Archive for June, 2013

End of DOMA Means Changes for Employers

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

employee screening, employee background checkThe Supreme Court decision yesterday that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has some implications for employers, but not for those that already offer benefits to partners of gay workers or to spouses in same-sex marriages in the states where it’s legal.

For now, the ruling only affects employers in the 12 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal or will soon be. Benefits such as pre-tax health insurance payments, 401(k) retirement plans and pensions will change, in that spouses in same-sex couples will automatically be considered beneficiaries, unless the employee states otherwise. Prior to the ruling, only heterosexual spouses were automatically considered beneficiaries, which led to issues should a gay employee died without naming his or her spouse as beneficiary.

Employers will need to change benefit plan documents to ensure equal treatment of all married couples. They will not longer be required to treat the value of employer-paid health insurance provided to same-sex spouses as taxable income. And, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will also apply to caring for same-sex spouses. COBRA, flexible health spending accounts, and other spouse-related practices will have to apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 firms already offer health benefits for domestic partners. Employers who don’t, in states where same-sex marriage is not yet legal, can get ahead of the curve by initiating domestic partner programs.

Nearly 300 major employers, including Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup signed onto a brief arguing that DOMA was bad for business, and urged the Supreme Court to strike it down. Prior to the decision, the employers were forced to treat differently those employees in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Even more conservative companies have seen that keeping two sets of rules and books and administrative duties is expensive. So are the legal mistakes that can easily occur. Apart from financial concerns, more companies are recognizing that being inclusive is great for employee morale and recruitment, and, as Paul Guzzi, the CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce said on National Public Radio, “Talent is talent.”

That may be why no companies filed a brief arguing that DOMA was beneficial for business and needed to stay in place!

Employers Fight Back as Seattle Cracks Down on Employee Criminal Background Checks

Friday, June 21st, 2013

employee screening, employee pre-screening, employee credit checkSeattle’s City Council voted unanimously last week to prohibit employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal background, or excluding those with arrest or criminal records during the initial phase of the hiring process.

The new legislation, which is called a “second chance bill,” allows employers to check into an applicant’s criminal history only after he or she makes it through the first round of screening for qualified applicants. It’s intended to give those with criminal records a chance to be judged on their qualifications, not their arrest record.

In addition, employers are not allowed to reject an applicant solely because of a criminal record, unless the employer meets three conditions:

  1. The criminal record on which the decision is made must be identified to the job applicant.
  2. The applicant must be given a chance too explain or correct the information.
  3. The employer must demonstrate a “legitimate business reason” for the decision.

Opponents say the City Council should not add another burden to Seattle business owners, and say the process for deciding whether a decision is a “legitimate business decision” is unfair. Under the legislation, the business owner is left to make the decision, but rejected applicants can complain to the Seattle Human Rights Commission, which will investigate. If the Commission second-guesses the decision, it can levy a fine up to $1,000.

The bill also exempts certain jobs from the new law, which goes into effect November 1. Police, security guards and jobs where workers have unsupervised access to children under sixteen, developmentally disabled persons or vulnerable adults. This is the least they can do, but the law should be expanded to include those who handle cash, private information, company secrets and more.

One person who testified against the bill is an employer who works with rape victims. She should be allowed to reject applicants who have been convicted of rape. Other opponents say that the attempt to achieve social objectives at the expense of businesses is wrong.

Seattle joins about 20 other U.S. cities with this type of legislation. Supporters say the reasons they seek such legislation are to reduce criminal recidivism by prohibiting employers from rejecting applicants for criminal records that have nothing to do with the job.

However, Seattle’s law limits businesses’ ability to hire smart, know who they are hiring and protect the safety of their other workers, customers and communities.

Employers’ Most Common Interview Pet Peeves

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

employee screening, employee background checkBased on their behavior, you sometimes have to wonder if interviewees even want a job. After listening to ill-prepared answers and observing odd behavior, you might want to ask just one question, “Why are you here, wasting my time?”

You’re not alone if you can’t stand to interview applicants who don’t dress appropriately or chew gum. We’ve found some additional pet peeves reported by human resource professionals and employers of all kinds.

Interviewers don’t enjoy candidates who:

  • Are late.
  • Interrupt when you’re talking.
  • Answer a simple question with a 10-minute answer.
  • Have never made a mistake in their lives. (It’s always someone else’s fault.)
  • Talk badly about their previous employer.
  • Don’t bother or can’t seem to follow instructions, like where to park.
  • Are rude to receptionists.
  • Use the wrong company name on the cover letter.
  • Are egotistical, not authentic.
  • Ask about salary before they’re offered the position.
  • Act like they don’t care whether or not they get the job.
  • Don’t follow up with a “thank you.”

How often do you experience these annoyances? How do you deal with them?

When you’re recruiting the perfect team, don’t neglect employee 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.

Nevada Set to Restrict Employer Use of Credit Checks

Friday, June 7th, 2013

employee screening, background check, credit checkPerhaps as a result of fallout after the Great Recession, Nevada’s governor signed a new law limiting employers’ use of credit checks when making hiring and personnel decisions. The law, which takes effect October 1 2013, prohibits employers to ask any employee or prospective employee to submit a consumer credit report or other credit information as a condition of employment.

Further, employers may not use, refer to or inquire about a consumer credit report of discipline or discriminate against an employee or deny employment or a promotion on the basis of a credit report. Employees who refuse or fail to submit consumer credit reports and those who have file complaints in the past cannot be discharged or disciplined, either.

That’s a very broad prohibition of credit checks, denying employers the right to know whether a prospective employee has a history that could negatively affect the employer’s business.

However, Nevada allows certain exceptions, including:

  • The employer is required or authorized under state or federal law to use a credit report for an accepted purpose.
  • The employer reasonably believes the employee or prospective employee has engaged in a specific activity that may violate a state or federal law.
  • The information contained in the employee’s or prospective employee’s credit report is reasonably related to the position for which he or she is applying or being evaluated for.

“Reasonably related” refers to several categories. Employers may conduct credit checks for employees or prospective employees who:

  • Would be handling or responsibility for money, credit and debit cards and financial accounts.
  • Would have access to trade secrets, proprietary information or confidential information.
  • Are being considered for managerial or supervisory responsibilities.
  • Have access to financial information belonging to others.
  • Would be handling or responsible for personal information of others.
  • Would be directly exercising law enforcement authority.
  • Are being considered for employment with a financial institution or a licensed gaming establishment.

The new law contains remedies of up to $9,000 for each violation, along with lost wages, reinstatement, promotion or employment, depending on plaintiffs’ claims.

Joining California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Connecticut, Colorado, Vermont and Hawaii, Nevada is making it more difficult for employers to use credit checks in personnel decisions, unless the person falls under one of the above categories.