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Last week, I attended the Due Diligence, Background Checks and Employment Conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C.  This one day symposium featured presenters and panelists that spoke directly about the need for employers to conduct criminal background checks and the role they play in protecting their employees, their customers and their businesses.  Today, I wanted to highlight the panel discussion, “Why Businesses, Non-Profit Agencies and Government Entities Need Access to Criminal Background Checks”.

The panel was comprised of the following individuals: Jim Hmorovich, President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA), Richard Mellor, Vice President of Loss Prevention at the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Donald Livingston, Partner at Akin Gump and former General Counsel at the EEOC.

Richard Mellor, former head of security at Helzberg Diamonds, spoke about the important role criminal background checks play in protecting businesses, co-workers and customers.  He spoke of some of the horrible things he has seen employees do over the course of his career including murder, rape, armed robbery, and too many thefts to count as well as the fact that U.S. businesses lose billions of dollars each year to internal theft.

However, he also spoke about the proper balance between protecting the business and ensuring everyone has a fair chance at employment.  He highlighted the standards employers are held to under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and also the fact that the presence of a conviction is not an automatic trigger to eliminate the candidate from consideration or terminate an existing employee.

Donald Livingston also discussed the imperative employers have to screen and provided an in-depth analysis of an employer’s compliance responsibilities to ensure fair treatment. Citing U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) standards, he pointed out that the Federal government often requires extensive background checks for a wide range of positions. He questioned why the Federal government is being afforded protection for use of credit and other sources of information that are being denied to private employers .

And while both Mellor and Livingston did a masterful job of making their cases, the most impactful speaker was PCAA’s Jim Hmorovich.  Jim provided statistics on the number of children that are abused in this country and the rates are alarming.  Obviously, he advocates for the necessity to conduct background checks in order to protect children.  But Jim’s perspective on the issue wasn’t just to protect children now, but to ensure that they become productive members of society.  Jim offered that children who are abused are far more likely to turn to a life of crime themselves (whether they become abusers, addicts or otherwise).

He also made the case that if someone wasn’t swayed by the emotional arguments, then perhaps they’d consider the fiscal benefits.  If children aren’t abused, they have a much better chance of getting educated, of finding jobs and not engaging in criminal activity.  That means less people on welfare, less people in our prison system and less victims. It means more people prepared to enter the workforce, to pay taxes and contribute to society in a positive way.  It’s also has the added benefit of reducing unemployment.

Overall, I found this panel to be highly effective because they addressed a wide perspective on why criminal background checks are vitally important not only for employers but for society in general.

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