The Importance of Quality Background Checks on In-Home Service Workers

Over at Bad Hire Days this week, I blogged about Jason Meinke, a convicted criminal whose record includes a felony conviction for aggravated stalking, who was sent by a Sears contractor into customers’ homes to clean air ducts. Proving that past performance is a pretty good indicator of future performance, he allegedly repeated his offensive behavior and has made the lives of at least a couple female customers miserable over the last several years.

Meinke came to my attention through Detroit TV station WXYZ’s Action 7 News investigative reporter Scott Lewis, who told me his story last month when interviewing me about the dangers of bad background checks. For his two-part news story, which aired in two parts on Sunday and Monday, Scott wanted to know how a background check could miss such a dangerous offender.
Part one (aired 11/06/2011):

Part two (aired 11/07/2011):

From Sunday’s story:

To find out, 7 Action News Investigators traveled to Orlando, Florida for a meeting of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. We talked to Mike Coffey, a respected expert in the field. He said what we uncovered with Meinke is not uncommon because background checks often miss things.

“A lot of your really large employers, especially those who hire lower wage employees don’t do their due diligence,” said Coffey. “They just rely on the data base or some instant quick inexpensive background check.”

From Monday’s story:

There are no laws, state or national requiring background checks for in-home service workers. And when companies do background checks, you can’t always trust them.

“I hear from employers all the time, I just need a quick and easy background check. I just want to make sure he’s not a murderer,” said Mike Coffey, a recognized expert in background checks.

Coffey says employers, especially large companies often do it on the cheap, relying on criminal data bases that are notoriously inaccurate.

“I often tell employers if that’s all you’re going to do just put your money in escrow for your attorney fees because something’s going to happen,” Coffee told 7 Action News.

Coffey said a thorough background screening requires checking local court records in every jurisdiction a person has lived, instead of relying on national data bases which are inexpensive to use but often miss criminal convictions.

Background investigator Mike Coffey says it makes sense for companies to be thorough.

“I mean to spend $150 to $200 on a background check that’s really, really thorough for somebody that your sending into somebody’s home seems to me like a no-brainer,” Coffey said.

There are good reasons that Imperative will not sell a criminal records database by itself – the most important being that they regularly miss 30-60% or more of even the most serious criminal convictions, as was apparently the case with Jason Meinke.

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