July 16, 2018

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Tools of the Trade: Verifying Current Employment

A recurring issue in any past employment check is sensitivity about contacting the current employer. A current employer should NOT be contacted unless the applicant specifically gives permission.

The reason is that some employers, who upon learning a current employee is looking, will immediately take steps to terminate the employee. This is especially true for positions of greater responsibility where the applicant may have access to customer lists or trade secrets. In some industries, within minutes of learning an employee is actively looking for a new position, the current employer will have Security box up the employee’s personal items, confiscate all computers and disks, turn off all access to any computer systems, deactivate the parking permit and building access code, and have the person physically escorted off the premises with a last paycheck.

If such a hasty departure is caused by a phone call by the prospective new employer, and the job offer does not come through, the applicant is left without a job and free to contemplate whether they should visit a lawyer.

In order to avoid this, here is a simple two-step program—

  1. On the application, make sure there is a box some place in large enough letters asking an applicant, “May we contact your current employer?”

  2. Do NOT call the current employer unless the applicant has clearly marked the “Yes” Box. If the applicant failed to check either box, then do not call until that is clarified. Anything other than a clear indication of YES can create problems.

If the employer still needs to verify the current employment, there are three options for doing so...

  1. Ask the applicant for the name of a past supervisor or co-worker who is no longer working with the applicant at the current place of employment. (Again, if there is any question about the authenticity of the supplied name, the employer can call and verify the ex-employee did in fact work at the current workplace).

  2. Ask the applicant to bring in W-2’s for each year of work, or at least the full past year.

  3. Wait until after the employee is hired to call the past employer, providing the hire is subject to a written offer letter that clearly states continued employment is conditioned upon a background screening report that is satisfactory to the employer. Once the new employee comes aboard, there can be a final phone call. By making current employment part of the written offer letter, an applicant has a powerful incentive to be accurate about his or her current employment situation, since any false or misleading statement or omission will have serious consequences. It is also important to say the screening report must be “satisfactory to the employer” in order to not get into a debate with an applicant/new employee about what is, or is not, a satisfactory screening report.

-Lester S. Rosen

President of Employment Screening Resources

(c)by Lester S. Rosen