The story of the “nightmare nanny” who has refused to leave her employer’s home has been making waves all over the news. You’ve probably seen it by now— using Craigslist, Marcella and Ralph Bracamonte hired Diane Stretton as a nanny for their three children in exchange for room and board in their home. The couple claims Stretton stopped working after a few weeks but has refused to move out despite their demand. Stretton claims that the couple was exploiting her, refused to give her any breaks and literally fed her dog food. Landlord/tenant lawyers have weighed in, and they all seem to agree that it could take the Bracamontes a few months to legally evict Stretton from their home.
The thought of being unable to oust a person from one’s own home is disturbing to say the least. But what struck us about this case is that, if the Bracamontes had looked a little bit into Stretton’s background, they probably would have avoided the entire situation. For example, Stretton is on California’s Vexatious Litigant List, which includes those who have been found to bring multiple and frivolous legal actions in California. According to the Daily Mail, Stretton has been involved in at least six lawsuits in California since 2005, and has been involved in 36 lawsuits over the years. This Vexatious Litigant list is publicly available online and many of the case records involving Stretton are also available online and in courthouses as well.
We always encourage people to go beyond calling an applicant’s provided list of references before hiring someone, but especially before taking someone into your home. Even if they hadn’t come across the Vexatious Litigant List, a simple civil courthouse search would probably have provided the Bracamontes enough information to know that they did not want to take Stretton into their home.
We also recommend calling people that were left off of an applicant’s reference list. Sometimes this is as easy as locating people that would have worked with your applicant. Other times, we find that applicants leave entire jobs off of their resumes, so it takes a bit more work to uncover these omissions and then to locate people that would have worked with them there.
Finally, be careful not to breach any laws when you’re doing pre-employment background checks. Always make sure that you’re allowed to consider the information that you’re accessing in the pre-employment context. This varies state by state, and some states, like California, are more protective than others.