It is often easy to think of the workplace as the people that occupy it on a daily basis. What is often overlooked is that ten percent–and in certain instances as much as one third–of the labor force is comprised of extended labor, such as contract workers, temporary employees and vendors. Employers frequently fail to see the value in screening this essential segment of the labor market and tend to skip it altogether, but this can become a very costly mistake. The extended workforce is often given the same access to facilities, funds, information, and other resources as full-time employees, and the risks can be even more significant.
The threat of workplace violence is understandably considered the most dangerous risk when considering screening vendor or contract applicants for jobs. A vendor workforce can certainly compromise physical security, but their access to data, funds and materials should be weighed heavily as well.
Examples of the consequences of having an unscreened extended workforce are not hard to find. Roy Lynn Oakley was arrested in 2007 after allegedly trying to sell classified information and equipment used to enrich uranium from the nuclear material clean-up site where he was a contract worker. Fortunately none of the data made it out of the country, as the Justice Department said that “the materials would be used to injure the United States and secure an advantage to a foreign country.”
In another instance, Jennifer M. Spraitz, a contract employee for the U.S. Labor Department, was discovered to be a co-conspirator in a scheme that embezzled over $500,000 from one of the Department of Labor’s many compensation funds. Her participation included falsifying invoices and making up false names of purportedly injured workers who were supposedly receiving medical services she listed on the invoices.
The extended workforce provides companies with contractors, temps and vendors that can be essential to making a business function efficiently. But consider this: according to a study on extended workforce screening, there is a 92% increase in felony criminal records in applicants from the contingent worker pool versus the permanent hire pool. The risk of hiring an individual with a less than desirable history is significantly greater in this workforce, and therefore background screening them is more important, not less.
Whenever an employee handles your company’s valuable data, material, or financial resources, your company’s assets are vulnerable. Applying a consistent background screening program across the board for all employees–both permanent and contract–is a way for companies to mitigate the danger of a bad worker. The lack of perceived risk of contract workers, as well as the belief that the burden of employment screening should be on another party, such as the temporary worker’s agency, are not justification to avoid background checks on this segment of the workforce.
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