By RICKY RAYBORN
Mercy and truth in the workplace
Safe hiring and safe retention in faith-based organizations
“All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.” – Psalm 25:10
When one thinks of the many thousands of nonprofit and/or faith-based organizations in our country, at first glance, one could be tempted to think they are immune to legal problems related to negligent hiring or negligent retention.
Think again. Just ask the Boy Scouts of America or the Catholic church, as well as numerous other Christian mainline Protestant and non-denominational faith organizations: Negligent screening, negligent ongoing retention policies, and faulty accountability structures have produced horrific consequences. In a world where original sin continues to be alive and active, so are its consequences, and faith-based organizations are not exempt from this reality.
This reality can pose a hard question: How do faith-based organizations and their leaders live the gospel truths of charity, of being non-judgmental, of being inclusive and merciful, while protecting their assets — the most important being the young and the vulnerable they seek to serve in Christ?
Answer: Truth and mercy, inseparable goods in the eyes of the Lord, must be practiced with faithful diligence. Through diligent screening of potential hires and volunteers, a business or organization protects the truth and shows mercy to the weak and vulnerable they serve. Or as the psalmist sings, “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to such as keep his covenant and His testimonies” (Psalm 25:10). And we are assured, “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil” (Proverbs 16:6).
Faith-based organizations that serve children and youth have the obligation to exercise “due diligence.” By performing background checks on volunteers, your ministry is putting up a safeguard. Offer peace of mind to discerning parents by knowing your ministry is proactively protecting children.
Since its conception, Laborchex Inc. has been a positive force in the effort to help companies, nonprofits and faith-based organizations avoid the pitfalls of negligent hiring and negligent retentions by providing background checks before and during employment. Here are some key concepts and maxims to keep in mind when discussing safe hiring and safe retention in faith-based organizations:
◼︎ When a job brings an employee into contact with the public in a special relationship, the employer has a duty to conduct an investigation into the employee’s work experience, background, character and qualifications.
◼︎ From childcare volunteers and janitors to administrators and pastors, unlawful and reprehensible acts by any of these people can cause terrible harm to faith-based organizations and significantly diminish their community standing.
◼︎ Faith-based organizations might also be liable if they retain employees who commit wrongs against other people if they know, or should know, that the employee does these things. Each organization has a duty to protect people from the harmful recurring behavior of an employee.
◼︎ Volunteers make up the backbone of many faith-driven organizations. If you check the background of anyone, it should be volunteers and daycare workers. They are often responsible for the most precious item in our church: our children. These persons should have clear criminal records and valid driving records, since there will be times when they might drive church or personal vehicles with children aboard.
◼︎ Salaried employees: These include teachers, secretaries, accounts receivable/payable workers, etc. In addition to knowing intimate personal details about members of the congregation (such as addresses and social security/checking account numbers), these workers are often entrusted with the handling of church funds, including credit cards, investment accounts and more. In addition to checking criminal records and driving records, when appropriate, previous employment and education should be verified. Employment credit reports should be obtained for applicants who will handle money or funds.
◼︎ From janitors and kitchen workers to bus drivers and maintenance personnel, this category of workers requires careful screening. In addition to working with church property, these workers also have direct contact with children, and even know when a parishioner’s car is unattended. Criminal records and driving records should be checked.
Finally, drug testing would be a good idea for all employees and volunteers.
Ricky Rayborn is president of Laborchex, a Mississippi-based company providing employment screening and drug testing services nationwide to a range of employers, from small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations. For more information, call 1-800-880-0366 or visit laborchex.com.