Case Study – Superintendent’s Past Sexual Harassment Complaints Missed

June 8th, 2018   •   Comments Off on Case Study – Superintendent’s Past Sexual Harassment Complaints Missed   

Many employers want to avoid sexual harassment complaints in hiring. Here is a case study that illustrates what can happen without proper background and reference checks:

  • Fact:   Des Plaines Elementary School Dist. 62 school board retained the services of an educational executive search firm to identify candidates to fill the district’s superintendent position.
  • Fact:   As a result of the search, in early 2016 the board hired Floyd E. Williams to serve as superintendent.
  • Fact:   A background check, consisting of a criminal record search, a civil record history, and a credit report, was conducted by a third party, after the Board had decided to hire Mr. Williams. This background check was considered “a more comprehensive search.”
  • Fact:   The firm that conducted the background check was hired by the executive search firm.
  • Fact:   Five employees of Dist. 62 reported concerns to their supervisors about the superintendent’s comments regarding their appearance and personal lives.
  • Fact:   Shortly after Mr. Williams was hired by Dist. 62 details regarding allegations lodged against him by a female employee of his former employer, Kenosha [Wisconsin] Unified School District, became public. The complaint was over pictures she alleged Mr. Williams had taken of her at an office party.
  • Fact:   The Dist. 62 Board representative has stated that board members were not informed of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Williams’ tenure or his departure from his prior school district.
  • Fact:   Dist. 62 entered into a separation agreement with Mr. Williams in the fall of 2017. He was paid $127,000 as part of the agreement.

*Facts are as reported by various news outlets.

 

Case Study

This case presents employers, whether school districts, government entities, or private enterprises, much fodder for how to effectively conduct background checks, and in particular, executive-level background checks.

For various reasons—some of which are clear as a result of this case—employers need to be intimately involved in the background checks that are conducted on their candidates. Not only entities that deal with vulnerable populations have a responsibility to conduct thorough background checks. As the #MeToo movement has brought to light, sexual harassment exists in all industries, and at all levels of organizations.

Employers need to understand that the Fair Credit Reporting Act is invoked once a third party is involved in conducting background checks, and hence they must follow the requirements of the FCRA. Handing this responsibility off to the search firm creates unnecessary risk and exposure for the employer, and possibly unfair treatment of the candidate(s) whose backgrounds are checked.

Employers need to understand exactly what background checks are being conducted—what counties (usually not just one county) is being searched for criminal records? Will sex offender registries be searched? What results will the civil check net? Is a credit check necessary/a useful tool?

Employers need to understand what constitutes a “comprehensive” background check, in order to determine the adequacy of the check. Will academic credentials be checked? Driving records? Employment history? Will references be contacted? If so, who will be contacted?

Employers often express surprise, as the Dist. 62 Board apparently did, when the results of the “comprehensive” background check does not uncover information regarding a candidate’s prior performance and other critical matters from former employers. They do not realize that criminal, civil, and credit reports do not include such information, except in the rare instance where formal, legal action was taken against the individual.

The only way to obtain information about a candidate’s employment track record is by contacting meaningful references. The interviews with these individuals must be conducted by professionals who are skilled at interviewing senior-level individuals in order to obtain job-related information.

Additional information and resources:

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/20180428/suburban-firm-has-history-of-mishandled-searches-for-school-superintendents

https://www.journal-topics.com/articles/background-check-failed-to-disclose-troubling-information-on-former-supt/


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About the Author

Zuni Corkerton is the Founder and President of RefCheck® Information Services, Inc., a human resources-based firm that focuses on providing stellar employers with in-depth–not generic–background-screening services. She founded the company in 1986, when as director of employee relations for a regional bank she found that hiring blind was not a sound business option. She needed solid, objective, job-related background information on the bank’s candidates. RefCheck® helps employers to perform their due diligence in the selection process in order to protect their employees, and to protect their organizations from the risks inherent in the selection process: employee theft, workplace violence, and negligent-hiring and negligent-retention allegations. Adherence to federal and state laws is of paramount importance to the company.

Please call (800-510-4010, x 12) or email Zuni (zcorkerton@refcheck.com) to schedule a free, confidential analysis of your current screening practices, and to determine how RefCheck® can help you to mitigate risk, protect your bottom line, and improve hiring.

Notice: Nothing in the material provided is intended to be or should be relied upon as legal advice. Readers are strongly advised to seek legal counsel. The author is not an attorney, and the information provided is for informational purposes only. Neither the author nor RefCheck® is engaged in rendering legal advice.