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Lessons from the River for Business Owners and HR Professionals


Matthew J. Rodgers, President, 

Are you an HR professional or a business owner who utilizes background checks for employment purposes? Does your organization count on you to shield it from expensive lawsuits and unnecessary discussions with regulatory agencies such as the EEOC?

The challenge of keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of emerging risk factors is daunting. Most of us have a mental survival mechanism that creates a quick ranking of the potential risk involved with each new issue that catches our attention . The less we hear about other companies being sued or investigated, the faster we put that issue on the back burner. Maybe that particular issue rises in importance in the future, and maybe it doesn’t.

I have spent a lifetime running businesses and whitewater rivers. Running a complex and dangerous river is similar to meeting a complex and dangerous challenge in the workplace. Rapids on a river just happen with greater speed and frequency and the results of poor planning and execution can be far more dire. We refer to a life threatening swim in a dangerous stretch of river as “Getting Maytagged” because it is like surviving the wash, rinse and spin cycle in a Maytag washing machine. Speaking from experience, it is always better to avoid being Maytagged whenever possible.

I make the following comparison because of the profound similarities between business challenges and river challenges.

At work, you start to hear about other employers that have been penalized or sued for failing to raise the level of attention to an emerging policy issue. As an HR professional or business owner, if you have access to this information and have an ear to the ground then these scenarios become clear signs that it is time to re-assess and make important policy changes.

On the river, you always hear the impending rapid way before you see it. The louder it gets, the more attention and respect it deserves. In most cases, you can paddle to the side of the river, get out of your boat and scout the water ahead. Scouting simply involves climbing up high and looking down on the river allowing you to plan your approach and descent.

Of course there is always the “Read and run” method which ignores scouting in favor of reading the water as you run it, but this can and often does lead to being Maytagged.

With experience, you will develop an ear for the river, just like you acquire a well developed ear for your business. If you are listening and paying attention, you are probably aware of the following recent news stories.

  • Pepsi to pay $3.13 Million and Made Major Policy Changes to Resolve EEOC Findings
  • Kmart Corporation Pays $3 million to settle a class action lawsuit involving claims that it failed to inform 60,000 job applicants that they could be denied employment based on background checks
  • Dollar General’s Use of Criminal Background Checks Faces EEOC Scrutiny

These are just a few examples of large corporations that have in-house legal teams and multiple Human Resources professionals on their payroll and yet they simply did not scout the water. Read and run? $3 Million dollar Maytag.

Would your company or career survive this kind of judgement, scrutiny or penalty?

The only thing better than scouting a rapid is running it with a with a highly experienced, trained and seasoned  River Guide who runs that river professionally.

So the question is, how comfortable are you that your company has effectively scouted the potential risks surrounding :

  • Proper Pre-Authorization by applicants and employees?
  • Individualized Assessment to avoid Title VII Liability? 
  • Pre-Adverse Action and Adverse Action Steps?

The river is getting very, very loud. In addition to these examples there are many attorneys who make their living one client at a time focused exclusively on these specific issues. Can you hear it? Will you attempt to read and run it? Will you scout it? Hire a guide?

You do not need to lie awake at night knowing that this threat to your business is out there and that you may be one phone call away from getting financially and professionally Maytagged.

If you are not certain about your policies and practices surrounding these critical areas and the use of background checks in the employment setting perhaps it is time to address this challenge head-on.

Contact me and I will share with you a path to safety based on the guidance of industry-leading professional legal experts.  Don’t get Maytagged. My company is We are employment background screening professionals and we know this river!


Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.