Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Lawsuits Over Background Checks

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

employee screening

Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed lawsuits against Dollar General Corp and a BMW manufacturing plant over their use of employment screening. In each case, the EEOC claims that the criminal background checks used to screen applicants or terminate employees discriminated against African-Americans.

These are the first lawsuits that have been filed since the EEOC updated and clarified its background check guidelines last year. At that time, the agency warned employers that using overly broad criminal background checks that limit job opportunities for applicants with arrests and convictions on their records could set them up for discrimination charges.

While the EEOC clarified then that it was not prohibiting employers from obtaining criminal background checks on job applicants, it did want to “reduce barriers to employment” for those with criminal records who “have been held accountable and paid their dues.”

The agency is alleging that the BMW plant, in Spartanburg, SC ordered new background checks after a staffing company changed contractors. The previous contractor’s policy was not to hire anyone with a criminal conviction within the past seven years. But BMW fired anyone whose new background check revealed a criminal record for any year—and that totaled 88 employees, 70 of whom were African-American. Many of the terminated workers had been with BMW—through the contractor—for over a decade.

The EEOC claims this is a violation of the guidelines, as a “blanket exclusion” that does not take into account the nature or timing of the crime, or whether it relevant to the work performed by the employee.

BMW says it will defend itself against the allegations.

The EEOC’s case against Dollar General is a nationwide action, based on discrimination charges filed by two black applicants. One, who revealed a six-year-old conviction for possession of a controlled substance was offered employment, only to have the offer rescinded, based on Dollar General’s policy not to hire anyone with that type of conviction within 10 years.

The other applicant was rejected based on an erroneous report that she had a felony conviction. She notified Dollar General that the report was a mistake, but they did not reverse the decision, according to the EEOC.

The EEOC continues to urge employers to give applicants an opportunity to explain criminal convictions before they are rejected. It also recommends that employers stop asking about criminal convictions on job applications.

Employers, on the other hand, see criminal background checks as a way to gather as much information as possible about an applicant, so an informed hiring decision can be made. Regardless of skin color, employers have a right to know whether an applicant has a criminal record.

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.

Should Businesses Hire Just Because it’s the Right Thing to Do?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

employee screening, employee background checkAs the economic recovery slogs on without a significant change in employment, some HR experts and recruiters are advocating a push in hiring as a way to reduce poverty and homelessness. Instead of awaiting the perfect candidate, businesses can hire the next best person and provide training to bring them up to speed. Companies with one full time opening could hire one-and-a-half workers. Extend and reach a little, and change a life—or two.

Why? As one former recruiter says, there is a value in simply employing people. To give them hope, while keeping families intact and off the street. Illustrating the reality of family life for a large number of Americans today, is a recent 60 Minutes piece, following up on a story done a year ago about the large number of homeless kids in central Florida. Having lost their homes through eviction or foreclosure, many were then living with their families in motels. One year later, some of these same families are now living in their cars.

The story featured parents who once enjoyed full-time jobs and were able to support their families. Now, they’ve been out of work for months or years. Friends and family can no longer offer their extra rooms and couches, and the families have nowhere to go. Kids get ready for school in the morning in gas station or convenience store bathrooms. School systems hire homeless child specialists to help kids deal with the many problems associated with sleeping and living in cars.

If you’re an employer, are you in a position to hire someone and lift him or her out of poverty? Could you make a lasting difference in a family’s life by giving them the means to put a real roof (not a car roof) over their heads?

If you don’t need any workers, you can still strengthen your community. Why not donate a scholarship in your business’s name to your local technical or community college? Giving a student in need the chance to obtain an education is a life-changing act. Programs offered at these schools typically teach the skills most needed by local industry.

Imagine what would happen if 25% of the businesses in America each hired one worker. With approximately 6 million firms with employees in this country, that’s 1.5 million new jobs. While it might be a nice idea that goes nowhere, it’s worth thinking about—especially at this time of year.

Employer News: Judge Dismisses Sex-Bias Case Against Bloomberg

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

employeescreeningblog, employee screening, pre-employment screeningA 2007 lawsuit that accused Bloomberg L.P. of routinely discriminating against pregnant women and mothers was dismissed by a judge in Manhattan. The U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska said that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) failed to provide sufficient evidence that Bloomberg engaged in a “pattern or practice” of discrimination.

The lawsuit alleged that Bloomberg reduced pay for pregnant women or women who recently returned from maternity leave; demoted them; excluded them from management or subjected them to stereotypes about female caregivers in violation of U.S. law.

While allowing some individual claims to proceed in the case, the judge rejected the EEOC’s claim based on a lack of statistical evidence of discrimination. “Here, much of the evidence appears to be the EEOC’s claims that individuals were unhappy with the amount of a rise or unhappy with a denial of a transfer or unhappy about not receiving a promotion,” she said.

Further, the judge acknowledged that individuals who spend more time away from work will face more challenges in terms of advancing, especially in a “company like Bloomberg, which explicitly makes all-out dedication its expectation.” Essentially, the decision to make family a priority over work comes with consequences for anyone—not just pregnant women and mothers.

A Bloomberg spokesman said that the ruling confirms what the company has known all along: that the evidence would be on the company’s side and that the case is without merit.

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!

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.

Study Focuses on Older Workers at Fortune 500 Companies

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

employee background check, employee screeningA recent report ranked Fortune 500 employers by the percentage of workers they have over age 50. gathered data from public records and surveys of employers and employees, to illustrate for job seekers 50+ which industries tend to employ a disproportionately high or low percentage of mature workers.

The results show that the airline industry employs the most workers over age 50, and that American Airlines was first in the nation, with nearly 40% of its workforce over age 50.  Toward the other end of the scale is Google, Inc., with just 13 % of workers over 50. stated that the study did not provide insight into whether employers are committed to hiring older workers, or whether they do or do not appreciate older workers. They further said that a low percentage of older workers does not imply that the company is a bad place for older people to work—they just have fewer than would be expected and may therefore be less accepting of older workers.

Additional findings from the study:

  • The average among the Fortune 500 is 25.6% of employees age 50+.
  • Companies addressing high turnover rates strategically recruit mature employees, because age 50+ workers turn over at one-third the rate of younger peers.
  • In any given organization, the percentage of employees age 50+ ranges from 6% to 39% on average.

The top Industries for the number of workers over 50 are:

  1. Airlines
  2. Utilities
  3. Insurance
  4. Retail
  5. Chemicals
  6. Aerospace & Defense
  7. Packaging & Containers
  8. Forest & Paper Products
  9. Food Production
  10. Beverages

The Top 10 Fortune 500 Employers Of Older Workers

  1. American Airlines                              39%
  2. Eastman Kodak                                  38%
  3. TravelCenters of America                 38%
  4. Delta Air Lines                                   37%
  5. United Air Lines                                 37%
  6. Weyerhaeuser                                     36%
  7. Edison International                          36%
  8. Northeast Utilities                              36%
  9. United Services Automobile Assn.   35%
  10. KeyCorp                                                35%

The Bottom 10 Fortune 500 Employers For Older Worker

  1. Consol Energy 14%
  2. Nordstrom                                              14%
  3. Chesapeake Energy                                14%
  4. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold   14%
  5. Electronic Arts                                       13%
  6. Google, Inc.                                             12%
  7. C.H. Robinson Worldwide                    12%
  8. Goldman Sachs Group                           11%
  9. Auto-Owners Insurance                          9%
  10. AECOM Technology                                 6%

Also appearing in the bottom 20 are companies such as Target, Whole Foods, Best Buy, Hershey, Polo Ralph Lauren, Amazon and Philip Morris.

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.

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!