August 13, 2010

Background checks for oil spill workers

Posted: 11:20 AM ET

Jackson County, Mississippi, Sheriff Mike Byrd told CNN he was shocked when he met with the local head of BP security as the company was cranking up beach clean-up operations. The sheriff was told BP wasn’t doing background checks on oil-spill clean-up workers.

"I said, 'You're kidding me,' Byrd recalls telling the BP official.

Now, Byrd says, that lack of screening has resulted in a convicted sex offender being charged with raping a co-worker.

A CNN investigation into the incident reveals a web of corporate finger-pointing after basic background checks were not done on those hired to remove oil from the beaches in and around Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Byrd said he told the BP official that "you're going to have every type of person coming in here looking for a job and you're going to have the criminal element in here and we're not going to know who we're dealing with if we don't do background checks on these people."

Byrd believes if a simple background check had been done, the alleged rape could have been prevented. Charles Rundy Robertson, the man charged in the case, had failed to register as a sex offender. He was also on probation for a felony. Yet, because no background checks were done, he was hired as a supervisor.

In a statement to CNN, BP spokesman Robert Wine said, "BP does conduct full checks on its employees, and under normal business conditions can make it a part of the contract for full backgrounds to be conducted by our long-term contractors. This was not done for all contractors in this response; the responsibility lies with the employing company for their own staff.”

The company that hired workers for BP’s clean-up efforts was Aerotek. We spoke with the general counsel for Aerotek who told us, “We are not liable for anything that happens. Once we deliver the people to be supervised by our client, we don't have anything to do with them anymore."

Sheriff Mike Byrd said he asked BP’s local head of security why no background checks were being performed, and his response was, “…there’s so many of them [employees], we were told to do drug screens and that was it.”

Do you think more should have been done to prevent criminals from being hired for BP’s clean-up operation along the Gulf Coast? Also, Sheriff Byrd told CNN, he would have done the background checks for free. So, why do you think the companies involved still refused to have the checks performed?

Filed under: Abbie Boudreau • Uncategorized

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Michael J. Evans   August 13th, 2010 12:02 pm ET

More finger-pointing between BP and its contractor. Reminiscent of BP, Transocean & Halliburton execs before Congress shortly after the oil spill. Sad, and apparently reflective of its corporate culture.

Andrew   August 13th, 2010 12:13 pm ET

That a woman was raped is horrendous, no doubt. It is one of the most heinous crimes a person can commit. If the suspect is guilty, I hope he gets the maximum sentence allowed by law.

As for whether BP or the contractor "should" have done more with respect to background checks, I think we need to look at the context. If, as the media and local citizens were reporting on an urgent basis daily, the gulf coast was "under invasion" by the oil, than there is a case, albeit week, to be made that responding faster with as many people as possible was more important than dotting every I and crossing every T with background checks. When a broad swath of people are being mobilized to counter an emergency, it seems to me that mistakes are going to happen, even horrendous ones at times. I recall a huge uproar when foreign vessels came to help contain the spill but were stopped and checked to see if they had the proper life preservers on board. The rallying cry from all quarters was "plug, contain, clean."

All this means nothing to the woman who was violated, however. It's sad for sure.

shar   August 13th, 2010 1:32 pm ET

I can't believe that this story is being covered with no proof of a rape having taken place. Just because the man was a sex offender does not mean that he raped the accuser. He might have, but where is the proof? Once again, the cart is pulling the horse. I have many questions, such as did either the supervisor or the worker leave the job while they were on the clock. Was the accuser paid to take a few days off? Why would this woman, who barely knows this man, let him into her room. Why would the accuser wait so long to report the rape? Was there a rape kit done? Why wait until after she was laid off to file a complaint? Last of all, is everybody going to get money from BP? If they are, then sign me up!!!

I don' t mean to sound cruel, but this is irresponsible journalism at its best.

Mark   August 13th, 2010 1:37 pm ET

I've worked with Aerotek in the past, they do a terrible job of screening their employees, and are outrageously overpriced. I am not suprised they were assocaited with this terrible incident.

