Archive for July, 2011

Case Shows Importance of Pre-Screening Employees

Friday, July 29th, 2011

employee screening, employee pre-screening, employee credit checkA recent case in Baltimore MD illustrates the importance of screening employees—every employee. An account clerk who worked in the Baltimore County Office of Budget and Finance faces charges related to credit card theft. While unrelated to her job, the charges certainly demonstrate her willingness to use other people’s money to pay for personal expenses.

Her position is one of fiscal responsibility in a public service, taxpayer-funded department. And while it appears that so far, no customer or county funds have been involved, the employee, who has a court history of financial trouble, had been working there while under investigation for credit card theft—until police came to arrest her at her desk.

The employee was hired in December of 2008 to work in the purchasing department, despite a long history of financial and fraudulent misbehavior. She had faced charges for fraud and writing bad checks. She was sued by the state of Maryland and—just months before her hire date—the very same county office for which she was hired.

The recent case involved a person who reported his wallet and credit cards had been stolen. The investigation led to the county employee. She allegedly told investigators she “has major money issues” and is “late on my bills and needs whatever money she can come across.”

What level of trust is being created by the management team of the Baltimore County Office of Budget and Finance? Especially among the people who pay its salaries? Would you hire someone you sued just a few months before? Did they run a pre-employment background and credit check on this person, and hire her anyway? Or was there no check of her civil and criminal history?

This case leaves many unanswered questions, but does perfectly illustrate that knowing who you’re hiring, before you hire, is the best way to protect your business and even your customers from potential losses. Thorough, professional pre-employment credit checks and background checks are an easy way to gain peace of mind. And in the case of Baltimore County, it might have helped them avoid looking completely inept!

Well-Balanced Employees Are In Your Company’s Best Interest

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

employee screening, pre screening, employee background checkBelieve it or not, your employees might be blaming you—or your company, or their jobs—for the problems they’re having at home. And what’s more, when they feel that work or the boss is a burden in their lives, it could cause big problems.

It’s important that employers care about what or whom their employees blame when they have family problems. The associated anger and frustration often leads to negative workplace behaviors, such as missed work, low productivity and employee theft.

Instead of being hit with a problem you never saw coming, try being more proactive with your employees’ workplace satisfaction. Here are a few tips to get you started, which could pay off in a big way!

Schedule in advance: Last-minute meetings and must-attend work events cause stress for families, especially when schedules are already so tight. Encourage everyone to put in for vacation time far in advance so planning is easier on spouses and partners. Try to avoid last-minute meetings and don’t require employees to attend every single work-related event.

Listen and empathize: Create a company culture that cares. If an employee is having trouble balancing work and family obligations, don’t disregard them or the importance of finding a solution. Employees who feel heard and understood will appreciate and remember it—and may even be more inclined to volunteer for extra duty when they can. In any event, they’re likely to be more productive and happier on the job.

Don’t discriminate: Whatever you do, don’t assume that only women have family needs to attend to. Just as many men blame work issues for family conflicts, and employees of both genders want to attend their kids’ softball games, school plays and ballet recitals. Be mindful that employees who are not parents have other obligations, too. Don’t expect them to always be available or to pick up the slack when parents run out the door to make it home in time for homework help. Be respectful of all employees and the unique family needs they each have.

What Employers Need to Know About Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

"employee credit check, employee background check"The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities against job discrimination. Employers, including private companies, state and local governments, labor organizations and labor management committees may not discriminate in recruitment, pay, hiring and firing, promotions, training, leave, benefits, job assignments and all other employment-related activities.

Protection covers all aspects of work, including applying for a job, working conditions and benefits. Employers with 15 or more employees are also required to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities, unless it would cause undue hardship.

What is Reasonable Accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment or the work method to enable an individual with a disability to enjoy the same employment opportunity, including equal benefits and privileges, as employees without disabilities.

Examples include:

  • Posting information about jobs in places that are accessible to everyone, in ways that visually and other impaired individuals may use them
  • Making facilities accessible
  • Job restructuring
  • Part-time or flexible work schedules
  • Acquiring new or modify existing equipment
  • Changing training materials and placement tests
  • Providing readers or interpreters

Does a Small Company Need to Install Elevators?
Not if it creates an undue hardship. Larger companies’ facilities typically accommodate wheelchairs in restrooms, elevators, workspaces and common areas. However, a small company may not be financially able to install an elevator for a worker with a disability. It’s possible to make other arrangements to accommodate the worker, such as creating a workspace on the ground floor and finding new meeting spaces that work for everyone.

Employers may also have to accommodate time for doctors’ appointments, if an employee’s disability is related to an illness that requires medical treatment. Keeping the lines of communication open from the start will go a long way in preventing resentment from other staff, who may view time off as special treatment. Collaborating on how to handle special requests is important for long-term success.

Remember, employers may not ask disability-related questions on job applications or before an offer of employment is made. However, they may evaluate whether an applicant is qualified for the job, including asking about his or her ability to perform specific job functions, asking about non-medical qualifications, and asking applicants to describe or demonstrate how they would perform tasks.

See more answers to your questions about employers and the ADA here: http://www.ada.gov/qandaeng.htm.

After Injury, Volunteer Firefighter is Out of Luck

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

employee screening, employee background checkA volunteer firefighter in Vermont was recently denied a workers’ compensation claim for an injury he suffered while at the station. He wasn’t in the line of duty at the time, according to the insurance company, because he was fixing insulation—not fighting fires.

While on a ladder performing the repairs, Jason Stech fell, fracturing his ankle, breaking his foot and shattering his heel. His injuries require surgery and will keep him from working at his paying job for four months. Although he submitted a workers’ compensation claim, it was denied by the insurance company, based on Vermont’s definition of “line of duty,” which is limited to when a firefighter is responding to a fire, drill or test, participating in a parade or fundraising.

In Vermont, where more than 90% of fire departments are volunteer, the decision could send a negative message and hurt volunteer recruitment efforts, some say. Stech says he’ll keep serving his community, but will be more cautious about what he’s willing to do. In the meantime, he’s hiring an attorney and appealing the decision.

Does it make sense that a volunteer firefighter would likely be covered for breaking an ankle while walking in a parade, but not while fixing insulation? Stech assumed he’d be covered for any injuries suffered while doing anything related to the fire department, which seems reasonable enough. Perhaps this firefighter’s willingness to take on the fight will result in a change in the law that will benefit all volunteer firefighters, who deserve more consistent coverage.