Employees Gone Wild
Strange things are happening. In the past few months, we have had employees stealing from their employer, filing complaints of non- existent health risks, smoking pot on the job, using a company credit card to purchase personal items, using the credit card numbers of customers to buy lunch and even had the lunch delivered to the office, lying about their daughter dying (we have heard lies of grandparents dying some of whom even died more than once, but someone lying about your daughter dying is stooping to a new low that we never thought existed), inflating their time records, violating non-compete and non-solicitation agreements and just being all around bad employees or bad former employees.
It is funny how things go in waves. There are times when we get a rash of discrimination or harassment complaints. There are other times when unemployment claims become the issue du jour. But we do not expect to see so many problems with moral turpitude to be so rampant in such a short period of time. Last June when we had the Blue Moon, or two full moons in the same month, we attributed the sheer number of people exhibiting bad behavior to this celestial phenomenon.
We cannot attribute the recent dishonest and unethical actions to anything in particular. We all know that values are tested when things get tough. Maybe the Great Recession has something to do with it. Many people were forced to go through their savings, file for bankruptcy, lose their house and now have nothing or very little left. So they are trying to get back what they lost at the expense of their employer. Desperate people are dangerous.
Ethical behavior is a growing concern across society in general. Times have changed since the days when ethical behavior on the part of employees was almost taken for granted. Furthermore, even good, moral individuals may be influenced by reward systems they see as inequitable or the unique temptations caused by unseen pressures that may affect the decision-making of some individuals. They know their actions are wrong, but they do it anyway.
It is a management dilemma. We encourage our clients to trust their employees and treat them with respect and dignity. We also encourage our clients to act quickly when that trust is broken. If an employee steals from you, get the police involved. If a former employee violates their non-compete or non-solicitation agreement, call your attorney.
On the other hand, we also encourage our clients to do their due diligence before hiring new employees. In the above examples, the employer could have avoided some of the problems. The employee smoking pot on the job tested positive for cannabis on his pre-employment drug test, but he was hired anyway. How could that happen? No one knew that he was dating the HR director and the results of the drug test were never revealed to anyone other than the HR director.
The employee who stole the customer's credit card number had a criminal record of fraud a mile long, including grand theft. But no pre-employment background check was completed. Now the employer is on the hook for the credit card fraud committed by one of his employees. And his company's reputation is at stake.
The employee who stole from the employer had a conviction for employer theft three months prior to the date of the application. Unfortunately, the criminal record was revealed when the employee was arrested on the employers premises and not through a pre-employment background check.
Some of the others could not be avoided. The woman who said her daughter died also lied about the illness that the daughter allegedly died from. Why? Sympathy? Time Off? Who knows?
The people who violated their non-solicitation agreements were trusted implicitly by the business owner only to quit, start their own business and take the client with them. With the signed agreements, there is some protection. But in the meantime, the business lost revenue and has to hire an attorney to contact the former clients and the former employees. It's a double whammy for the employer. We will have to wait and see how things turn out in these cases.
Small employers are risk takers. Many think. "It wont happen to me." Yet, they buy fire insurance in the very unlikely event that a fire will destroy the facility. So why not buy insurance in the form of pre-employment screening, background checks and having documents to protect your business from poachers.
"Doveryai, no proveryai" it is a Russian Proverb often used by Ronald Reagan when dealing with Mikhail Gorbachev while negotiating the arms control treaty in the mid 1980's. President Reagan liked using it because it rhymed. It means, "Trust, but verify."
So how can a small business protect itself?
- Conduct criminal background checks on all employees BEFORE confirming a job offer. To avoid charges of negligent hiring, use the state data base. But usually for a few cents more, a check on a national can be conducted.
- Have employees sign Non-Solicitation and/or a Non-Compete agreement, and enforce them. Remember that a non-solicitation agreement is easier to defend.
- Conduct Pre-employment, Post-accident and random drug tests.
- If the employee will be driving for the company, conduct checks with Division of Motor Vehicles.
- Avoid making hasty hiring decisions or hiring on the spot. Most verifications take only 2-3 days.
We can tell you what it cost is to have all these measures in place, but we can't tell you how much it will cost you NOT to have them in place. There is never enough money to do it right the first time, but always enough money to correct the issue once it goes wrong.
How much is your company's reputation worth to you?
The Required Disclaimer
The McKenzie Mailer is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Before implementing any action on this subject, contact an expert in the field.
Thank you for reading The McKenzie Mailer and never hesitate to contact us with questions.
Bob McKenzie, President
Winner of the 2012 Ultimate HR Executive by the Jacksonville Business Journal and the Man of Steel Award from Entrepreneurial Anchor Magazine.