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February 18, 2002
Calif. Restaurants Get Screening Service
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All 18,000 restaurants in the California Restaurant Association now have the capability to screen potential hires by using, among other things, reports from credit bureaus and the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The association says it began providing the screening service to address both the industry's long-standing problem with high turnover and more recent concerns about food and water safety since Sept. 11, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Though the checks require consent from prospective employees, analysts interviewed by the Times expressed concern about the increased use of pre-employment background checks. They said prospective workers with less-than-perfect credit records could be disqualified without the chance to defend themselves.

One of those analysts is Christopher Muller, a management professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. She noted that restaurants, service stations and grocery stores are often employers of last resort for the hard-core unemployed, such as ex-felons.

"Look, these guys have already paid their debt to society and are motivated to turn it around," Muller told the newspaper. "Where are they going to go if they can't work as a chef or busboy?"

But Kristen Short, a spokeswoman for the association, said job applicants with spotty records could let prospective employers know before the background checks, so as to defuse the issue and provide a complete explanation.

She said members have expressed increasing interest in security issues since Sept. 11, and she added that many are likely to take advantage of the new service.

After the terrorist attacks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggested that restaurants, supermarkets and farms consider criminal background checks on employees as precautionary measures against possible tampering with food and water supplies. The Times notes that the FDA did not mention credit checks.


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