Archive for May, 2011

Supreme Court Ruling Seen as Win for Employees and Employers

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

employee screening criminaldata.comIn a case that will result in significant changes to laws covering employee benefits, the Supreme Court this week ruled in Amara v. Cigna. The case was brought on behalf of 25,000 Cigna employees who disagreed with the company’s handling of changes in its pension plan back in 1998. The employees claimed that the company misled them that a new plan, which actually froze pensions of older, retired workers was “an overall improvement in retirement benefits.”

The Supreme Court ruled that a lower court could award the employees the benefit Cigna led them to believe they had coming. Viewing the ruling as a victory for employees, the assistant secretary of labor at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, which filed a brief on behalf of the Cigna employees, said the court’s decision “goes a long way toward restoring…common fairness.”

Analysts say employers scored a win, too. In the same case, the court agreed with Cigna that when there are conflicts between documents employers give to employees (“summary document”), and those not seen by the employees (“plan document”), employees do not have grounds to sue to enforce the terms of the summary document.

The lower court had ruled that Cigna deliberately provided misleading information to employees and successfully concealed the pension freeze, depriving employees from taking action, such as protesting or seeking employment elsewhere. Cigna argued that employees were legally entitled only to the less-generous benefits described in the formal plan document, which they did not see. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, “It is not difficult to imagine how the failure to provide proper summary information, in violation of the statute, injured employees.”

Cigna employees could receive an estimated $70 million in pension benefits.

Keep Employees and Your Company Safe: Write and Enforce a Cell Phone Policy

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

employee background check, pre employment screeningRecently a cell-phone monitoring firm, ZoomSafer, conducted a survey of 500 business executives. The results are in, and one notable finding is that nearly one-third (32%) of companies have knowledge or evidence of on-the-job automobile accidents resulting from employees using cell phones while driving.

It’s no secret that distracted driving is one of today’s top driving hazards:

  • Distracted driving is a factor in 25% of police reported crashes, according to a report by Nationwide Insurance.
  • Driving while using a cell phone actually reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%, according to a Carnegie Mellon study.
  • Drivers that use cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
  • The number one source of driver inattention is use of a wireless device (Virginia Tech).
  • Distraction from cell phone use while driving—hand held or hands free—extends the time it takes a driver to react as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent—the legal limit, according to a report by the University of Utah.

It’s clear that simply replacing a hand-held phone with a hands-free device is not going to solve the problem of diverting a driver’s attention when it belongs on the road and other vehicles.

When a business supplies employees with cell phones, the liability of possible litigation shifts to the company. Nearly eight percent of companies surveyed by ZoomSafer have faced litigation resulting from employee cell phone use while driving. For companies with more than 5,000 drivers, the statistic is 37%.

Only 62% of the companies surveyed have implemented a written cell phone use policy. Surprisingly, utilities/telecommunications/cable companies were least likely to have one—and least likely to enforce it. Most (62%) of policy enforcement is reportedly done “post incident.” Even more surprising is that 25% of respondents declined to answer this question.

Survey answers regarding a company’s culture toward employee driving were also interesting, with nearly one-third of respondents reporting some degree of apathy regarding safe driving, monitoring employee driving, and concern about employee use of mobile phones.

It seems that companies are telling employees not to use cell phones while driving, but are not doing much to enforce the rule or change employee behavior. To reduce potential liability from damages caused by employee cell phone driving, a clear and well-communicated policy, as well as strict enforcement, is absolutely necessary. The risk of damage to a company’s reputation and finances are enormous—as is the possibility for loss of life.

Getting Ready to Hire? Don’t Skip the Background Check!

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

employment screening, employee background checkFederal jobs numbers show that employers are adding jobs again. That’s great news for the millions of Americans who are still out of work. If you’re gearing up to make someone’s day by offering them a job, don’t go too fast and skip the background check before you make the final offer. Doing so leaves your company open to loss of time and money and possible lawsuits.

Even if the candidate looks great on paper, and even if they interviewed better than anyone you’ve ever met, you still don’t know this person. 46% of job seekers lied on their applications, according to ADP’s 2009 Hiring Index. That’s nearly half—so if you’ve had ten applicants for a position, chances are at least four of them lied on their resume or application. The only question is: which four?

Of course, if a candidate isn’t outright lying about their credentials or experience, they may still be less than honest. Perhaps they didn’t quite finish that master’s degree. Or, they worked at the national retailer for a year and a half—not the two years the resume indicates. These tiny details might not seem like dishonesty in the eyes of the candidate. So what else doesn’t qualify as dishonesty? Taking home a stapler? Clocking in before they actually start working? Calling in sick when they’re going surfing? You get the idea.

Running a thorough background check, including driving record, criminal history and credit check will give you a more complete picture of a candidate than they will reveal through an interview. If you have company vehicles, do you really want someone with five speeding tickets behind the wheel? And if your employees have access to any amount of cash, don’t you want to be sure you’re not hiring someone who has written bad checks or been convicted of theft in the past?

While checking references is a great idea, former employers won’t always give you anything more than the dates of employment and salary. They usually aren’t willing to give the reason for separation, for fear of reprisal.

Take the next step and order a pre-employment background check. Protecting your business, customers and entire staff is your responsibility when hiring. While you can’t prevent every possible scenario from occurring, you’ll sleep better at night knowing that every candidate you make a job offer to has checked out to your satisfaction. It’s well worth the short investment of time!

Are Employers Holding Off on Hiring the Perfect Employee?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

employee screening, employee background checkAhead of tomorrow’s Bureau of Labor Statistics April jobs report, private staffing firm ADP released their National Employment Report for April, which indicates that U.S employment continues to improve—but slowly. Employers added 179,000 jobs in April, bringing total employment to a level 1.35% above April 2010.

While April’s figure was down from 207,000 added jobs in March, and lower than the increase of 198,000 predicted by the Bloomberg survey, it appears that the bottom has been reached, and the trend is toward recovery. Small to mid-sized service providers are growing the most jobs, adding 138,000 in April, while goods-producing jobs remain stagnant with just 41,000 additional jobs.

But are employers themselves the reason for slow job recovery? Are they holding off on filling open positions? Some studies seem to indicate exactly that. Employers are not cutting jobs at the same rates they did in 2010, but they’re not in any hurry to fill job openings. According to the Conference Board, a research organization, the number of job openings advertised online has grown to 4.2 million, continuing a trend that began in the spring of 2009.

4.2 million jobs waiting to be filled, and only 179,000 jobs added in April? The problem seems to be a hesitation on the part of employers to commit to hiring. Recruiters say it takes longer to find qualified candidates, and even longer to get them hired. Hiring cycles that used to last two months are now stretching into six or even eight months.

One recruiter said that hiring managers are not only taking longer to hire; they are holding out for better candidates. Companies are bringing in between five and six candidates for second-round interviews—twice as many as in 2007. And once they identify the perfect hire, they start over. The thinking is that if there is one great candidate, there must be 10 more even better.

The frustrations for job seekers must be incredible. Plenty of companies have good jobs open and ready to fill, but they are taking 180 days instead of the 60 to make a commitment. They want each hire to be the perfect hire. And when there are plenty of candidates to choose from, what’s the hurry?

If you’ve found the perfect candidate, don’t overlook proper 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.