Archive for February, 2010

FMLA Overview

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The Family and Medical Leave Act became effective in August, 1993 and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor Standards Administration, Wage and Hour Division. We hear from employers who are not sure whether or not they are covered by the FMLA. It can be a confusing set of rules to decipher. Here are the basic tenants of the FMLA:

  • The FMLA covers most employers—but not most small businesses. Only private employers with 50 or more employees in 20 or more weeks in the previous calendar year must abide by the FMLA.  The act also applies to all state and federal government employers, local governments and education employers.
  • The FMLA allows for up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for qualified employees in a 12-month period. In essence, the FMLA protects those workers’ jobs. While employers are not required to pay employees during the twelve weeks of leave, they cannot fire or lay them off because of a family or medical issue that is specified in the Act.
  • Qualified employees are defined as those who have worked for a covered employer for a total of 12 months, with at least 1,250 hours worked in the preceding 12 months.
  • Employers must restore employees back from FMLA to either their former position or an equivalent, and they must maintain any group health insurance benefits while the employee is out on FMLA.
  • The FMLA’s covered family and medical conditions include a serious health problem requiring the employee to take medical leave; the birth and care of a newborn child; the adoption of a son or daughter; caring for an immediate family member with a serious health problem; and needs arising due to a family member’s call to duty through National Guard.
  • Employees who are spouses and share in the birth or adoption of a child or the care of a family member together may only take a combined twelve weeks in a 12-month period.
  • Employees who wish to use FMLA must provide the employer with a 30-day notice prior if possible. They must also provide the employer sufficient information to determine whether the FMLA applies to the employee’s situation.
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.

Alabama Campus Shooter Possibly not Properly Screened before Hiring

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Reports are surfacing that the professor charged with the fatal shooting of three colleagues last week in Alabama had a violent history that perhaps could have been discovered—with more thorough background screening.

Amy Bishop, who also wounded three others, had more than one incident in her criminal past. She was arrested in 2002 for assaulting a woman in a pancake restaurant—over a child’s booster seat. She shot and killed her brother in 1986, in what was officially ruled an accident. And she was questioned about a mail bomb received by her supervisor at Harvard.

The question remains: was this information available, and not acted upon by the University? Or did the University of Alabama use an insufficient level of pre employment screening for Amy Bishop’s position?

Employers typically choose from several levesl of background screening. The lowest level might be enough for a back office employee with no client contact, on-the-job driving, or access to sensitive data. On the other hand, day care providers and nursing homes, who work with vulnerable populations, need all the information they can get on a potential hire.

Why not the University of Alabama? Isn’t it better to know more, rather than less, information on a university professor, who is in a position of power and influence over students?

Now that the damage has been done, and the victims’ families face untold grief and loss, it is easy to look back and wish things had been done differently. Instead of regretting inaction, isn’t it better to take all possible actions—before workplace violence occurs?

Unemployment Down, but Hiring Outlook Still Bleak

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Although January’s unemployment figure dropped from 10% to 9.7%, other sources are not so optimistic about future hiring. Temporary staffing and payroll processing firms are among those reporting few positive indicators for hiring boosts in the near future.

ADP, a payroll processing company for US employers, issued a report that 22,000 private sector jobs were lost in January, 2010. Goods-producing sector jobs fell 60,000 while the service sector lost 38,000 jobs to arrive at the total. Within the two main categories, small business employment fell by 12,000, and manufacturing lost 25,000 jobs.

Unemployment has tracked high for the manufacturing and construction sectors for over two years now, with 1.9 million construction jobs lost since December 2007. The ripple effect of 15 million Americans out of work is continued lower consumer spending, which means employers don’t need more workers.

There are a few good-news items in the ADP figures: first, the service sector’s 38,000 jobs gain is the second straight monthly increase. Second, the overall drop of 22,000 month-to-month is the lowest decline since employment started falling in February 2008. Third, medium-sized businesses actually grew employment by 9,000.

Kelly Services, Inc., a temporary staffing firm, reported a loss in revenue and profit for the 4th quarter 2009 over the same period in 2008; however, revenue was up from the third quarter 2009. This could be a positive indicator; temp staffing services often see increases in business prior to full time job boosts.

The construction industry is still being hit hard. According to the United States Labor Department, construction saw 75,000 jobs lost in January. A bright spot in the Federal report is manufacturing, with an 11,000 job loss—much smaller than the drops seen in 2009. Motor vehicles and plastics/rubber were two areas that increased jobs, by nearly 30,000 total.

While unemployment figures for January were better than expected, hiring will likely not occur on a large scale until consumer spending bounces back—and that’s not likely until employers start hiring again in a big way. Stay tuned for updates as they come.

Oregon Considering Ban on Pre-Employment Credit Screening

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Oregon on employee screening blogOregon’s Legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit pre-employment credit screening unless it is relevant to the job. Hawaii and Washington have enacted similar limits.

The proposed bill allows banks, credit unions, and public safety agencies to continue screening applicants’ credit histories; for the rest of the state’s employers, credit checks could be a thing of the past. Other pre-employment background checks, like criminal records, education verification, and reference checks would still be allowed.

Those speaking in favor of the bill’s passage cite the floundering US economy, saying it’s unfair to conduct credit screening during a recession. Proponents also claim no connection between bad credit and unethical workers.

While the recession has certainly increased the numbers of applicants with questionable credit histories, the Oregon bill seems to assume that employers do not consider anything but credit checks when deciding whether or not to hire an applicant. The employers we hear from use credit screening for cash-handling positions, to protect sensitive confidential data, and as an indicator of judgment and responsibility.

Smart employers take into consideration every aspect of an applicant’s skill, education, and character. In many cases, the credit check is the last step before hiring. Many employers use it as a guide and communication tool for applicants that have already passed several steps in the hiring process. A few blips on a credit report due to medical expenses and job loss would be excused by many employers—and a bad economy doesn’t mean the information should not be available to employers who need it.

Employers need all the tools available to them to make good hiring decisions. Credit checks help many thousands of employers protect their companies, their existing staff and the customers they serve by ensuring only properly screened employees handle cash and sensitive data. Banning credit checks will not lead to higher employment.