Employers Can Learn from Paula Deen’s Mistakes

August 7th, 2013

employee screening, employee credit checkEarlier this summer, TV chef Paula Deen was known more for her teary performances on talk shows than for her down-home cooking on her own show, after she was accused by an employee of using racial slurs. Deen was subsequently dropped by the Food Network, as well as several other companies with which she’d held endorsement deals.

Employers can take a lesson from the fallout that Deen has experienced since her employee’s lawsuit came to light. Sexually explicit or racially charged language has no place in the business world, but sadly, it is not unheard of. Now is a good time to re-establish rules and reinforce them with your employees–and to take them to heart yourself, if necessary.

Watch your language: Racial slurs, sexual comments and biased language should not be allowed, period. From the boss on down, establish a zero-tolerance policy, and enforce it. Doing otherwise opens your company up to liability.

Show respect: No matter whom you are interacting with, pay attention to your behavior. Your words, actions and body language might make others uncomfortable, which could create a hostile working environment. Don’t assume that just because someone is of your gender and race that you can use language with him or her that demeans those who are not. The plaintiff in Deen’s case is a Caucasian woman.

Protect your brand: You’ve worked hard to create a company with a good reputation, but accusations of racism, sexism or intolerance can turn off both your current clientele and prospects. Consumers vote with their dollars, and word of bad behavior can bring about disastrous results.

Treating everyone fairly, keeping harmful language out of the workplace and creating a positive, respectful organizational culture can only strengthen your company. It makes it a better place to work. And it’s the right thing to do.

Are Millennials Really Ready for the Workforce?

July 25th, 2013

employee screeningWe’ve all heard stories about younger job applicants’ conduct during interviews: from being unprepared and texting, to having their mothers call the interviewer—some behavior ranges from annoying to bizarre. Has the millennial generation somehow missed the memo on how to be prepared for the workforce?

Many 20-somethings are new at this work thing. They came of age during the recession, when typical teenager jobs like flipping burgers or scooping ice cream were going to more seasoned, older workers desperate for a paycheck. They haven’t experienced typical job pressures of showing up on time, doing what they’re told and carrying themselves with some sense of professionalism.

Plus, millennials have a different approach to the workplace altogether, which may strike older generations as odd. In fact, a major human resources company conducted a recent survey which showed that 66% of hiring managers don’t believe recent college graduates are prepared for the workplace. In other words, most hiring managers don’t think millennials can land and keep a job.

Others disagree, saying that the younger generation’s affinity for collaboration and dedication to causes will make them ideal trainees. They may be better at working on and building teams, and demonstrate greater loyalty—especially when made to feel that they are part of something bigger. However, this group was also stung by seeing friends and family struggle with job searches after being laid off during the recession. As a result, they may tend to mistrust employers.

Since millennials will eventually make up the bulk of the working-age population, hiring managers and business owners will need to figure out how they fit into their worker mix. As a group, they are well-educated and technically savvy. With clear direction and loyalty from their employers, they could become just as successful as previous generations.

When you’re recruiting the perfect team, don’t neglect employee background screening. The best pre-employment screening process includes employee background checks, employee credit checks, and criminal background checks. You’ll know you’re hiring safe when you screen employees before offering a position.

Lawsuits Over Background Checks

July 18th, 2013

employee screening criminaldata.com

Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed lawsuits against Dollar General Corp and a BMW manufacturing plant over their use of employment screening. In each case, the EEOC claims that the criminal background checks used to screen applicants or terminate employees discriminated against African-Americans.

These are the first lawsuits that have been filed since the EEOC updated and clarified its background check guidelines last year. At that time, the agency warned employers that using overly broad criminal background checks that limit job opportunities for applicants with arrests and convictions on their records could set them up for discrimination charges.

While the EEOC clarified then that it was not prohibiting employers from obtaining criminal background checks on job applicants, it did want to “reduce barriers to employment” for those with criminal records who “have been held accountable and paid their dues.”

The agency is alleging that the BMW plant, in Spartanburg, SC ordered new background checks after a staffing company changed contractors. The previous contractor’s policy was not to hire anyone with a criminal conviction within the past seven years. But BMW fired anyone whose new background check revealed a criminal record for any year—and that totaled 88 employees, 70 of whom were African-American. Many of the terminated workers had been with BMW—through the contractor—for over a decade.

