Lawsuit: Janesville staffing agency skipped background checks

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Neil Johnson
Thursday, November 16, 2017

JANESVILLEA Janesville company is suing a local employment agency for providing workers with criminal records after the agency failed to conduct background checks on them.

In a summons filed last month in Rock County Court, Diamond Assets, an electronic equipment and technology systems supplier, claims that Express Employment Professionals in Janesville placed at Diamond Assets a dozen workers who had not been vetted through pre-employment criminal background screenings in July 2017.

The company claims Express had promised in a staffing contract and in emailed exchanges that it would handle the screenings, according to the suit.

Diamond Assets is suing for breach of contract, deceptive practices and misrepresentation. It is seeking undisclosed damages, according to the suit.

Diamond Assets says Express did not screen the workers for criminal offenses including theft, sex crimes, violent crimes and recent felonies—offenses the company would have flagged through its own employee screening processes.

According to the suit, a dozen workers reported to Diamond Assets as “temporary” staff hired and employed by Express through its office at 32 S. Main St., Janesville. They were supposed to staff Diamond Assets' electronics production lines during the company's busy season, working with the information technology departments of school districts, governments and private companies.

One of the workers Diamond Assets claims was not screened showed up for work with an electronic monitoring bracelet and had to leave early to report back to a jail, according to the lawsuit.

Diamond Assets said the worker with the monitoring bracelet stole $110 from another employee's wallet in company break room—an incident the suit alleges was caught on a security camera. Diamond Assets reported the incident to police.

A Diamond Assets official later did a cursory internet search and was “stunned to find a significant number of (court) cases” involving the worker. The suit does not identify the worker or give details on what, if any, criminal convictions or arrests the worker had.

Vicki Donalson, who owns and operates Express Employment Professionals' Janesville office as a franchise, repaid the money reported stolen from the employee.

According to the lawsuit, Donalson initially told Diamond Assets that Express had run a criminal background check on the worker with the monitoring bracelet, and the checks were “clear.” Later, Donalson admitted neither she nor her office had screened the worker, according to the suit.

Diamond Assets claims Donalson “would not or could not” provide the results of background checks for the other workers placed at Diamond Assets. The company said it learned later that 10 of the 12 workers placed by Donalson's agency failed criminal background searches performed by another staffing agency.

One of the employees, the suit claims, had a past record of theft.

Diamond Assets severed its contract with the Janesville Express office, and in doing so, ended employment for the 12 temporary workers, Diamond Assets' attorney, Steven Shapiro, told The Gazette.

The lawsuit claims Donalson and her agency's failure to screen the workers cost Diamond Assets more than $30,000 in additional staffing costs.

Express had not responded to the lawsuit as of Wednesday.

When reached by The Gazette, Donalson declined to comment, deferring to Express' legal team. An Express spokeswoman said she'd have to look into the suit, but she said Express typically does not comment on pending legal action.

The suit claims that criminal background screening of employees is a vital part of Diamond Assets' contracts with customers. The suit says Diamond Assets works to ensure its customers' data is secure and that the electronic devices it provides aren't at risk of theft by the company's own employees.

In Wisconsin, job applicants with criminal records may be denied employment if they've been found guilty of crimes that strongly correlate to their job duties.

For instance, a person convicted of theft might be denied employment at a company that gives its employees access to cash or small, easily concealed items, such as smartphones or tablets.

Shapiro said the regional labor market has tightened to the point that some employers or staffing agencies might have a hard time finding workers without criminal records. For instance, he said job applicants who've been convicted of intoxicated driving are becoming more common.

Shapiro said in his experience, employment agencies are transparent with employers about the results of their background checks. He said it's unusual for a staffing agency to agree to provide criminal background checks but not follow through with the checks.

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