Home Service Workers Without Background Checks: A Recipe for Disaster

Nick Fishman

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There’s a certain vulnerability we all feel when letting a stranger into our home, but sometimes you have no choice. If you’re like me, you can barely change a light bulb, so when the wash machine breaks or the air conditioning goes out in the middle of the summer, you’re likely to call a company to come fix it.  And don’t forget things like cable outages and furniture deliveries. Chances are, you aren’t going to have the first clue who these service workers are.  You basically have to trust that the company you hired conducted thorough employment background checks before allowing these people to enter your home.

Unfortunately, as Today Show reporter Jeff Rossen explains in the video above, that doesn’t always happen.  And the results can be devastating as our good friend Lucia Bone (included in Rossen’s story) knows all too well. Her sister, Sue Weaver was brutally raped and murdered by an air conditioner repairman in her Florida home in 2001. The department store that sent the repairman didn’t bother to perform a criminal background check or they would have known that he had an extensive criminal record.

Over the year’s we’ve provided a number of examples of home service workers who either weren’t screened properly or weren’t screening at all. Here’s just a sampling of incidents.

  • Melissa Ketunuti of Philadelphia may have had this concern when she allowed Jason Smith, an exterminator, into her home on January 21st. Ketunuti was found “strangled, bound, and set on fire in her Graduate Hospital-area home.” Smith was a subcontractor for Dave Bilyk Exterminators and told police he booked the call through them.
  • In 1999 in Rhode Island, a 66-year-old grandmother was found beaten to death in the upstairs bathtub of her home. A worker from the company hired to build a first-floor addition was convicted.
  • In 2005 in New York state, a woman was raped and murdered by the worker assigned by a house-painting contractor to power-wash her backyard deck.
  • In 2006 in Florida, two elderly people were stabbed to death and a third was injured by a lawn-service worker.
  • In 2009 in California, a landscape contractor was charged with murder and attempted murder after attacking a husband and wife, killing the woman and injuring the man.

Of course no industry is immune to incidents like these, but the home service industry in particular needs to be hypersensitive when it comes to employment background checks. They have unsupervised access to customers, to their homes, to their valuables, to their children. They know whether they have a house alarm system. There’s just too much at stake here not to conduct a thorough employment background check. If that doesn’t scare you (and it should), can you imagine the negligent hiring lawsuit that follows?

P.S. You might recall that Lucia Bone made our List of Top 10 Employment Check Advocates. Check it out.








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.
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