Archive for December, 2010

5 Extreme Weather Tips for Employers

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

employment background check, pre-employment screening, credit checkWinter is a tough time for businesses in many parts of the country. Extreme weather causes shutdowns, customers stay home and employees can’t always get to work—all of which contributes to losses in productivity, revenue and profits.

Should Employees Be Penalized For Staying Home in the Snow?
What should employers do when employees can’t get to work? Should they be lenient, knowing that safety comes first? Or should they require employees to work, no matter what the weather is doing? And what about employees with kids, who have to stay home when schools are out for bad weather?

Creating and implementing an extreme weather policy makes things easier for everyone. Employees know exactly what they should do, and you don’t have to come up with solutions while the snow is still piling up.

5 Extreme Weather Tips for Employers:

  1. Realize that employers must assume some level of care for employees. Forcing them to come to work in dangerous conditions could subject your company to liability if someone is injured or causes injury to others. Besides, do you want to be the type of employer that makes an employee feel they have no alternative other than traveling to work or risking termination?
  2. Be the leader your staff wants you to be. They will likely be looking to you for direction, so keep an eye on the weather, and communicate. Keep your cell phone on and be available to employees with questions.
  3. Make things flexible. If an employee needs extra time to get to work safely, or would prefer to work at home and stay off the roads, try to accommodate their needs. If snow is piling up during the work day, allow employees extra time to get home before dark, when possible. Add a provision in your policy for employees who can work at home to do so. Productivity could suffer, but it’s better than getting none at all.
  4. Be consistent. It’s not easy to make different accommodations for different employees; to allow some, but not others, to work from home; and to decide who gets paid and who does not. Try to be fair and consistent in your policies to avoid any legal battles with employees.
  5. If you pay employees who aren’t able to get to work, it’s reasonable to ask them to make up the time. Otherwise, you can offer that they take vacation time or unpaid leave and not worry about making up the hours they miss.

Even when snow and ice lead to driving problems, it is up to your employees to get to work or communicate their difficulty in doing so. But everyone appreciates a boss who tries to help and makes reasonable accommodations.

Schools Fail Students by Failing to Screen Sex Offenders

Friday, December 17th, 2010

background checkFederal investigators reported that individuals with records of sexual misconduct are hired to work in public and private schools as teachers, other staff, volunteers or contractors. The Government Accountability Office explored 15 cases and found disturbing trends. Schools are failing to thoroughly screen sex offenders who then go on to abuse additional students.

Among the findings:

  • A Virginia teacher who recently pleaded guilty to abusing a student also faces charges in three other states and Japan. His long career in education mirrors his long list of sex and pornography charges.
  • In 11 of the cases, offenders who had previously targeted children found new jobs in schools. In six of these instances, more children were abused.
  • A teacher and registered sex offender was hired in Louisiana in 2006 and 2007 without undergoing a background check at all. He is now sought on charges he engaged in sexual conversations with a student. The teacher had previously taught in Texas, but had his license revoked.
  • In Arizona, a teacher who had been convicted of sex abuse on a minor was hired as a teacher without a criminal screening of any kind. He was subsequently convicted again of having sexual contact with a minor.

According to the GAO report, sex offenders are in schools because:

  1. Teachers accused of misconduct are allowed to resign rather than face termination or prosecution. School districts avoid litigation because of the financial impact and time involved. Even harder to believe, these teachers are given positive recommendations or reference letters, and suspected abuse is not always reported to law enforcement.
  2. School officials fail to perform criminal background checks. And when they do, they are not thorough. Some schools checked only their own state’s database, instead of conducting a national criminal records check. This makes it much easier for sex offenders who move across state lines to prey on new victims.
  3. Schools miss the obvious. Even when the Arizona offender answered “yes” on his job application to the question about whether he had ever been convicted of “a dangerous crime against children,” no one followed up on it.

