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12 suggestions to help you avoid hiring a Workers’ Compensation claim

Injuries often begin at the date of hire when insufficient time and resources are committed to ensuring that the employee is a good fit for the position and company. Many employers are confused about what they can and cannot do during the hiring process. While federal and state laws restrict certain questions during the interview process, there are steps you can take to minimize the possibility of hiring a problem claim.

1. Be sure to conduct a thorough interview with the candidate. Ask them open-ended questions to see what the individual would do in certain situations. Some examples are: “What is the greatest challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your work career?” “Tell about a time when you had a conflict with: (a boss, subordinate, co-worker). How did you handle it? What was the end result?” Be sure not to talk the majority of the time but instead get to know the interviewee.

2. When hiring an individual, it is very important to consider safe behavior to prevent Workers’ Compensation problems. While an employer cannot ask the applicant medical questions or whether he or she ever filed Worker’s Compensation claims, you can ask open-ended safety questions regarding the job at hand and how they would perform the essential functions of the job. Let the applicants know that if they’re accepted for a job, they’ll go through a fitness-for-duty physical and be asked questions about their medical history. (see # 11)

To get a good understanding of the individual’s work ethic, ask questions regarding tardiness and sick leave. While you can’t ask, “How many days were you absent last year due to illness?” or “Have you filed a Workers’ Compensation claim?” a good way to bring these up is: “Describe your attendance record as an employee of ABC company.”

Conduct a thorough background check, but be sure to obtain a written consent from the candidate before doing so.

5. Be sure to verify past employment claims and follow up with references. Even though many employers will only verify positions and dates of employment, you can usually infer what the employer thinks based on the tone of voice. Find out if the individual is eligible for rehire. Pay careful attention to “gaps” in employment history.

6. Conduct criminal conviction checks. Most public records services have criminal convictions records for almost every large county in the United States.

7. Include job-related injuries, Workers’ Compensation claims, substance abuse and safety records as part of a background check. Be cautious if there is what appears to be a negative pattern.

8. Verify education and certification accomplishments. School and universities will be able to verify if an individual graduated. If a person claims to have a license or other certifications, be sure to call the issuing organization to verify.

9. If hiring a driver, be sure to compare the results of the driver’s official motor vehicle report with answers to the driving record and driving violations questions on the application. You need to know if an applicant is hiding a bad-driving record.

10. Many companies also use skill and personality testing to assess competency and isolate undesirable personality characteristics associated with stealing or poor work ethics. Whatever tools and standards employers use to screen applicants, they should establish reasonable criteria and apply them uniformly and strive for transparency.

11. Make a conditional job offer, contingent upon the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of the job. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not allow you to ask questions about disability or use medical examinations during the interview process, once you make a conditional job offer, you may ask disability-related questions and conduct medical examinations as long as you do this for everyone in the same job category. The job offer may be withdrawn, if in a medical opinion, the employee poses a direct threat (i.e., a significant risk of substantial harm) to the health and safety of themselves or others (with reasonable accommodation for those employers subject to ADA).

12. After a conditional job offer, drug screening is a very useful technique conducted by many companies not only on new hires but also on current employees. Frequent drug users are a larger liability due to possible theft and injury.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice. No actions should be in conflict with state and federal laws.