QualityPro as a Legal Defense
GRIFFIN VOLTMANN, Certification Program Manager, QualityPro
Our industry is built on trust and interpersonal relationships. Pest management is one of few industries that still rely on sending a technician into the customer’s home—this trust is precious and must be preserved through hiring and training new teammates. For the unprepared, hiring new employees can be a uniquely vulnerable period in a company’s development—finding and qualifying potential hires is an exercise in predicting and trying to head off potential exposures to liability.
Imagine that you’ve hired a new technician, onboarded them, and sent them out on a route. During that route, the technician steals from a customer. While the technician is at fault in this case, the offended customer might also seek damages from the company that sent the technician into their home in the first place under the claim of negligent hiring.
Claims of negligent hiring can be made against an employer in cases where employees cause harm or damage, and the employer did not act to mitigate the risk. Specifically, this “negligence” comes from an employer not acting on available information conveying a prospective hire’s potential to cause harm—in most cases, a background check. This is one of the reasons QualityPro has a standard for background checking and making an informed hire.
A company can be held accountable for the actions of an employee in cases where there is a clear pattern of risk associated with an individual, in which case the company’s use of that individual may be considered negligent. Companies have a responsibility to their customers to ensure that all hiring decisions are made using all available information, and the customer has a right to assume that if your company is sending a stranger into their home that at least they aren’t a stranger to you. In the hypothetical situation outlined above, there are two potential endings:
In the first ending, the customer sues your company for negligent hiring and, since your company did not do the due diligence during the hiring process, you’re found liable.
In the second ending, the customer sues your company for negligent hiring and, since you have a paper trail documenting your hiring process and making clear what data was used in the hiring decision, your company can’t be held liable for negligent hiring.
The good news is that the tools to avoid damaging situations are already available to you now at QualityProTools.org and through our partner program. The unending refrain of QualityPro’s accreditation program is to Standardize and Document your processes.
The steps you take now to STANDARDIZE YOUR PROCESSES and to document the steps leading to every decision will go far toward PROTECTING YOUR BUSINESS FROM PREVENTABLE RISKS.
How can standards protect your business?
We reached out to Michael Barnes of Unique Background Solutions (UBS) to discuss how a business can best equip itself to use standards as a legal defense. His suggestions start at the very beginning of the hiring process—as a first step, make sure to have signed Disclosure and Authorization forms. The 2023 HR Recommendations Checklist distributed to QualityPro companies includes this suggestion and information on how to obtain copies of these forms with current language. These forms should be separate from the employment application but should be included in the hiring process. A reputable background-checking company will likely have a version of these documents on hand with the most current language. Barnes stresses, “A reputable company, accredited by PBSA [the Professional Background Screening Association] will be doing legitimate, compliant searches and handling it domestically.”
“Compliant” here means that they comply with the Free Credit Reporting Act’s (FCRA) and are accurate, fair and transparent to the customer. Transparency is another point that Barnes stressed, adding that another way to mitigate potential liability is to institute an Adverse Action Process. An Adverse Action Letter is required by the FCRA as part of the hiring process in cases where a background check (as required by QualityPro’s hiring standards) turns up information that an employer considers disqualifying.
In Barnes’ experience, the “number one reason that companies are getting sued” is a failure to follow the Adverse Action process—either by skipping a step, or by making a hiring decision based on false information. The process requires potential employers to send out a Pre-Adverse Action Letter explaining what was found and giving the potential hire time to dispute the information before then sending the Adverse Action Letter explaining that the candidate has been rejected based on the stated grounds. Not only does this process serve to protect the company from unqualified or dangerous potential hires, it also serves to protect the interests of potential hires by increasing the transparency of the process, and giving them an opportunity to speak up in their own defense.
You should not reject an applicant automatically if something does come up on their background check. There is a well-trod path on how to make a defensible hiring decision in any scenario as described in the QualityPro standard on background checks. NPMA members have Seay Management Associates standing ready to talk through each hiring decision.
Everyone wants your company to succeed, no one more than QualityPro. We require our accredited companies to lock in their hiring processes, and to always make sensible, informed choices because it’s the best way to protect from legal liability. Accreditation is not just about actively proving your business’ quality—it can be an excellent way to protect your interests, your team and your customers.
QualityPro is administered by the Foundation for Professional Pest Management, an independent organization that has been developing good business practices and standards since 2004. Designed specifically for pest management companies in the U.S. and Canada, we are proud to certify over 500 of the best companies in the pest management industry. QualityPro is endorsed by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). For more information, contact us at QualityPro@pestworld.org.