It is almost impossible to believe that school officials are allowing sex offenders into schools. No matter what business you’re in, next time you hire a new employee, ask yourself how well you really know him or her. When you pre-screen employees and conduct thorough background checks, you can weed out the criminals and sex offenders, before they have a chance to cause additional harm.

Difficult Economy Equals More Employee Theft

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

employee background checkCrime statistics show that thefts and burglaries increase during difficult economic times. So it makes sense that employee theft would increase as well. The news is filled with stories like the one from Minneapolis of a man who stole nearly $1 million from his employer, a wrecker company. It took him four years, but he managed to embezzle over $933,000 by cashing checks made out to the business or to vendors.

Theft is not always in the form of cash—but it can cost businesses plenty of that, too. Two Starwood Hotel executives stole information about its brand and used it to develop a competing hotel. Over 10,000 electronic and hard-copy files were stolen in this case, which resulted in a lawsuit against the competitor as well as the two employees.

Even your coffee server could be skimming money from her employer. One Dunkin’ Donuts employee admitted to ringing up sales for less, taking the full amount from the customer, and pocketing the difference. The woman claimed that it was in retaliation for having her hours cut due to the recession. She’s never been caught, although it seems like a few safeguards would make that easy. Requiring receipts would show customers that they are paying $2.00 for a coffee that’s being entered at $1.50. And keeping inventory on coffee cups, comparing them to sales by size, would indicate a discrepancy between what’s being entered on the cash register and what’s going out the door.

Most employers avoid the attention and bad publicity of employee-theft cases, so they don’t always prosecute—which only serves to prevent future employers from knowing the full criminal history on the thief.

Employee theft can happen anywhere, whether your business is “like a family” or a large, more corporate environment. School employees and coaches. Cashiers. Managers. Law firm assistants. Police records are full of scenarios where employers “can’t believe” an employee would steal from them.

The best way to prevent employee theft is to know whom you are hiring. And the best way to know that is to conduct thorough, professional background screening on every potential employee. You’ll know whether they are living among their means with a credit check and whether they have a criminal history with a criminal background check. Even whether they move around a lot to avoid paying back rent, or have evictions on their records—putting together a complete picture of a potential employee is one excellent means of stopping employee theft before it happens to you—especially in this economy.

4 Steps to Take When Ranting Employees Threaten Your Business

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

prescreen employee, employee background checkMany employers have experienced the dramatic exit of a fired or quitting employee. While most don’t compare to the infamous JetBlue flight attendant who slid away on the emergency chute, any company can suffer embarrassment or damage to its reputation or brand when disgruntled employees leave. Especially now, in the age of instant broadcasting via Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, employers can be the brunt of ugly rants or even brutal verbal attacks.

4 Steps to Take When Disgruntled Employees React

  1. Act quickly. If an employee is ranting, ask to meet with him or her privately. If they refuse, then have them quickly escorted from the building. If the situation escalates and the individual threatens harm to himself or other workers, call police.
  2. Keep credibility intact. While responses are sometimes warranted, retaliation is usually not. Making the wrong move can cause more damage than the temporary hit a company might take when the employee quits or rants upon being fired. Keep cool, respond in a professional way, and do your best to move on.
  3. Reassure the rest of the staff. Assure staff that their jobs are not affected. Be open and invite questions. Let remaining employees know that they are welcome to share frustrations in private and that working toward win-win solutions is the goal. .
  4. Control the message. Take the power back from the employee. Generally, employee terminations are not to be discussed. Responding with “We do not discuss employee matters” is sufficient. But when the company’s reputation or brand is on the line, it is appropriate to distribute a message via press release or on the company’s website that a regrettable situation has occurred, but business will go on as usual. “We will continue to focus on providing excellent service and fulfilling your electronics needs” is one example of a simple, effective message. Avoid responding to endless comments on blogs or Facebook pages.

Of course, you should continue to thoroughly prescreen employees to avoid similar situations in the future. By conducting criminal background checks, and verifying ID, address and previous employers, you’ll know you’re hiring the most qualified employees and minimizing risk to your company and staff.