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Loss Prevention

When it comes to employment screenings, nobody wants to get it wrong

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Retailers have the legal requirement and moral responsibility to protect their consumers. End of story. But revised guidelines being contemplated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could suggest that pre-employment background screenings be severely restricted or not even part of the application process.

We’ve talked about “ban-the-box” on Retail’s BIG Blog before – and the impact it could have on businesses across the country. As the head of NRF’s Loss Prevention community – and former retail loss prevention executive – I can say for a certainty that this issue is one that could have quite an impact on the safety of shoppers and store associates across the country.

Would you want a child sex offender employed in a children’s toy store or dressed up as the Easter Bunny? Do you like the idea of a convicted ID thief assisting you as a cashier or handling your credit cards and personal information? Of course not.

No retailer – no business, in fact – can make decisions without all the relevant and necessary facts, and just like public sector and government-mandated background checks, every private sector screening is conducted with all due diligence in a serious and prudent manner that is both fair and equitable. Trust me; nobody wants to get it wrong.

Today I had the opportunity to participate in an all-day U.S. Chamber of Commerce-hosted symposium on the importance of employment screenings and criminal background checks, which featured industry experts and trade association executives, as well as officials from the EEOC. During a panel on Why Businesses, Non-Profit Agencies, and Government Entities Need Access to Criminal Background Checks, I shared the results of NRF’s 2011 Background Screening survey, which found that nearly all retailers (96.6%) utilized background screening as part of their applicant hiring process – a testament to the commitment of retail companies to protect the public.

As the EEOC considers this issue in the future, it is my hope that the commission fully understands that retailers (and businesses across the board) have an obligation to their employees and customers to create and maintain a safe workplace. And employment screenings and criminal background checks do just that.