Checking job hopefuls pays, detectives say

February 24, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Money spent in checking the backgrounds of potential employees is a good investment, two local private investigators told members of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce yesterday.

The investment is particularly well-spent if the person is hiding a criminal or substance-abuse record, Charles Ellenberger, of All-County Investigation and Insurance Agency, and Robert Schlossnagle, of Concord Security Systems, told the audience.

The men -- both retired Howard County police officers -- also provide investigation into employee fraud, sexual harassment, competitive intelligence, shoplifting and debugging.

"The most important type of investigation is pre-employment," Mr. Schlossnagle said. "It is easier to identify and handle a high-risk applicant than to get rid of a high-risk employee, like a thief or drug user."

Mr. Schlossnagle said his services, which range from $50 to $250, provide a backup to the personnel interview.

"We are screening people who interview well but wouldn't make good employees," he said. "When we get an answer that doesn't sound right, we know the questions to ask next. You or your personnel director may not be trained to know what to ask."

Prospective employees must sign a release before the investigators begin their search, Mr. Schlossnagle said. A background check normally includes examining criminal and driving records, credit reports, verifying Social Security numbers and interviewing the last known employer.

"We don't know the person, so we don't know if they're black, white or purple," said Mr. Schlossnagle. "We're not biased, and you can hold us responsible for not hiring someone. They can come back to us and see the report."

Chamber member Scott Manhoff, who said he used an investigation agency to run a background check on a prospective hire, questioned the agency's decision to release all the information it found on the person.

Mr. Manhoff said the individual he was thinking of hiring had been arrested twice, but was acquitted both times.

"Whose rights are being violated?" he asked. "Why was I told of those arrests if the person was acquitted?"

Mr. Schlossnagle replied that employers can use only the information that is relevant to the job the employee would perform. Also, only conviction information can be used when refusing to hire someone.

"But we feel you have the right as an employer to all information," he said.

However, Mr. Schlossnagle admitted that one of his clients had an illegal policy of refusing to hire anyone who had been charged with a crime.

As a result, a man who was convicted of trespassing after climbing to the top of a Safeway store with his son to get a better view of some Fourth of July fireworks was denied employment as a truck driver.

"The conviction must apply to the job the person is applying for," Mr. Schlossnagle said.

Both men stressed that their type of services, including individualized security plans, are more necessary now because of negligent-hiring lawsuits. For example, a delivery service can be held liable if one of its employees burglarizes a home to which a package was delivered.

The employer is still liable if the crime is committed while the employee is not working, Mr. Schlossnagle said.

Security measures are also necessary because crime is spreading.

"We hope it never comes out this far," Mr. Ellenberger said. "But we know it will."

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