The construction industry is full of unscrupulous subcontractors. Construction leaders have to deal with the consequences of broken contracts, negligence, fraud and project delays. Some of this unscrupulous behavior can even be illegal, resulting in the subcontractor’s owners or top executives facing criminal indictment. Whether for fraud, criminal negligence, reckless endangerment or even manslaughter, there are countless examples of subcontractors’ behavior leading to criminal charges. Many general contractors know very little about their subcontractor’s past behavior and it can have grave consequences.
Why is a subcontractor’s criminal profile important?
There was a groundbreaking case in 2016 in which a Seattle construction company owner faced second degree manslaughter charges for the death of a worker in a trench collapse. This was the first time a Washington state employer has been charged with a felony for a workplace employee death.
This was challenged in court and the supreme court of Washington state decided that prosecutors could continue to press manslaughter charges against the owner of the company. As of 2021, a trial date is still pending but the company has been closed. The owners of construction companies are being heavily scrutinized and these sorts of criminal charges are becoming a regular occurrence across America. The construction industry has not kept up and routinely fails to screen for criminal offenses. This is a gap in the prequalification process, even amongst some of the largest players in the construction industry. In summary, criminal prosecution should serve as a strong warning to general contractors that they should invest in the most comprehensive subcontractor prequalification program.
How do you mitigate this issue?
Some general contractors will use online databases to screen for criminal records, if they even check at all. However, these databases are incomplete, inaccurate and provide only a fraction of the criminal records that exist in thousands of jurisdictions across the nation.
The only solution is to visit the courthouses in multiple jurisdictions and retrieve the records manually.