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ARC: HOW COMPANIES CAN PROPERLY CONDUCT CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS ON WORKERS AND POTENTIAL HIRES

Do's and don'ts of investigating job candidates

Job Candidate Background Checks

ORLANDO, Fla. — There are acceptable tools that employers can use to learn information about job candidates and their employees' activities, as well as things employers should avoid learning, speakers said Tuesday during the Professional Liability Underwriting Society's international conference.

During a session on sexual harassment in the technology age, Edwin R. Quinn Jr., president and CEO of Rockville, Centre, N.Y.-based investigative firm Rockville Quinn Management L.L.C., said the first step in investigating a job prospect is searching public records.

Then, he said, conduct a litigation search to find out if the candidate had filed any litigation or was being sued. Searching criminal records and social media, as well as previous residences to target inquiries, are also options employers can use, Mr. Quinn said during the Orlando, Fla., conference.

However, pitfalls of conducting social media searches include inadvertently finding out someone's sexual orientation or religion, said Martin Schnabel, New York-based associate vice president of claims at Freedom Specialty Insurance Co. If a job prospect becomes unhappy about not getting the job, the fact that the employer knows that information “could be the basis for a lawsuit,” Mr. Schnabel said.

There is a lot of information to be found on social media sites that employers are not allowed to consider in making decisions about job candidates, said Sarah K. Goldstein, director of employment practices in the Los Angeles office of law firm Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck L.L.P.

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She recommended using the human resources department to cull social sites and black out what cannot be considered, then disseminate the remaining information to decision-makers “so they don't have information they shouldn't know.”

Also discussed during the session was state legislation that prohibits employers from asking their employees or job candidates for their social media passwords.

“With respect to these laws in particular, I think a lot of clients are scratching their heads on why the laws are necessary in the first place,” because they do not seek this information, said Adeola I. Adele, New York-based senior vice president at Marsh Inc.'s FINPRO unit.

Mercedes Colwin, managing partner in the New York office with law firm Gordon & Rees L.L.P., moderated the session.

Business Insurance's digital coverage of the 2013 Professional Liability Underwriting Society's international conference is sponsored by Ace. To view all the Digital Daily news and related content in its ideal form, use a nonmobile browser to visit www.businessinsurance.com/PLUS2013.

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