HR staff can help provide an effective defense against negligent hiring claims by making sure references are consistently contacted prior to hiring a candidate.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas recently validated a student’s claim of deliberate indifference regarding the hiring of a police officer. In Doe v. Edgewood Independent School District, a student who was sexually assaulted and harassed by her chemistry teacher and by an officer in the district’s police department filed a civil suit against the district claiming the district’s inadequate hiring procedures were adopted with deliberate indifference, which led to her harassment and assault.
According to the record, the district didn’t call the police officer’s references before offering employment. If the district had, it could have learned that he had previously been fired for making unwanted sexual advances toward a subordinate. A detailed summary of this case is available in the April 2019 TASB School Law Update.
School districts and colleges can limit their risk from negligent hiring claims by making sure reference checks are conducted before hiring any potential employee. At least three or four work-related references of applicants under serious consideration should be contacted. Individual contacts should include supervisors or close associates at current or former places of employment who can provide accurate, work-related information about an applicant.
Many districts conduct initial written checks through their automated applicant system. This provides a general overview of the candidate and the hiring manager or HR staff should follow-up and validate the information by phone and obtain in-depth job-related information.
For more information on reference checks, including sample forms with an outline of questions, check out our reference checks document in the HR Library.
Erin Kolecki is a Compensation and HR Consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Erin an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.