Background Checks on Home Service Workers?

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Background Checks on Home Service Workers?

Background Checks – Merchant Information Solutions, Inc.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Background Checks on Home Service Workers?

We all remember the story of Elizabeth Smart. On June 5, 2002, this 14 year old girl from Salt Lake City Utah was abducted from her bedroom. Nine months later, she was found about 18 miles from her home in Sandy, Utah. She was with her kidnappers: Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. So who was this Brian Mitchell and what was the connection to the Smart family, if any? The Smarts were kind people, seeking out umemployed people in the community and paying them to do handyman jobs around the house. Mitchell, who went by Emmanuel, was a hired handyman who worked on the Smart’s house for a day, raking leaves and doing roof work.Let’s look at another case that didn’t have such a happy ending. In February of 2001, Sue Weaver had two men come and clean out her air ducts in her Orlando, Florida home. Six months later one of them returned, raping and murdering her. Jeffrey Hefling then set fire to her home and body, hoping to destroy any evidence. Jeffrey Hefling was a convicted sex offender and was on parole when he came to clean Weaver’s air ducts. Out of this tragedy Weaver’s sister, Lucia Bone of Flower Mound, Texas, began a nonprofit organization — C.A.U.S.E. (Consumer Awareness of Unsafe Service Employment) — who’s mission is to educate consumers about the risks of home service workers and to make background checks mandatory for such workers. They strongly encourage businesses that hire home service workers to perform thorough background checks on their employees. They want the public to recognize their C.A.U.S.E. seal and feel safer if they’ve hired someone from a C.A.U.S.E. certified company.

A large reputable company doesn’t always guarantee our safety. Hefling was a subcontractor to a major department store in Orlando that offered the duct cleaning services. Both men were actually ex-cons and Hefling had even admitted on his job application that he’d been in prison for 14 years. The victim’s family settled a lawsuit against this major department store chain in 2004. Perhaps if a background check had been conducted on Hefling, Bone’s sister would still be alive today (Read the full story here).

As business owners, performing background checks on every subcontractor and employee may seem far too expensive. And it can be, but it’s nothing compared to an expensive lawsuit. There are more and more companies that don’t perform checks on their employees that are now dealing with major lawsuits. Take Sears Roebuck and Co. who settled a lawsuit with a Maryland woman who was assaulted in her home by one of the carpet cleaner workers. He had a long criminal record under his belt when he started working for Sears as a carpet cleaner. As in the prior case he was a subcontractor, but the victim filed the lawsuit against Sears. Now Sears requires checks on all their home service workers. An expensive lesson learned (Read this story and similar reports here).

Let’s be informed business owners. Whether we contract out in the home service field or are involved in any other form of business, we need to protect our consumers/clients/fellow employees as best as we can.

Posted by Jaycee Fox at 1:51 PM

PDF: Background Checks – Merchants Information Solutions, Inc._ Background Checks on Home Service Workers

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