Alan Lasky   August 13th, 2010 1:40 pm ET

This is upsetting since background screening is not expensive and protects the employer, employees and public if conducted correctly.

Many companies forget to screen their extended work force, including contractors, vendors, volunteers, etc, who can all cause harm on others as well as be a reflection on the organization who hires them!

Staffing firms many times are not conducting the correct type of background screening searches or not conducting background screening at all which is how many employees with serious and multiple convictions slip through the cracks without proper screening. Hopefully BP has learned from another mistake as well as other companies learning what to do in their own organizations.

Frances   August 13th, 2010 3:50 pm ET

I first heard Abbie Boudreau's story as it was aired on CNN earlier today. I notice that the version of the story that appears on the website is different.

In both of these versions Ms. Boudreau reports the story as if the charge of rape has been completely substantiated. Only late in the story as it was aired on CNN earlier today does Ms. Boudreau mention that the woman making the charge of rape did not go to the hospital for examination immediately and did not make the charge for weeks. (In the version on the website, this part of the story has dropped out.)

Mr. Robertson appears to be guilty of having failed to register as a sex offender, but Ms. Boudreau reports the story very irresponsibly in treating the alleged rape as if it had already been proved. Ms. Boudreau is supposed to be a journalist working for CNN, not someone who looks as though she was hired by a plaintiff and her attorney.

bay boy   August 13th, 2010 8:39 pm ET

I have been reading a few comments and some of the comments have points I agree on and some have points that I don't agree on.My heart goes out the victim and her family because ultimately that was wrong period.I condemn what happened to that woman.And if the accuser is found guilty I believe he should get prosecuted the maximum amount of time that crime offers under the full extent of the law. But its seems that everybody is forgetting the scapegoat... The ex-felons..... The ex-felons that are not sex offenders. The ex-felons that are drug offenders, robbers, and etc, etc. I'm talkin about the people who got in jail or prison trying to make a living.The people trying to make it out of poverty the wrong way, after doing some time getting out and trying to make a living out of poverty doing things the right way. These are the thousands maybe even millions of people (including myself)who are affected and looked at as the scapegoat.Which also increases the recidivism rate in prisons in jails all across the country and increases taxes for taxpayers all over the country.Companies should do backround checks based on the position that the applicant is applying for. But jobs should do backround checks in a way that doesn't discriminate against anybody in any shape,form, or fashion including discriminating against somebody based on their criminal record if the crime does not become a conflict of interest with the position that the applicant is applying for....................This is just a capitilist corporate way of keeping poverty going up and up and up for the majority, and the profits of corporate agendas up and up and up for the few. And it has to do with COLOR! This subject right here is affecting Black people the most.(But this affects all Americans of every ethnicity)Over a 1 million black men are incarcerated in America's Federal and State corrections facilities.So that means black men represent over 50% of a national prison system, but only represent 13% of the national population. Thats not even counting juvenile, youth authorities,psychiatric,or military corrections.This is the Modern Day Jim Crow. Modern Day Jim Crow is Modern Day Slavery! I thought slavery was abolished in 1860 through the Emancipation Proclamation!Guess I was wrong. AMERICA WAKE UP!

wtf   August 13th, 2010 9:14 pm ET

Yay! Another Ho gets to scream rape!! Rejoice America, You've created the new Witch Hunt!!!

Sean   August 14th, 2010 1:32 am ET

bay boy you might be the most intellectually challenged person I have ever experienced, you are an infant, less than a child mentally. You should be shot, you are truly an idiot, moron. I cant waste anymore time typing, you are a horrible person.

Rocky   August 14th, 2010 9:30 am ET

How in the hell can BP be at fault in this matter? The employee was provided by a subcontractor. The employee was hired to pick up tar balls off the beach, for christ's sake; this is not a security critical mission.

This is nothing more than another attempt at using the courts to screw a wealthy company out of millions of dollars. If anyone should be held liable it should be Jackson County Sheriff's Department for not having this guy off the streets. He shouldn't have been available to hire if the information presented in this article is correct.

