Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Taking Private Investigations Too Far

As an avid investigator, I often get suspicious looks from friends, and occasionally they ask if I'm investigating them. I think sometimes it's easy for friends and family to get a little concerned you may be paying too much attention to what they are doing and we all have things we don't want the world to know about. From a personal standpoint, I must say that I do notice most things but not because I'm investigating. I notice them simply because that is how I am trained to be and how my mind works. I never purposely investigate any of my friends or family members for many reasons. It's too personal. I don't want to know their secrets, because it puts you in a position of secrecy with other family members which can ultimately destroy relationships.

That being said, there are private investigators who take their work too far. While I can somewhat understand their reasoning, I still believe their moral values should hold them back at least occasionally.

As an example, I read several private investigation blogs, and this morning I stumbled upon one that recommended retailers investigate their employees, the employee's spouse and children "if warranted." Now I can't image a situation that would warrant investigating or doing background checks on children. Yes, kids steal, especially before they are old enough to know better. However, I feel like investigations of an employees' family members is a complete violation of privacy rights. The family members are not under contract with the company, they have no reason to expect that they will have their personal lives penetrated by the company. Therefore they do have a reasonable right to the expectation of privacy (under U.S. laws) in this situation, and an investigation would be a violation of their rights.

Not only that but it would be immoral for a store to investigate a potential employees family members and then deny employment because their teenage son had made the mistake of shoplifting or had ever taken something from a friend or neighbor and been charged. Kids make stupid mistakes, but this doesn't mean their parents should be punished and income potential taken from them. Not only that, but what if the employees spouse had a history that they hadn't told them about. I personally don't keep secrets from my spouse, but there are couples out there who live by the standard that what happened in the past is the past and they don't discuss it. Does this mean they should be denied a job because their spouse made a stupid mistake as a kid and stole something from the mall? I don't believe it does.

Now before you bring up the argument that juvenile records are sealed in the U.S., you should know that private investigators and certain other law enforcement personnel can still access the records. It's a privilege granted under the law to enable them to do their jobs more effectively. In many situations they do need to know about juvenile records and those records are quite relevant to other cases, so sealed or not, they can be viewed -- just not by the general public.

What are your thoughts on this? Do companies have the right to investigate (or run background checks) on an employee or potential employees' family members? What about children? Should private investigations be done on children who have no ties to the retail organization?

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