Background checks are always a key element in employment decisions, but what happens when one takes too long? In the case of Cook County, IL employee Tony Cole, according to this article, the potential employee didn’t disclose prior convictions before a background check was run and he was hired as his background check was in the process of being done. Once the full background investigation had been done, the undisclosed convictions came up and Cole was fired. But, not only was he fired but the chief financial officer of Cook County was asked to resign.
While the article doesn’t specify how thorough the pre-employment background check on Cole was, one common practice is employment is to conduct a basic background check before an actual offer of employment and this basic background check can take one to two weeks and, after an offer of employment, continue a more thorough background check. However, in a basic background check, prior convictions like Cole’s would still come up and the fact that he didn’t disclose them beforehand would automatically disqualify Cole from employment. In the more thorough background check, if any questionable information appears, the employee can be fired.
Firing Cole after the background check came out with conflicting results is the proper decision and course of action, although basic background checks that investigate criminal history are almost always done before an offer of employment. The second aspect of the article, with the chief financial officer being asked to resign, however, borders on excessive. Although perhaps too simplistic, hiring Cole without conducting a background check was a mistake which was corrected by firing him, which is typically a course of action taken when a thorough background check is done and brings up questionable information on an employee.
Employee background checks are one practice done to check information on current employees, particularly criminal history, credit scores and history, and driving records, and can lead to the termination of an employee if undesirable information comes up, such as a low credit score or new criminal history. The primary difference in Cole’s case is that his firing was based on a pre-employment background check done after an offer of employment and not an employee background check done after a significant history of employment.