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Warning: Temp agencies will not do your homework

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in Employment Background Check,Human Resources

Issue: Temporary workers who are hired on as employees often fly under the radar of pre-employment checks.

Risk: No legal recourse if your temp-turned-employee goes bad.

Action: Treat temps who apply for regular employment just like any other candidate: Subject them to background checks.

Quick quiz: What does your temp agency contract say about performing background checks? Is it your responsibility? Is it theirs?

As the following case shows, not knowing the answer can be dangerous.

Recent case: After working as a temp payroll clerk at a tech company, Teena Rodriguez was hired as an employee. The tech company assumed the temporary agency conducted a thorough reference check before Rodriguez began. It didn't. Over the next two years, Rodriguez embezzled $1.3 million from the company.

The company sued the temp agency, alleging breach of contract and negligence, saying the agency violated a "duty of reasonable care" by failing to check the temp's references and failing to warn its client of her previous criminal record for theft from another employer.

The problem: The contract between the tech company and the temp agency said nothing about checking references.

A trial court sided with the temp agency, and a state appeals court agreed. It said the temp agency didn't owe the employer any duty of reasonable care that wasn't stated in the contract. (Vtech Communications, Inc. v. Robert Half Inc., No. C00-1827CV, A117619, Oregon Ct. App., 2003)

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