As reported in a number of news outlets, a cable company was ordered to pay $7.37 billion—$7 billion of which represents punitive damages—following the murder of an 83-year-old woman at the hands of a former employee.
As outlined in the press release issued by the law firm representing the victim, the employee performed a service call in the woman’s home then returned a day later—despite being off duty—using a company van to visit the woman under the guise of performing another service call. Once he was caught stealing her credit cards, he then stabbed her to death (using a utility knife provided by the company) and used her cards on a spending spree.
The press release notes the company did not verify the former employee’s employment history, which he lied about prior to being hired. There were further red flags allegedly ignored by the company and his supervisors as well, including asking for assistance with his mental health and financial issues. Despite these warning signs, the company continued sending him into customers’ homes on service calls.
We often focus on criminal background checks in the context of negligent hiring claims and those remain an incredibly important due diligence tool for employers to utilize. This tragic event also spotlights that other forms of due diligence, such as employment verifications, can be important to leverage as well.
Ultimately background checks became such a crucial part of the hiring process to protect the safety of consumers and the workplace. We encourage employers to routinely review their background check program, including the scope of the packages they may use. While a background check may not fully predict an individual’s future success in a role, it can provide a useful window into their past and whether they may be the right fit for that specific position.