Background Checks or References for Lifeguards?

As posts in previous weeks covered greater access to national crime databases for non-profit children’s organizations and volunteer firefighters – or anyone in a life-saving position, for that matter –submitting to a background check, this latest news item combines a bit of both. A story in Ohio covers whether lifeguards at area pools and water parks have been given a background check for employment or whether the managers simply contacted their references. As many can see from previous news stories and information about background checks, references often can only give information about dates of employment, salary, and position or will answer positively to all questions in fear of a lawsuit. Or, in the case of teenagers and college students applying for lifeguard positions, the references more often than not will be character references.

Essentially, going by references is using the honor system for a candidate as, who will use a bad reference or who will give a bad reference? But, according to this article, as references aren’t accurate in determining a person’s criminal history or even character, many water parks and public pools conduct background checks on candidates as young as fifteen, especially as even one seventeen-year-old lifeguard already had a criminal history in previous years.

The fact is, as seen by this article, even supposedly honest teens can have a criminal past and in most cases, the only way to find out about this is with a background check. One reason for not conducting a background check by these water parks and pools is the cost — $50 per candidate or previous employee. But, even with 100 job applicants, hiring someone who could possibly have a criminal past could result in losses up to $10,000, not to mention lawsuits. Although when hiring teens or college students the risk of having someone with a criminal past is reduced than when dealing with job candidates in their 30s or 40s, the risk of hiring someone with a criminal past is still too great to rely on character references.