looking at background checks. For example, if an employee had one minor drug arrest in high school, and easily passes a drug test, you’re unlikely to face a lawsuit for hiring them.

Negligent hiring can be an expensive problem for a business. But with judicious background checks, you can protect yourself and your company.

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