Should Employee Background Checks Include a Civil Judgment Search?

employee background checksHave you ever given much thought to civil record searches?  Well, last week one of our team members sent me an article about a suspended school aide who had a frightening civil record. A teacher’s aide was suspended after it was discovered that he had been ordered by a judge to pay a victim more than $1.1 million in damages 19 years ago for a sexual molestation lawsuit.  The aid never admitted wrongdoing though testimony revealed he started having sex with the victim when she was 13 and the he was in his mid thirties.  Further testimony revealed he had sexual contact more than 500 times.

Seriously?  A civil case?

The sexual molestations were never filed as a criminal case.  So naturally a team member asked, should employee background checks include a civil judgment search?

The simple answer is yes, a civil judgment search might be a good supplemental search for some positions.  However, it is not that easy.  Civil cases can include so many things like a divorce or sexual harassment.

This case is a little unique because the prosecutors were prevented from filing criminal charges because the victim was over 18 when she disclosed so the statute of limitations had expired.

I know, it is unbelievable that a state would not allow prosecution because the victim was now an adult.  Could a child victim of sexual assault ever repress such violence?  Come on, let’s be real.  There are so many reasons a child might not disclose a sexual assault until they are an adult.

So with no criminal record in this case, a criminal background check will reveal nothing.  Frightening?  Yes, I am sure this sent shock waves through the school district and the community after it was reported.

We must understand that a civil case and a criminal case are very different.  The levels of proof are not the same.  For a person to be convicted of a criminal offense, the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt.  What does that mean?  That no reasonable person should have any doubt.  And it requires all 12 jurors (if trial by jury) to agree.

A civil case has a much lower level of proof.  A case must only prove a preponderance of the evidence.  Basically that is more likely than not to have happened and it only requires 10 out of 12 jurors to agree.

So for employment purposes, you cannot conclude that someone committed a crime based on a civil judgment.   I know 1+1=2.  However, our court system does not operate this way.  Think O.J. Simpson criminal case (1994).  He was found not guilty of the criminal charges, yet a jury awarded a civil judgment.

A civil judgment is to collect money, not to prove guilt.  So a civil search is a great supplement to a criminal background check.

Would you like more information about adding civil searches to your employee background checks?