Burton Report on Business Crime
IN THIS ISSUE
- Long term employees with a secret – late discovery of criminal records
- Quote of the Month
- Robbery Prevention – One Change That Made a Difference
We cannot imagine a more extreme example than that of the Wisconsin bank employee (see source article) who was fired after it was discovered she had shoplifted 40 years ago! This and other examples raise a sensitive issue for employers when they grapple with the decision of whether to ignore an ancient conviction or on principle dismiss an employee who, in spite of faithful service, has found to have exercised poor judgment at some time in the past and failed to disclose it.
It is a no-brainer recommending background checks for potential employees, especially where a new hire is to be placed in a position of trust that gives them access to confidential information or control of cash. Of course the criminal record checks, credit bureau searches to establish personal creditworthiness, resume and reference checks are run of the mill routine steps to weed out bad applicants before they settle down at a desk in your business. This is the easy part but what if you discover that a trusted and valued long term employee has a secret – a criminal record that somehow never came to light when hired and comes to the surface through a change of business policy or other driving factor?
This could happen for various reasons: an employer literally hires off the street as a matter of expediency to fill an urgent vacancy and bypasses normal background checks (a very dangerous practice); a business that grows and as part of its development enhances its human resource policies and procedures to fall in line with standard practice; or, as described in the source article, there is a legislated mandatory requirement to conduct criminal record checks for certain classes of employee (in this case a bank employee).
No matter what mechanism is used for the fresh search of an employee’s background or how accidentally the employer came into possession of the past convictions, there are so many issues to consider before an employer makes a decision:
- the nature of the conviction (major or minor) and how long ago it occurred
- does the type of offence directly relate to the type of duties being performed by the employee (e.g. a theft conviction for an employee handling cash and with access to personal or proprietary information goes directly to the issue of trust)?
- was the employee asked during the hiring process to disclose a criminal conviction and is there documentation to support this?
- does the employee acknowledge the conviction
- a discussion with the employee to determine the circumstances surrounding the conviction will provide the employer with more background information to assist in making a decision to fire or retain
- does long and faithful service trump a minor conviction decades ago?
- remember that there are other resources that may provide valuable information about an employee’s past such as social media (now used by employers to uncover character dimensions not disclosed during the formal hiring process), newspaper articles and so on
- any other relevant factors that will assist the employer’s consideration – no stone should be left unturned lest a critical factor is overlooked and is thrown back at the employer after he/she has decided on dismissal
In addition to all the points listed above, employers must pay attention to local labor and employment law standards and decisions handed down by any tribunal tasked with administering matters related to human resources. These will help employers consider all legal and ethical aspects of the review before coming to a decision they can stand by.
Due Diligence in Hiring Employees–
Take it from a former fraud investigator, if you do not conduct due diligence on new hires, business partners and companies or individuals that you extend credit to, your business will more than likely end up as a victim of fraud or theft, which could put you out of business.
Time is the enemy of criminals especially those committing robberies. They choose their moment and the less time they spend completing their crime the less chance of being observed, stopped or detected. The lesson for victim businesses is that any crime prevention steps they take to slow down, discourage and deter crime the better the outcome for all. A perfect illustration of this cause and effect is the introduction by the Walgreen chain drug store of time-delay locked safes in their Colorado stores. Following a spate of robberies they realized that the absence of this type of safe was enabling the commission of the offence because they could be opened instantly. Time delay which is beyond the control of employees forces the robber to weigh the risk of detection and apprehension for each additional minute he spends on scene. Already Walgreens is reporting that robberies have decreased by more than 85% which is a remarkable achievement.
Crooks talk amongst themselves and soon word spreads that hitting a Walgreens store is just too high risk. Just as an auto thief will bypass a vehicle equipped with obvious anti-theft devices and seek out an older car that is not so equipped, criminals will search out the weakest links when it comes to potential robbery targets.
Of course upgrading to a time-delay safe is just one of many crime prevention improvements that contribute to risk reduction, all of which have obvious cost implications. But investing in technological aids (cameras, shoplifting detection devices, etc) and improving store layout to improve visibility for staff is a smart business decision that will yield future savings with less crime.
No matter what type of retail business, big or small, the number one consideration is the safety of employees and customers. Engaging suspects who are armed with a weapon or who say they are armed (but not visible) is discouraged because no one can foresee the consequences and fighting with an individual who may be high strung and under the influence of drugs may result in death or injury to an employee and/or an innocent bystander.
Robbery prevention advice from Canadian Police Departments: