The jolly man in the red suit is a popular fixture at local shopping malls this time of the year. And chances are good that before Santa Claus hears one Christmas wish, he’s undergone a criminal background check and drug testing.
“It’s just a sign of the times for all businesses that provide services to families and children,” said Barbara Sacco, vice president of marketing for Faison & Associates, which manages The Shops of Grand Avenue mall in downtown Milwaukee.
Nancy Conley, marketing director at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, said background checks and drug screening have become common place when hiring Santas.
“Even the elves are finger-printed and drug-tested,” Conley said.
Pre-employ.com specializes in background checks for job applicants. It found that about 70 of 1,000 shopping mall Santa and Santa helper applicants had committed misdemeanors or felonies in the last seven years. The offenses included indecent exposure, soliciting prostitution and drunken driving.
Santa Plus, of O’Fallon, Mo., scrutinizes the backgrounds of more than 500 Santas it places in 250 malls in 46 states, including Mayfair and Bayshore mall in Glendale.
“Once we have a contract with a mall, we will run a nationwide criminal background check, and put them through a drug test, on all our Santas whether real-bearded or synthetic,” said Jerry Helton, vice president of marketing at Santa Plus, a division of Eastman Kodak. That goes for Mrs. Claus and Santa’s helpers, Helton said.