How to Avoid Negligent Hiring Claims

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Posted by: David Garcia

Topics: Background Check 101, Human Resources, Compliance

As an employer, your primary responsibility is the safety of your customers and your employees. An essential component of this duty is performing due diligence when hiring. 

If you fail to adequately screen an employee who goes on to harm a third party — such as a customer or fellow worker — you may face a negligent hiring claim. And that can end up costing you and your business dearly. 

If you’re unaware of the potential negative impact of negligent hiring, you’re in the right place.

This guide will take you through the definition of negligent hiring, how to prevent it, and what risks could emerge from cutting corners during the recruitment stage. 

First, let's start with the basics. 

What is Negligent Hiring?

When an employee inflicts harm on a third party — and the employer should have reasonably known about the employee’s risk to cause harm — an employer is potentially liable for negligent hiring.

Negligent hiring can manifest in many different ways. One example could include an employee being assaulted by another employee with a violent past the employer was aware of (or should have been had they conducted a reasonable investigation). 

Additionally, negligent hiring can refer to lapses in training that result in accidents. 

How to Avoid Negligent Hiring

As an employer accused of negligent hiring, your company could find itself in serious legal trouble. Limit negligent hiring liability as much as possible by following a distinct set of preventative procedures whenever hiring a new team member. 

Here are four key ways to reduce the likelihood of being accused of negligent hiring. 

Conduct Thorough Interviews

This should go without saying, but it may come as a surprise how many businesses don't exercise adequate due diligence during the interview process. 

A job interview should be significantly more than just a casual conversation, especially if the candidate is applying for a role with significant responsibility within your business. 

You need to ask questions that reveal a candidate’s character, temperament, and likely demeanor within a work environment. There are numerous guides detailing how to perform an effective job interview — make the most of them.

Verify Professional History

A leading cause of negligent hiring lawsuits is failing to confirm that the candidate is who they say they are. It's no secret that applicants lie when they apply for a role. However, there is a significant difference between exaggerating past experience and fabricating previous positions and qualifications.

Verify that your applicant has worked where they say they have. A lack of experience in a relevant field can lead to errors that could put your staff and customers in danger. 

There's a reason employers often demand years of experience before hiring a candidate. 

Verify Educational History

If the advertised role has specific educational prerequisites (such as a Bachelor's degree or professional certification), you need to ensure your candidate is legitimately qualified. Just as applicants can lie about previous experience, they may also lie about their level of education. Falsifying qualifications can prove highly problematic further down the line, especially in highly-skilled roles. 

You can usually verify a candidate's educational history by requesting to see the relevant certificates and contacting the learning institution or regulatory body the applicant claims to have studied with. The process typically doesn't take long and could save your company from substantial harm in the long term. 

Contact Previous Employers

Finally, contact the employers the candidate has previously worked with for references. Obtaining references is potentially one of the most revealing things you could do, as you can typically gain direct insight into how the candidate behaves in a professional environment. 

Previous employment checks can also double as a form of professional history verification. If you call an employer the applicant claims to have worked for and they’ve never heard of them, it is reasonable to suspect the candidate lied on their application. 

How Negligent Hiring Can Impact Your Business

There are numerous adverse outcomes to being accused of negligent hiring. The first and perhaps most damaging is the loss of trust within your own team. Your staff puts considerable faith in you, as the employer, to find the right talent and manage them appropriately. 

If you put any staff member or customer in danger — even inadvertently — by hiring someone who isn't fit for the role, your team will remember, and it will likely diminish morale profoundly.

Additionally, it can cost your business significantly. Lawsuits are a serious matter, and negligent hiring lawsuits can prove especially expensive. For example, a 2019 lawsuit in Illinois awarded $54 million in damages to the claimant. 

Ensuring that you hire the right candidate is not only essential to the safety of your staff and customers, but also to the financial security of your business. 

Conclusion

Background checks are essential for determining that your applicant is precisely who they say they are. From employment and education verification to criminal history checks, you need to be fully informed about potential hires. 

At ScoutLogic, we do it all. Contact us today for more information on how we can keep your staff, customers, and finances safe from potential negligent hiring liability with our complete portfolio of screening services.

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