The EEOC claims this is a violation of the guidelines, as a “blanket exclusion” that does not take into account the nature or timing of the crime, or whether it relevant to the work performed by the employee.

BMW says it will defend itself against the allegations.

The EEOC’s case against Dollar General is a nationwide action, based on discrimination charges filed by two black applicants. One, who revealed a six-year-old conviction for possession of a controlled substance was offered employment, only to have the offer rescinded, based on Dollar General’s policy not to hire anyone with that type of conviction within 10 years.

The other applicant was rejected based on an erroneous report that she had a felony conviction. She notified Dollar General that the report was a mistake, but they did not reverse the decision, according to the EEOC.

The EEOC continues to urge employers to give applicants an opportunity to explain criminal convictions before they are rejected. It also recommends that employers stop asking about criminal convictions on job applications.

Employers, on the other hand, see criminal background checks as a way to gather as much information as possible about an applicant, so an informed hiring decision can be made. Regardless of skin color, employers have a right to know whether an applicant has a criminal record.

Why Your Best Workers Quit

July 12th, 2013

employee credit check, pre employment backgound checkHaving a group of happy, loyal and productive employees is every business owner’s dream. But it’s inevitable that things in business go wrong. Morale can suffer for reasons as diverse as declining sales, layoffs and managerial stress levels.

And when morale drops, productivity drops. People start looking for other work. And soon, you’re replacing your best workers. But if you know why people leave, you can be proactive about solving the issues and giving them incentives to stay.

Why do employees quit?

They don’t feel connected to the company: Many managers keep employees in the dark. They don’t share information about financials or the big picture. They keep their vision for the company and their own department to themselves. As a result, employees have little sense of why they are important to the company. They don’t feel compelled to make a difference—which is very important to most people.

Their work does not motivate them: Plenty of people work for low pay in jobs they love, because they get something of great value out of it—self satisfaction, or external praise for their contributions. But many employers expect workers to be motivated just by their paychecks. It takes more than financial compensation to attract and retain the best workers.

They don’t enjoy themselves at work: Your company may not be a fun factory, but that doesn’t mean people can’t find enjoyment in their work. Engaging employees in new ways can go a long way toward that. Offer flexible hours. Eliminate the dress code. Encourage workers to decorate their cubicles and offices to reflect their personalities. Learn from innovative employers like Google and Zappos.

They see no career path: Do you provide a way for employees to work their way up from their current positions? If so, is it clearly understood by them? If workers feel “stuck,” they will look elsewhere for some upward mobility. And sadly, many employees report that they don’t know if their companies offer any way to move up.

If you have valuable, talented employees that you want to keep, you can help them stick around by paying attention, offering them more than a paycheck and making them part of the company’s success.

When you’re recruiting the perfect team, don’t neglect employee background screening. The best pre-employment screening process includes employee background checks, employee credit checks, and criminal background checks. You’ll know you’re hiring safe when you screen employees before offering a position.

End of DOMA Means Changes for Employers

June 27th, 2013

employee screening, employee background checkThe Supreme Court decision yesterday that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has some implications for employers, but not for those that already offer benefits to partners of gay workers or to spouses in same-sex marriages in the states where it’s legal.

For now, the ruling only affects employers in the 12 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal or will soon be. Benefits such as pre-tax health insurance payments, 401(k) retirement plans and pensions will change, in that spouses in same-sex couples will automatically be considered beneficiaries, unless the employee states otherwise. Prior to the ruling, only heterosexual spouses were automatically considered beneficiaries, which led to issues should a gay employee died without naming his or her spouse as beneficiary.

Employers will need to change benefit plan documents to ensure equal treatment of all married couples. They will not longer be required to treat the value of employer-paid health insurance provided to same-sex spouses as taxable income. And, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will also apply to caring for same-sex spouses. COBRA, flexible health spending accounts, and other spouse-related practices will have to apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 firms already offer health benefits for domestic partners. Employers who don’t, in states where same-sex marriage is not yet legal, can get ahead of the curve by initiating domestic partner programs.

Nearly 300 major employers, including Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup signed onto a brief arguing that DOMA was bad for business, and urged the Supreme Court to strike it down. Prior to the decision, the employers were forced to treat differently those employees in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Even more conservative companies have seen that keeping two sets of rules and books and administrative duties is expensive. So are the legal mistakes that can easily occur. Apart from financial concerns, more companies are recognizing that being inclusive is great for employee morale and recruitment, and, as Paul Guzzi, the CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce said on National Public Radio, “Talent is talent.”

