New background check procedures for banks and their foreclosure agents will hopefully address a widespread and troubling problem in the industry. A recent Huffington Post article highlighted a number of instances in which individuals responsible for maintaining and inspecting homes up for foreclosure have broken in, stolen items and even changed the locks on homes that are still occupied. Thousands of complaints and several hundred lawsuits exist against bank contractors, many who have extensive criminal histories, indicating a need for stronger background check procedures for those responsible for such important duties.
The majority of the industry will begin to require heightened background checks this year. According to the article, the background checks would focus on and eliminate potential contractors with criminal offenses, particularly those convicted of fraud or theft. These background checks will be required prior to an individual stepping onto a foreclosed or defaulting property. However, the contractors in charge of these workers are still not clear on how broad the background checks will be, or what restrictions the banks will place on individuals with criminal histories. Some contractors have noted it is hard to find people to do work like lawn mowing who do not have criminal histories, so the type of disqualifying convictions is important. And contractors point out that a criminal conviction does not mean a person will commit another crime. Since the new policies have not been fully implemented, it will be interesting to see if they make a difference and if they become more clear and detailed.
Washington Background Check
Employers are allowed to perform background checks on their potential employees. Background checks are intended to protect employers, employees, and customers. Additionally, employers can be liable for the actions of their employees in the course of their employment. This means they can be held responsible for a bus accident if they hire an individual to drive buses who does not have a driver’s license or who has a history of driving criminally. Background checks are particularly important when the potential employee will be interacting with vulnerable populations, such
as children or seniors, or handling sensitive data or valuables, like homes.
As important as it is to screen employees before giving them access to sensitive information or situations, it is important to remember that employees with criminal histories need to find employment, too. There is no federal or Washington state law prohibiting discrimination based on criminal convictions or preventing background checks. However, Seattle enacted an ordinance prohibiting background checks in the initial phase of the hiring process in 2013. Employers can run background checks on applicants after they have gone through the applications and narrowed
the applicants down to those who are qualified. They must also allow applicants to explain their backgrounds before summary dismissal. However, Seattle employers may still discriminate against people with criminal convictions if the criminal conduct would interfere with the employee’s duties, like a cashier applicant with a theft conviction, or create a threat to people or property.
Background checks are important but can create potential discriminatory hiring situations. If you have questions about hiring and background check procedures, an experienced Washington employment law attorney can help.