Preemployment Screening

Article excerpt

According to an Ohio court of appeals ruling, employers that do not conduct adequate background investigations may be found negligent and held responsible for the illegal acts of their employees. The ruling overturned the decision of a lower court, and the case has now been remanded for another jury trial. If the appeals court decision stands; it could define the term "negligent hiring" in Ohio.

A-Able Rents, a furniture rental company, employed Jonathan Taylor to deliver and pick up goods from clients' homes. In August 1991, Taylor and his partner, Gregory Stanley, removed a roll-away bed from the home of Marie Stephens. After the bed was removed, Taylor reentered the home to telephone for directions to the next pick-up. Before leaving, Taylor violently assaulted and attempted to rape Stephens.

Taylor briefly stopped the assault to call for Stanley, who was waiting outside. Stanley did not enter the Stephens's home but instead went to a nearby house and called the police. Taylor was arrested and convicted of assault and attempted rape.

Taylor later admitted to being a drug user. He confessed that the day before and the morning of the assault he had smoked crack cocaine. During a statement, Taylor told attorneys that he had used drugs at a previous job and had admitted his drug use to a supervisor there. Taylor had resigned from his previous position when asked to submit to a drug test.

On his job application for A-Able Rents, Taylor's work record was inconsistent. He indicated on the application that from 1987 to 1989 he was employed full-time by two separate companies in different states.

Marie Stephens sued A-Able Rents for negligence and negligent hiring. Stephens alleged that had A-Able Rents conducted a preemployment investigation, they would have discovered Taylor's drug problem from his previous employer. According to management at A-Able, Taylor would not have been hired had the company known of his drug use. …