That may be why no companies filed a brief arguing that DOMA was beneficial for business and needed to stay in place!

Employers Fight Back as Seattle Cracks Down on Employee Criminal Background Checks

June 21st, 2013

employee screening, employee pre-screening, employee credit checkSeattle’s City Council voted unanimously last week to prohibit employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal background, or excluding those with arrest or criminal records during the initial phase of the hiring process.

The new legislation, which is called a “second chance bill,” allows employers to check into an applicant’s criminal history only after he or she makes it through the first round of screening for qualified applicants. It’s intended to give those with criminal records a chance to be judged on their qualifications, not their arrest record.

In addition, employers are not allowed to reject an applicant solely because of a criminal record, unless the employer meets three conditions:

  1. The criminal record on which the decision is made must be identified to the job applicant.
  2. The applicant must be given a chance too explain or correct the information.
  3. The employer must demonstrate a “legitimate business reason” for the decision.

Opponents say the City Council should not add another burden to Seattle business owners, and say the process for deciding whether a decision is a “legitimate business decision” is unfair. Under the legislation, the business owner is left to make the decision, but rejected applicants can complain to the Seattle Human Rights Commission, which will investigate. If the Commission second-guesses the decision, it can levy a fine up to $1,000.

The bill also exempts certain jobs from the new law, which goes into effect November 1. Police, security guards and jobs where workers have unsupervised access to children under sixteen, developmentally disabled persons or vulnerable adults. This is the least they can do, but the law should be expanded to include those who handle cash, private information, company secrets and more.

One person who testified against the bill is an employer who works with rape victims. She should be allowed to reject applicants who have been convicted of rape. Other opponents say that the attempt to achieve social objectives at the expense of businesses is wrong.

Seattle joins about 20 other U.S. cities with this type of legislation. Supporters say the reasons they seek such legislation are to reduce criminal recidivism by prohibiting employers from rejecting applicants for criminal records that have nothing to do with the job.

However, Seattle’s law limits businesses’ ability to hire smart, know who they are hiring and protect the safety of their other workers, customers and communities.

Employers’ Most Common Interview Pet Peeves

June 13th, 2013

employee screening, employee background checkBased on their behavior, you sometimes have to wonder if interviewees even want a job. After listening to ill-prepared answers and observing odd behavior, you might want to ask just one question, “Why are you here, wasting my time?”

You’re not alone if you can’t stand to interview applicants who don’t dress appropriately or chew gum. We’ve found some additional pet peeves reported by human resource professionals and employers of all kinds.

Interviewers don’t enjoy candidates who:

  • Are late.
  • Interrupt when you’re talking.
  • Answer a simple question with a 10-minute answer.
  • Have never made a mistake in their lives. (It’s always someone else’s fault.)
  • Talk badly about their previous employer.
  • Don’t bother or can’t seem to follow instructions, like where to park.
  • Are rude to receptionists.
  • Use the wrong company name on the cover letter.
  • Are egotistical, not authentic.
  • Ask about salary before they’re offered the position.
  • Act like they don’t care whether or not they get the job.
  • Don’t follow up with a “thank you.”

How often do you experience these annoyances? How do you deal with them?

When you’re recruiting the perfect team, don’t neglect employee background screening. The best pre-employment screening process includes employee background checks, employee credit checks, and criminal background checks. You’ll know you’re hiring safe when you screen employees before offering a position.

Nevada Set to Restrict Employer Use of Credit Checks

June 7th, 2013

employee screening, background check, credit checkPerhaps as a result of fallout after the Great Recession, Nevada’s governor signed a new law limiting employers’ use of credit checks when making hiring and personnel decisions. The law, which takes effect October 1 2013, prohibits employers to ask any employee or prospective employee to submit a consumer credit report or other credit information as a condition of employment.

Further, employers may not use, refer to or inquire about a consumer credit report of discipline or discriminate against an employee or deny employment or a promotion on the basis of a credit report. Employees who refuse or fail to submit consumer credit reports and those who have file complaints in the past cannot be discharged or disciplined, either.

That’s a very broad prohibition of credit checks, denying employers the right to know whether a prospective employee has a history that could negatively affect the employer’s business.

However, Nevada allows certain exceptions, including:

  • The employer is required or authorized under state or federal law to use a credit report for an accepted purpose.
  • The employer reasonably believes the employee or prospective employee has engaged in a specific activity that may violate a state or federal law.
  • The information contained in the employee’s or prospective employee’s credit report is reasonably related to the position for which he or she is applying or being evaluated for.

