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Opinion Divided on Workers' Comp Checks

The value of workers' compensation claim records in background checking is disputed within the screening industry.

March 6, 2008
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A check of workers’ compensation claim records might seem like another worthwhile addition to a pre-employment screening program. But apart from the fact that such records are not publicly available in some states, their value to potential employers is disputed within the screening industry.

InfoLink Screening Services, now owned by investigations giant Kroll Inc., offers workers’ comp history as a specialty service.

“Workers’ compensation searches are highly recommended in manufacturing and production environments or wherever physical activity such as lifting is part of the job requirement,” the firm says on its Web site. “This information enables employers to avoid placing employees in positions that may pose risk of re-injury and identify habitual claim filers.” It also notes: “When applicants have filed workers’ compensation claims against past employers, they often intentionally leave them off their employment applications; you may use falsification of an employment application as grounds for revoking a conditional job offer or terminating a recent hire.”

But Les Rosen of Employment Screening Resources in Novato, California, has a different take on the subject. “We discourage [clients] from looking at workers’ comp,” he says. “It’s fraught with danger.”

The danger of a retaliation suit against an employer, Rosen says, is acute since the filing of a workers’ comp claim is protected as a valid exercise of a legal right. And it’s easier for a plaintiff to prove retaliation than discrimination. Rosen says he would only use workers’ comp records in a hiring decision if the job applicant lied about something in a workers’ comp case.

In Napa County, California, a former Safeway employee sued the grocery chain in September 2007 for allegedly distributing records of a workers’ comp claim to prospective employers “with intent to discriminate and taint the plaintiff as ‘one who had filed a costly medical claim against an employer and [is] thus undesirable to employers.’ ” Brian Greer, who is representing himself, alleges employers have expressed a desire to hire him but changed their minds after viewing the records.

Workforce Management, March 3, 2008, p. 37 -- Subscribe Now!

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