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The Flip Side Of The EEOC’s Position On Use Of Criminal History

Published by on January 19, 2013

The pitfalls for an employer under the EEOC’s criminal background check guidelines are largely dismissed by the commission.  A recent case in Indiana, however, provides a good example of why employers rely on background checks to screen employees and the potential liability for an employer that does not conduct background checks.  More after the break. […]

The pitfalls for an employer under the EEOC’s criminal background check guidelines are largely dismissed by the commission.  A recent case in Indiana, however, provides a good example of why employers rely on background checks to screen employees and the potential liability for an employer that does not conduct background checks.  More after the break.

The case is Santelli v. Rahmatullah (Indiana Court of Appeals 2012).  Rahmatullah owned a Super 8 Motel and hired Joseph Pryor who had a criminal history.  Unfortunately, the risk for recidivism had not passed.  He robbed and murdered paying guest James F. Santelli in his hotel room.  In Indiana’s comparative negligence scheme, the default is that a jury must allocate a percentage of negligence as between the Plaintiff and Defendant that combines for 100%.  An Indiana jury assigned 97% of the fault to Pryor (currently serving an 85-year sentence), 2% to Rahmutallah for hiring Pryor – put another way, for not conducting a background check — and 1% to Santelli for reasons that are unclear.  An Indiana appeals court judiciously remanded the case for a new trial where a jury would not be allowed to assign comparative fault to the intentional wrongdoer.  Nevertheless, Rahmutallah’s liability for his employee’s murder of a guest demonstrates what can go wrong when an employer disregards criminal history in its hiring process.

Hat tip to Pointoflaw.com.

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