Something’s Missing: Should the Airline Industry Review Its Background Screening Practices for Contract Employees?

Nick Fishman

Airport Background Checks

It can be an uncomfortable feeling—laying down all of your personal items, removing items like belts and shoes, all to go through a scanner where a TSA agent will undoubtedly see all. And if that isn’t intimate enough, often we must walk through the full body scanner, where once again, a complete stranger can literally see it all. However, most of us shrug off these moments of vulnerability, because of course—it’s for our safety.

But even if you and your luggage make it through security unscathed, there’s still a chance someone else could be rummaging through your bag later. And hearing a story like this one might make you uncomfortable the next time you check baggage. While there have been headlines of TSA agents stealing from passenger’s luggage, in this instance, the luggage was out of the passenger’s hands and behind the scenes.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a group of baggage handlers at LAX was stealing items from passenger’s luggage. And as we often ask with these stories…Was an employment background check completed to prevent this?

The article shares that the suspected workers were contract employees working at LAX, employed through Menzies Aviation—who claimed its employees undergo background checks via three sources: their company, LAX, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That’s great but…how is it possible that each of these workers had a clean background check…and then all committed a crime for the first time while working at the airport? It seems unlikely.

We’ve written in the past about instances when contract employees have not been screened—the contractor might claim that they conducted a criminal background check and did not, or perhaps the background check was not as comprehensive as they thought and did not provide them with the most accurate information. Or even worse, the third party company where the contract employee works did not even bother to find out if an employee background check was completed.

So employers—particularly those in the airline industry and those who hire contract employees—listen up. As a third party, the law might prohibit you from viewing the results of an employment background check. But at the very least, you should be able to ask your contractor for information about the details of their background screening. Here are just a few questions you can ask:

What’s the name of the background screening company you use?

This question will allow you to do additional research to find out if the company they use is reputable and thorough. Of course you can’t just call up the background screening company to find out results, but at least you will feel more confident (or less in some cases) that the background check has been completed by a reputable company.

What do you look for in a background check?

It’s important to find out how comprehensive the background checks are, including services like county criminal record searches, the national database, resume verifications, drug screening—just to name some of the key components in a thorough background check.

What results would disqualify a candidate from being hired?

The answer to this question might vary by company and industry as there are different policies and regulations regarding the kind of information that might disqualify a candidate from being hired. It’s important to find out if a candidate has a criminal record—would they be disqualified? Or, what kind of criminal record would disqualify a candidate?

Brian Jenkins, a senior researcher and aviation security expert at Rand Corp, points out that luggage theft has been a recurring problem as of late. With that, it seems that across the board, current background screening practices for employees in the airline industry and/or contract workers are not effective.

From access to a passenger’s belongings to personal information, airport personnel on every level should be subject to the most intensive screening process. It’s not just about protecting luggage, it’s about protecting people—and in some instances potentially saving lives.

Find out more about background check results for third parties here.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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  • Thank you for shedding light on this topic- contracted workers are often overlooked, and this story shows the necessity for more stringent screening. Air travel is already stressful enough. It sure would be nice to know that our luggage is just as safe as our own well being!