Protect Consumers - New Legislation Impacts Consumer Companies and In-Home Service Providers; A Good First Step, But Much More To Do

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There is newly proposed legislation in 2 states that impact companies using service providers who enter a consumer's home. While legislation grows, some companies still dispatch known criminals for consumer product installation and repair. If a background check is completed, who interprets the results to decide whether someone with a record should be allowed into someone's home?

There is newly proposed legislation in two states that impact a company’s liability when dispatching a third-party service provider into someone’s home. Third-party service providers include appliance repair technicians, carpet and flooring installers, computer repair professionals, home delivery drivers and anyone who visits a consumer’s home, on contract for a consumer company.

Florida Bill 1424 states that an employer is not found to be negligent resulting from the death, injury or damage to a person caused by an employee if, before hiring the employee, a background check was completed that did not demonstrate the unsuitability of the employee.

Missouri SB557 makes provisions for criminal and sex offense background checks of workers, and holds an employer civilly liable for actions taken by workers if appropriate background checks have not been completed by the employer.

Both add to existing legislation in Georgia, Florida and Texas designed to protect consumers in their homes. Stricter legislation regarding sexual offenders and predators has been enacted in numerous states, and as awareness grows, protective legislation is likely to increase.

“Passing legislation to protect consumers is an essential first step,” comments Craig Reilly, founder of PlusOne Solutions. “Completing background screens is important, but the screening process in and of itself, does not necessarily guarantee protection. Companies need to apply the investigative results consistently and without bias when dispatching a particular service provider who is likely to place the customer at risk. Too many companies are sending known criminals into consumers’ homes everyday.”

“Employers and consumers need to understand the importance of criminal background checks on employees, contractors, and subcontractors hired to work in clients’ homes” said Lucia Bone, Founder of The Sue Weaver CAUSE, Consumer Awareness of Unsafe Service Employment. Lucia understands all too well the dangers of not knowing who you allow in your home. Her sister, Sue Weaver, was raped and murdered by a twice convicted sex offender sent to do service work in her home. Sue trusted the national company she hired, and that trust cost Sue her life. “Convicted felons will continue to make house calls until we stop them.”

When a comprehensive screening solution including motor vehicle searches are completed, industry data shows that almost 11% of service providers have something in their background that could potentially place a consumer at risk. Over three quarters of this group have criminal violations related to motor vehicle use including multiple DUI’s and suspended or expired driver’s licenses. “In this case, when a company places an employee or a contractor in a position that requires driving, the company becomes liable for negligent hiring lawsuits if there is an incident,” stated Mr. Reilly. The remaining 25% have criminal records that may place consumers or their property at risk, and almost half of the criminal offenses are crimes of sex.

Companies can use consumer reporting agencies to obtain information on the background of in-home service providers. The reporting agencies, however, only report that someone has an “event” in their history. The company then has to make a ruling on whether the “event” should prevent them from dispatching the worker into a consumer’s home. Some rulings, such as a conviction for rape or homicide are very clear. Other decisions can be difficult to interpret. For instance, should a worker with a DUI record from 5 years ago be prevented from installing carpet in someone’s home? What if it is a computer repair technician charged with possessing an illegal substance while in college? There needs to be an objective, independent third party who can interpret the screening results on a case-by-case basis, in an unbiased and consistent manner.

There are other important factors to consider. A transient worker may have a criminal record in several of the states where they formerly lived. The worker’s criminal record would not be discovered unless a comprehensive check, including a national criminal search is completed. By moving and changing the name of their company, they can elude the detection of criminal records in their past.

Also at issue is the cost of the background checks. A service provider usually works for several different consumer companies at the same time and could end up having to pay for a background check for each company, amounting to hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

As companies look for guidance, PlusOne Solutions has introduced a screening, review and decision process to assist them with the important decisions regarding the dispatch of contract employees. The program creates a unique, confidential ID and scores the service provider based on dozens of background screen criteria. The results upload to the company’s dispatch database, ensuring that only those screened providers who meet the company’s background standards are sent to customer’s homes. The ID can follow the service provider to every company where they work, requiring only one background check and consequently, lowering costs. The company reduces its risk of liability from negligent hiring, while protecting the consumer.

As lawmakers and companies work to make certain consumers are protected, consumers can also take steps to protect themselves. “No one should allow a stranger to enter their home without knowing whether that person has a history of behavior that could endanger them,” says Reilly. “Customers should always ask the company sending the worker into their home to demonstrate that a successful background screen has been completed.”

PlusOne Solutions is a privately-held, Florida-based company, dedicated to innovating solutions to reduce cost and add value in all segments of the service equation.

Contact Scott Lindeman, 407-562-1529

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