According to Patricia Kotze, president of Diversified Risk Management, Inc. (DRM), there is a new threat to employers and their Human Resources departments: the “Professional Applicant.” “This is a person who applies for a position with a company but has no intention of sticking around to be a productive employee,” says Ms. Kotze. “Instead, their primary goal is in finding a weakness in your business and exploiting it for financial gain. Professional Applicants typically have a history of lawsuits against former employers, Workers Compensation claims, and/or complaints based on state or federal laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).”
Cody Farzad, vice president of Employers Choice Screening, which works hand-in-hand with DRM by providing employer background screenings and employee compliance trainings, adds: “One of the biggest warning signs in spotting a true Professional Applicant is their history of using the same attorney to file their nuisance lawsuits, irrespective of the type of lawsuit being filed. Mr. Farzad notes that one particular Professional Applicant was found to have applied for 562 jobs over an 18-month span.
“His plan was to submit an employment application with an employer who would conduct an employment background check as part of the hiring process but violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act. At that point, he would threaten a class action lawsuit and demand a settlement,” says Mr. Farzad. Findings of filed court records show that his plan works as this individual was able to extort or extract more than $230,000 in legal settlements from companies across the U.S.
The economic harm that a Professional Applicant can inflict on a business ranges from excessive legal fees to putting you out of business permanently. In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had 114 complaints and lawsuits filed which resulted in employers paying out monetary benefits of over $52 million.