Just wondering   August 14th, 2010 2:35 pm ET

Most comments appear to be on the extreme ends of the scale, either hire ex-cons or not, either BP is responsible for background checks or not, etc.

I 'm wondering if BP and the subcontracts informed all the employees that background checks were not required and therefore be on guard about their coworkers and supervisors. Sure anyone could be a victim of a first time offender, but I'm sure statistics will prove that ex-cons are more likely to commit crimes that the average person with no history.

Even if background checks were allowed and "currently law-abiding" ex-cons were found, that should not prohibit them from getting the job as long as law enforcement watched them more closely, coworkers and neighbors were made aware, and/or other measures.

Bottom line, since BP didn't want to spend the extra cash to require background checks, then BP should have informed everyone of that. After all, if it wasn't for BP's oil spill that they were not prepared to handle, all those "outsider" would not be the oil spill affected areas. It is BP's fault. Had BP did one of the above, then the accuser would not be able to blame anyone but herself.

Andy Taylor   August 14th, 2010 6:18 pm ET

So Sheriff Byrd, if background checks are indicative of future crimes, explain why just in my local area have we had about a dozen serious crimes committed by law enforcement officers.I mean everything from murder to rape (while on duty) , and robberies (while on duty), etc, etc. I think the sheriff is grandstanding.

I'll bet if held his deputies to the same high standards that he does the general public Jackson County would have to hire a bunch of new deputies.

CNN IS SENSATIONALISM AT IT'S WORST   August 14th, 2010 9:16 pm ET

The sheriff is grandstanding. Jackson County, MS deputies break every rule of the road without fear of discipline. Accountability should start with the Sheriffs department.

Concerned   August 15th, 2010 5:11 am ET

After seeing this I have many reactions.

First If this did actually happen I feel for the victim, and as many would sorry that she had to go through such a terrible ordeal.

Second I think the reporter needs to be objective. The man i question is still only accussed and is not guilty but the way this piece was reported you would have thought that there had already been a trial. What happened to objectivity in reporting... Guess there is just another reporter trying to cash in on the Gulf Oil disaster.

Finally the way in which this lady goes on about how this man is a "sex offender" suggests she thinks that a person who may have commited a crime.... but paid for that crime doesn't deserve a Job... Granted this man in question failed to register and that is on him.. he should have but looking at this ladies responce I pretty sure many "sex Offenders" who are trying to do right dont register because they want a job or be able to find a place to live... hate to break it to ya but drug dealers and robbers re offend more than sex offenders... not down playing their crime but its true

John   August 15th, 2010 9:04 am ET

What so many people are not paying attention to is that the contracting company (Aerotek) was TOLD NOT to do the background check because there were too many people and it would take too long. Contracting companies are all the same... they are an extension of the company that has hired them to find the people and simply mirrors the screening processes required for that company. BP is it blame for this one.

Proforma Screening   August 15th, 2010 6:01 pm ET

Regardless of whether the worker is found guilty, this story brings up at least two important reminders to all employers:
1. Employers are responsible for contingent employees, just as they are their regular employees. Employers who fail to screen these individuals are putting their companies, employees, customers, and the public at risk.
2. People who, in the course of their employment, will have unsupervised access to other people or property should be screened. This is a plain and simple truth.
That said, all background checks should promote fair employment, as described in our recent blog post:   August 16th, 2010 11:13 am ET

Both BP and Aerotek are now liable.
Whether this is a legitimate rape or not isn't that relevant to the question of whether backgrounds should have been conducted.
The volume of people being hired isn't relevant either.

For a few dollars and in no more than a few hours the terrorist watch lists, sex offender registries, FBI most wanted and most state wants and warrants as well as incarceration records can be checked. This guy would have been found out.

That doesn't guarantee that a rape would not have happened but it does guarantee the attorney's will have a field day with the issue.

There are many legal issues wrapped up in just the question of who should run backgrounds, who pays, and who gets to see the results but they could have been easily addressed by BP, it's contractors and the dozens of government agencies involved in this mess.

I know, because I'm in the business, and address all of these questions daily.