“Reasonably related” refers to several categories. Employers may conduct credit checks for employees or prospective employees who:

  • Would be handling or responsibility for money, credit and debit cards and financial accounts.
  • Would have access to trade secrets, proprietary information or confidential information.
  • Are being considered for managerial or supervisory responsibilities.
  • Have access to financial information belonging to others.
  • Would be handling or responsible for personal information of others.
  • Would be directly exercising law enforcement authority.
  • Are being considered for employment with a financial institution or a licensed gaming establishment.

The new law contains remedies of up to $9,000 for each violation, along with lost wages, reinstatement, promotion or employment, depending on plaintiffs’ claims.

Joining California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Connecticut, Colorado, Vermont and Hawaii, Nevada is making it more difficult for employers to use credit checks in personnel decisions, unless the person falls under one of the above categories.

Respect the Personal-Professional Wall Between You and Your Employees

May 30th, 2013

criminaldata.com, employeescreeningblog.com, employement screeningEmployers often speak of their staff members as “family.” It’s great when supervisors and workers can hang out together, bond over a softball game or grab a beer after work. But in the age of social media, it’s far too easy to know far too much about your employees’ personal lives. And getting too involved can lead to real problems.

You cannot, by law, discriminate against employees who belong to a protected class or category. Examples are gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion or disability. You can’t even ask questions about these issues in interviews. Why? Because there is a possibility of discrimination if decisions are made based on these characteristics.

It’s important to create a workplace that is free from any inkling of discrimination. And the less you know about employees’ personal lives, the easier that becomes. For example, you might have an employee who shows up every day on time, works hard, achieves his goals and has a great attitude. But if you’re friends with him on Facebook, you may also find out that his political views are 180 degrees from your own—even if he’s never brought up politics at work. And that could affect how you treat him.

Here are some other personal things you don’t need to know about your employees:

  • How they spend their free time. Some people run for fun. Others sit in bars. It’s not your concern one way or the other.
  • What church they belong to—or don’t. If an employee speaks about his religious beliefs or tries to proselytize to other workers, have a talk and insist that the behavior stop.
  • How they spend their money. If you know she buys expensive shoes or likes good wine, you might decide Sara doesn’t need that raise she has earned.
  • Their sexual orientation. It’s none of your business. Period.
  • Whether they have physical or mental illnesses. Some illness will carry over into the workplace. But knowing that an employee is in therapy, taking medication or dealing with a chronic disease can affect your objectivity in evaluating her performance. Remember though, that employees with disabilities who need work station adjustments are entitled to them.

In a time when everyone announces what they’re eating for breakfast on the Internet, it takes more effort to respect the employer/employee professional relationship. But this is also a litigious time, and knowing less about your employees could keep you out of legal trouble. Keep the professional wall between you and your employees intact.

New Rules Protect Employees With Cancer, Diabetes, Epilepsy

May 23rd, 2013

"employee credit check, employee background check"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued revised rules designed to protect employees and applicants with certain diseases or conditions.

Under the law, employers are forbidden from treating an applicant or employee less favorably because he or she has a history of disability (such as cancer that is in remission), or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory and minor. In addition, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to job applicants or employees with disabilities, unless it would cause undue hardship.

Harassment of applicants or employees who have or have had a disability is also illegal. Harassment is deemed illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it causes a hostile or offensive work environment, or results in an adverse employment decision (firing or demotion, for example).

Recently, the EEOC issued revised documents updating the requirements of anti-discrimination laws. The updates cover how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to applicants and employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and intellectual disabilities.

The new guidelines take into account the nearly 34 million Americans with epilepsy, diabetes and cancer, and the two million with intellectual disabilities. Many of these Americans are in the workplace, or trying to enter the workplace.

The documents contain changes to the definition of “disability” to make it easier to conclude that people with these diseases and conditions are protected by the ADA. In addition, the documents answer typical employer questions, such as what types of accommodations they must make, how to handle safety issues and whether the employer is allowed to ask employees and applicants about medical issues.
From the EEOC website, the following is a definition of disability:

A person can show that he or she has a disability in one of three ways:

  • A person may be disabled if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning).
  • A person may be disabled if he or she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is in remission).
  • A person may be disabled if he is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment).