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Legacy Matters

June 04, 2018

Hiring Domestic Help: Using a 5-Step Background Check to Protect Your High Net Worth Family

Summer is almost here, and for some high net worth (HNW) families, it is time to hire domestic help—perhaps a full-time sitter for the kids, extra groundskeepers or a chef for your summer entertaining. 
Unfortunately, a recent survey performed by HireRight indicated that 85% of employers caught applicants lying on their job applications. Since an applicant will only provide information he/she wants you to know, you will need more information than this to protect your family. You would not want to accidentally hire a sex-offender as your child’s music teacher or a babysitter with multiple driving infractions to take your children to their activities.

Before you let a stranger into your home or property, even if you are hiring someone for just a couple of hours a week, you need to make sure that this person has undergone a thorough background check. A hidden issue in a candidate’s background showed up in 77% of background checks requested by the employers in the HireRight study. 

If your family office does not provide the service of hiring domestic help, you can use the steps below to help protect your family.
Five Steps to Verifying the Background of Potential Employees
  1. Request a standard background check:
    Check with your insurance provider first. If it caters to HNW clients, it likely has a relationship with a professional security firm which will conduct employee background checks, usually including all the steps below, as a complimentary or reduced-fee service for HNW families.

    If you don’t use a security firm, you can use a full-service source such as GoodHire or Care, or perform an online check yourself through vendors like BackgroundReport. (Compare prices and services online.) During the background check you should:
    • Secure an applicant’s written permission to conduct the check, as background checks performed by professional vendors are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
    • Make sure your check includes court cases and criminal records at the county, state and federal levels and includes a cross check with sex-offender lists.
    • Make sure your check includes credit, financials, bankruptcies, judgments and liens if the applicant will have access to your home, assets or personal information.
    • Understand the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements for providing notice to an applicant if he/she is not hired due to information disclosed in a background check. The FCRA has strict, detailed requirements for the notice that must be given, and there are plaintiff’s attorneys who make a living suing over technical violations of the FCRA. Your attorney can help you meet these requirements.
    • If desired,  visit the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website for more information on background checks:  
  2. If not obtained during the background check, verify the following, if applicable:
    • Driving records (through the SOS or DMV)
    • Professional licenses (usually through the state)
    • Educational degrees (through the registrar’s office using the institution’s release form which must be signed by the applicant)
  3. Perform an internet search on the candidate and check out his/her social media sites.
    • Find out if your state prohibits you from failing to hire someone based on the applicant’s off-duty conduct.
    • If your state does not prohibit this, and this information you found online influenced your hiring decision, print out the posts or pages which contain the information that you used as part of your decision and write down the reason(s) you did not hire the applicant. Keep these pages in case the applicant deletes the information from the internet and later files a lawsuit against you regarding your hiring practices.    
  4. Contact references personally, as conversations typically provide more information than email exchanges and reference letters. People will generally not put sensitive or negative information into writing.
    • Don’t assume that the applicant has provided genuine references. Try to verify the reference and the contact information independently before you contact that person.
    • Don’t ask the reference questions about the applicant that you are not legally allowed to ask the applicant (age, marital status, etc.).
  5. Treat all applicants equally.
    • For example, if you decide to look at social media posts for one applicant, you will need to check posts for all the applicants you are considering.

Hopefully, performing background checks will help you really get to know your applicants and lead to a hire that is a good fit for your family. Also, by knowing the rules around background checks, you can help protect yourself from employment liability.

Don’t hesitate to contact your Warner attorney or Dean Pacific in our Labor and Employment practice for assistance with protecting your family during all parts of the process for hiring domestic staff, including conducting interviews, drafting employment or confidentiality documents, and understanding important insurance requirements.
For information on using insurance to protect yourself when hiring domestic help, please see our blog post "Protect Your Family from Liability."

For specific information on the employment process in its entirety, including payroll and tax issues, please see our article “A High Net Worth Guide to Hiring Private Staff and Domestic Help.
Go to the 2017 HireRight survey to learn more about current trends in background checks. 

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