David Satterfield, 34, is a certified medical technician who worked as a temp at different medical centers. He is also terminally ill. Satterfield has just confessed to murdering an 86 year old woman in a nursing facility where he was assigned over the 4th of July holiday in 2007. He is also under suspicion in the death of another resident of the facility. When he was hired, the staffing supplier found that his record was clean and he had good references. Satterfield continued to work at other places since then until his own illness resulted in a conscience-stricken confession.
News like this usually jolts many people into reflexive action, but does not sustain its focus. If you are an employer, you would probably be wondering and worrying about the background check procedures put in place for your temporary workers. In the Satterfield case, it is unclear as to whether a more rigorous background check would have uncovered any indication of his homicidal behavior. In other cases, such as the Kwiatkowski case, there is overwhelming evidence of gross neglect. A rigorous process for verifying credentials and checking criminal history should be applied in every hiring situation. It’s equally important to know who is temporarily joining your workforce as it is to check into permanent employees. However, peace of mind is a bit more difficult to obtain when dealing with non-employees.
When augmenting your workforce with temps, you are NOT adding additional employees, and you cannot act as an employer without exposing your company to co-employment claims. You must depend on the staffing agency supplying the worker to conduct all background checks and other screening. However, you do have the right – and obligation – to specify how the candidate vetting should be done. Your contractual agreements with each supplier should clearly specify the screening activities that must be performed, and the manner in which results will be presented and evaluated.
The process and standards should be the same whether the job requirement is planned as a temp-to-perm or strictly temporary assignment. The urgency in obtaining the position filled cannot justify the failure to verify a candidate’s background.
Adequate safeguards will need to be established in a contingent workforce management program if you are to avoid culpability for negligent hiring and entrustment:
Finally, consider using a Vendor Management System (VMS) to avoid hiring a “Satterfield” worker. A VMS system will specify, by job order, the required screening activities, monitor completion of each action and flag any open items, provide a repository for associated documentation and provide an audit trail of all steps. It will issue reminders of upcoming renewal dates for certifications, licenses or rescreening. In this way, you have 360° protection against claims of negligent hiring while reaping the benefits of an extended workforce.
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