Background Checks

According to an article that appeared in the July issue of “The Background Investigator,” a new study reported that, of 23 retail companies surveyed, 71,095 employees were caught stealing from their employers last year!  That total is an increase of over 5 percent from the previous year, 2011.  Furthermore, the study disclosed that more than $50 million were recovered in last year’s theft cases.  One can only imagine the total price tag from undiscovered theft among retailers nationwide.

Retailing has always had a problem with theft, in part because many retailers don’t do a very good job of pre-employment screening.  The rules that impact hiring practices have become more stringent, (see August 5, 2013, article “Employers Need to Follow FCRA Rules” at, but careful pre-employment screening can still be done, particularly court checks.  If a candidate for employment has a record of recent convictions for theft, an employer is on perfectly safe ground denying employment to that person!  The proper procedures have to be followed, of course, but retailers should have no qualms about doing a court check on candidates for employment.

The mere fact that over 71,000 people were caught stealing is all the justification any retail employer should need to have a court check done on those candidates being considered for employment.  What’s even more staggering is to contemplate how many employees weren’t caught although they were stealing from their employer and what the total value of items stolen really was!  The totals must be in the hundreds of thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen merchandise annually.  Those projected totals are particularly distressing when one considers that a thorough court check based on a Social Security trace can be done for about $35 dollars.  The small investment to have a court check done will more than be offset by the reduction in employee theft.

A court check, however, isn’t the only way to reduce employee theft.  Better employee supervision, making it more difficult to sell stolen merchandise, and more parental emphasis of the importance of honesty will also help, as noted in the aforementioned July issue of “The Background Investigator.”  Aside from better employee supervision, however, the other ways identified to reduce employee theft are beyond the control of the employer.  That’s why doing a court check on candidates being seriously considered for employment is so essential to reducing employee theft.

All employee theft can probably never be eliminated.  Even employees who have never stolen anything before may find the temptation too great.  Nevertheless, it would be foolish for a retail employer not to take every precaution possible to reduce employee theft – and having a court check done is a simple and lawful way to reduce it significantly.