Background Checks for Employees

By Kathleen Pohlid Founder and Managing Member, Pohlid, PLLC | April 13, 2014

A mistake in hiring of an employee can pose significant liability for a hotel establishment. Background checks provide a measure of assurance that the applicant does not have indicators of behavior or risk which may undermine security and safety of guests or compromise the establishment’s business. However, background checks can also expose employers to charges of discrimination. It is important that establishments use background checks as necessary, avoid improper use of background checks, and comply with federal and state laws when conducting them.

Here are some best practices to adopt with respect to background checks:

Be Aware of Your Establishment’s Duty in Hiring

Numerous decisions are involved in the hiring process and there is an element of risk in hiring any employee. Establishments, like other employers, have a duty to exercise reasonable care when hiring individuals to avoid exposing others to an unreasonable risk of injury. A background check, coupled with checking employee references, is a measure of exercising such reasonable care to ensure that the employee is qualified to perform the duties in a responsible, safe and reliable manner.

When an employer can establish that it exercised reasonable care in making the hiring decision, it can avoid liability for the acts of employees done outside the scope of their employment which result in injury to other persons.

A background check provides evidence to demonstrate that an establishment exercised its duty of reasonable care before hiring. In Gargano v. Wyndham Skyline Tower Resorts, 907 F. Supp. 2d 628 (D.C. N.J. 2012), a federal judge held that Wyndham was not liable for negligent hiring of an employee who sexually assaulted an onsite employee of a housekeeping contractor. The hotel asserted that it had exercised due care by conducting a background check which did not reveal any past history of sexual assault and that the assault could not have been anticipated. The hotel was aware of prior incidents of outbursts by the employee and a pattern of argumentative behavior, none of which resulted in physical injuries or damage. Although the judge noted the outbursts indicated the employee “may not be a model employee, ” the incidents did not make sexual assault foreseeable. The judge found no case law to support the proposition that the mere “evidence of general character flaws or lapses” in an individual is sufficient to sustain a negligent hiring claim.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.