The bottom line is, the technology exists, the justification exists and the need clearly exists. The courts will now decide who pays, and surely it will cost more than all of the background checks would have cost for the entire program.

Mary   August 16th, 2010 12:44 pm ET

This could have all been avoided. Learn from BP's mistakes ALWAYS preform background checks, is a good resource to learn more about background checks.

WHODUNIT??   August 16th, 2010 9:15 pm ET

SHAR – or whoever you are,... You should be ashamed of you self. I was there and knew the victim. Trust, she was not AND is not trying to "game" the system for a payout or payoff. The Sheriff probably could not NOR would not respond to specifics of the matter as there is "litigation' ( both criminally and civilly ) pending. As far as the victim not reporting "anything" until after being laid off – the facts are,... she did report the incident weeks before her lay off occurred. In Fact, at the particular job site, others were carted off – from the site – by the Sheriff's dept. for other offenses. I assure you, and all the other commentors – as this story plays out – many more personnel matters will come to light concerning what did and did not happen at that particular BP job site.

Background Screener   August 17th, 2010 1:51 pm ET

Without knowing all the facts surely it is difficult to make a judgement call. However there are other ways to reveal whether a person has been identified as a sexual predator, even if he didnt register in that state as required. He should have been on file in the state of the issuance and therefore could have been discovered using basic database searches. There are a number of clearing houses out there that could have found out this information. The key is for the contractor/employer to have used it. They can be utilized for as little as $5 bucks.

Michelle   September 23rd, 2010 12:58 pm ET

There's two sides to this background check crap. Most importantly, it denies people who've done their time, are let out of prison, and then because of these 'great' background checks, are denied jobs. Checking to see if you've got sexual offenses....I can understand that. But discriminating against ex-offenders IS NOT THE WAY TO GO!!! And don't give me the tired old line that, 'you've made your bed hard, you lie in it'. How long does an ex-offender have to be on a life sentence for something that that person might have done 20 yrs ago? Finally, most people, as well as our 'great' gov't needs to ask themselves this: Which would most people in the USA have: an ex-offender honestly working at a job, or being drafted as a possible terrorist by Al-Quida, because they figure they've done all they could to do the right thing, and it doesn't get an ex-offender anywhere? In my opinion, I'm sorry to say, if businesses, landlords, and people in society keep discriminating against ex-offenders who are honestly trying to do the right thing, you'll sadly, see more ex-offenders go to Al-Quida and/or other homegrown terrorist networks.

The_Boss   October 1st, 2010 4:44 pm ET

And who exactly do you guys think is going to apply for a job called "oil spill cleanup worker"? Those who are college educated, people living the straight life? Uh no

Clarence   October 7th, 2010 12:07 pm ET

So what's the point of this article? That people convicted of a crime should never be able to find a job again? How are they supposed to eat? I think that if someone has repaid their debt to society, they should be able to find work like everyone else. Excluding ex-cons from the workplace marginalizes them, thereby forcing them to return to anti-social pursuits (crime). So until Abbie Boudreau tells us that, and that's just part of long story, we know that she's just a propagandist, not a journalist.

bobbypurify   October 7th, 2010 12:28 pm ET

Yea, Bay Boy defintely crawled out of his mom's ass feet first. How about instead of making excuses for criminals and poverty rates, go get a real job in the real world. McDonalds hires anybody, so learn how to work a deep fryer and stop complaining. There are plenty of individuals that grow up in lower income communities that make it in life without robbing people and selling drugs. Stop searching for the easy way out and blaming your problems on society. If you have to smell like french fries for five years until you have money saved for a collegiate education, so be it. Trust me, your not the only one that has had to do it.

Janet   October 30th, 2010 11:20 am ET

Hell yes more should have been done to stop crimes from happening. The BP people don't care or they would have spared no expense doing background checks. BP people didn't care about the consequences. I bet crimes happened in other places, too.

Kieran Mitchell   November 2nd, 2010 3:36 pm ET

Not to say I'm glad this happened, but it is a example of people not really caring, just a bunch of employees, getting by, I own a background check company. You need to know what you are getting yourself into

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