In a recent verdict, Charter Communications was found negligent in a technician’s murder of a Texas customer in part due to lax screening procedures. The killing of the 83-year-old woman, who was murdered in her home one day after a cable service call, is a heartbreaking event that could have been prevented. A Dallas County Court awarded the family $375 million as a result, and if Charter’s appeal fails, they will have to pay 90% of the damages as Charter was held to be liable 90% culpable. Lax screening procedures at the firm contributed to their negligence.
According to the family’s attorneys, Charter concluded its pre-employment screening program after the purchase of a cable company in 2016 was lax. If the technician’s past had been examined thoroughly, they would have discovered terminations due to forgery, the falsification of documents and harassment of other workers. To make matters worse, the technician spoke to his supervisors about his financial and personal troubles. At one point, he even cried during a meeting and expressed that he was not doing well mentally. Charter ultimately ignored these warning signs, and now they’re paying the price.
No matter what industry you work in, violent events can occur at any time. And situations with employees expressing a need for help shouldn’t be disregarded. The question is, what can you do to prevent this from happening at your place of business? First, we recommend checking in with your workers. Listen to your employees when they express their frustrations with work and life. To de-escalate the situation, consider connecting them to a therapist or medical professional. If they are a threat to others, however, removing them from your workplace may be your best option. If it’s too late for prevention and an employee has committed a violent act, always cooperate fully with the police. This is something Charter apparently failed to do, and the jury took notice.
One of the best ways to avoid this scenario is to complete a careful background investigation prior to hiring. There are many cost-effective tools that companies have at their disposal to perform an adequate screening procedure. When you partner with a respected pre-employment screening company, thorough background investigations serve as a shield against negligent hiring . Prior to hiring new employees, do your due diligence and don’t take shortcuts.
As regrettable as it is, companies frequently make the mistake of trying to save money by dodging background checks. Consider that the cost of a thorough background check is usually less than $75. Then compare that cost to the potential of having an employee virtually bankrupt your firm. In truth, lax screening procedures can completely dismantle your business. Is saving a few pennies worth the risk?
James P. Randisi, President of Randisi & Associates, Inc., has since 1999 been helping employers protect their clients, workforce and reputation through implementation of employment screening and drug testing programs. This post does not constitute legal advice. Randisi & Associates, Inc. is not a law firm. Always contact competent employment legal counsel. To learn more about avoiding lax screening procedures, Mr. Randisi can be contacted by phone at 410.494.0232 or Email: email@example.com or the website at randisiandassociates.com