May 8th, 2014 | Sterling

Lessons From Little League: Follow Your Screening Policy or Suffer the Fallout

Little League season has gotten off to a bumpy start in a few towns this year. Baseball fields are empty and parents are angry – all because organizations with established background screening policies have failed or forgotten to follow them. And the fallout of this gap between policy and execution can be damaging.

No Background Check? No Little League

This is the hard lesson learned by Phillips Athletic Association (PAA), which organizes youth league sports in Hampton City, Virginia.

A concerned parent tipped off the local news station that the youth league hadn’t performed background checks on all its coaches, a requirement to use the city’s athletic fields.

Now the baseball and soccer fields are empty, as city officials suspended all PAA games and practices until the background checks are complete. They’re also checking to see if the required checks were performed in other youth leagues using the city’s facilities.

A Screening Policy With No Teeth

Some Hampton City parents and Little League watchers may dismiss the background checks as a formality, but they’re actually a very important formality.

What happens now if one of the PAA coaches or volunteers turns out to be a registered sex offender?

As undesirable as this is, it’s not that uncommon. A registered sex offender was recently arrested for umpiring girls’ softball games in Hueytown, Alabama. In that case, background checks were performed on coaches but not the umpires.

If one of your employees or volunteers harms someone on the job, and you could have prevented it through reasonable due diligence, you will be sued for negligent hiring. According to Clint Robison, a former partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson, employers lose negligent hiring cases 75 percent of the time, and the settlement of such claims can be as much as is $1 million.

Before you start background screening, you should create a clear policy to direct your program. Consider these factors as you construct your background screening policy:

  • What information do you need to check (criminal records checks? credit history? driving records?)
  • Why you need that information (protecting your workforce? fraud and loss prevention?)
  • What requirements they fulfill (how do they support your organization’s mission?)
  • How to complete the background screen quickly and in one place (vendor A? vendor B?)
  • How do you keep current with compliance changes?
  • What is your process for reviewing background screens and making hiring decisions?

After spending all this time and effort to create your background check policy, why would you not enforce it? It happens more than you’d expect.

Having a uniform, consistent background screening policy is only the first step. You have to actually carry it out and enforce it—every time with everyone. No exceptions.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.