Archive for February, 2012

Preventing Violence in the Workplace

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

employee prescreening, employee criminal background checkA new survey by AlliedBarton Security Services reveals that more than half of Americans have had an experience with workplace violence. The survey of 1,030 adults reported that 52% of respondents witnessed, heard about or experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their place of work. Typical incidents that lead to violence include hostility, threats and abusive language that can intensify to physical injury.

Twenty-eight percent of workers surveyed said that at their current job, they have been personally affected by these types of incidents or violence. Another 12% have witnessed, heard about or are aware of significant harm to others at their jobs, while 5% reported they have personally been affected by this type of incident.

The survey also asked workers how they felt about safety on the job. Fully one-third said they are very or somewhat concerned with their personal safety. In contrast, 29% of workers who experienced, witnessed or heard about an incident of violence neither reported it nor took any other action.

The survey also found that, while the vast majority of employers (94%) took some action as a result of reports of workplace violence, only 53% took disciplinary action. The percentage of employers who implement training for workers or supervisors was also low (45% and 35%, respectively).

Experiencing violent incidents on the job can encourage employees to seek a new position. According to the survey, 28% of those who know about or experience workplace violence are looking for a new job, compared to 17% of those who have not.

Employers owe it to their workers to provide a safe and healthy work environment. It starts by paying attention to the culture of the workplace, and instilling good practices and procedures. A no-tolerance approach to bullying, abusive language and inappropriate behavior, backed up by disciplinary action for every incident, will empower all employees to help prevent workplace violence before it happens.

And don’t neglect to conduct thorough pre-employee screening on each prospective employee. Knowing an applicant’s criminal history is vital to keeping your workplace and employees safe from potential harm.

A safe workplace sees less turnover and higher morale, and increased productivity. And it’s what every employee deserves.

Employer Claims Ownership of Twitter Account in Lawsuit

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

employee screening, employee background checkIn today’s business world, many firms hire a social media manager , who is in charge of a company’s Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, and other social media marketing platforms. They’re tasked with promoting the company, gaining followers and engaging customers.

In other organizations, employees have a looser affiliation with the company’s official social media presence. They may have a personal Twitter account where they post both business and individual messages.

A new lawsuit is bringing the value of a social media account into question. Namely, can a company claim ownership of an employee’s social media account?

In this case, an employee for Phonedog.com, a mobile phone site, set up a Twitter account under the handle Phonedog_Noah that grew to 17,000 followers. He left the company, which at the time said he could keep his Twitter account if he tweeted on the company’s behalf from time to time. He agreed and changed his handle, but kept his followers.

Eight months later, PhoneDog Media sued him, saying the follower list was a customer list that the company owned. It sought damages of $2.50 per follower per month—a total of $340,000. The employee claims the suit is in retaliation for his own lawsuit against PhoneDog for unpaid wages and profits. He also disputes the worth of the Twitter followers.

This case puts the spotlight on an increasingly difficult problem for many employers. While tweeting and posting to Facebook or LinkedIn are often assumed to be an employee’s prerogative, which can improve (or at times, harm) the company’s reputation, while enabling employees to network and learn information that can improve their job performance.

The California District Court, which is hearing the case, may issue a ruling that puts the decision back in Twitter’s hands. After all, Twitter owns the entire site and everything that happens on it.

Companies that wish to avoid such interruptions and expenses should immediately craft clear social media policies, covering questions about ownership and portability.

When hiring new employees, be sure to conduct 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.

Pepsi Pays Big Fine to Settle Criminal Background Check Charges

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

employee screening, employee background check, criminal background checksPepsi Beverages agreed to a settlement on federal charges of race discrimination, brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Under the settlement, Pepsi will pay $3.1 million for using criminal background checks to screen out job applicants.

Under the company’s policy, applicants with arrest records—even if they were not convicted—were not eligible for hire. In addition, the company denied employment to other applicants with minor convictions. The policy led to Pepsi unfairly excluding over 300 black applicants from employment.

According to the EEOC, the policy discriminated against minorities, because they have a disproportionate rate of arrest and convictions than whites. Further, using arrest and conviction records to deny employment can be illegal if it is not relevant to the job, the EEOC said. For example, an old DUI conviction would not be relevant to a retail sales job, while a conviction for theft could be.

Pepsi officials said the company’s employee background check policy is neutral, and the EEOC found no evidence of intentional discrimination. After the issue was first brought to Pepsi’s attention in 2006, the company collaborated with the EEOC to revise its background check process and improve its diversity and inclusivity.

Since the federal charges were brought against Pepsi Beverages, the company has changed its criminal background check policy. It also plans to make jobs available to those applicants who were denied unemployment under the previous policy.

Employment lawyers who monitor EEOC activity say there has been an increase over the past year in charges over background checks, and that the commission has taken a very aggressive enforcement stand on the use of criminal background and criminal history in hiring.

Pepsi Beverages is PepsiCo’s operation unit in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Under the settlement, the company will report regularly to the EEOC on its hiring practices and provide anti discrimination training to hiring personnel and management.

The EEOC is expected to issue more specific guidelines for employers, following a hearing on criminal background checks last summer.