Posts Tagged ‘background checks’

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.

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.

How Do Your Background Checks Measure Up?

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

employee screening If you’re one of the responsible employers who protect their businesses, customers and staff by performing employee screening and background checks, you might wonder how your pass/fail rate compares to others.

Statistics are difficult to come by. Professional background screening companies don’t typically release this data. But there are a few interesting numbers that show that no matter what type of business you run, or what type of individual applies for employment with you, the chances are good that most of them will stretch the truth to some extent.

Applicants embellish the truth, sometimes innocently, as when they make up an impressive-sounding title for a previous job. They might get the dates of employment wrong, either by mistake or deliberately. After all, when a job seeker realizes that a six-month stint at a previous job looks better than the actual six weeks he actually worked there, it’s easy to enter the wrong month on a resume.

There are super-honest applicants, too, who lets you know right up front that she has a criminal past—but it happened when she was a teenager. That kind of honesty is great, but each company’s hiring policy will dictate whether or not this type of incident will prevent hiring.

Other misrepresentations are more serious, where an applicant invents a past, including academic credentials and previous positions. Or when they try to cover up the fact that they left their last position because they were caught embezzling funds.

That’s why it pays to take a broad approach when doing background checks. Investigate applicants who make it through the preliminary screening and interview process on the basis of education, employment, criminal history, driving records, and even social media use.

Remember, because of the large numbers of people out there with criminal histories, or who have embellished their backgrounds, the chances are good that you’ll hire someone with the potential to cause personal, legal or financial harm.

That’s why a system of pre-employment screening is so important to employers of all sizes.

Federal “Ban the Box” Background Check Prohibition Introduced

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

pre-employment screening, criminal background check, employee screening, credit checkThis summer, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would prohibit an employer from inquiring whether an applicant for employment has been convicted of a criminal offense. The federal “Ban the Box Act” allows for two exemptions: when a conditional offer of employment has been made or if granting employment could pose unreasonable safety risks to specific individuals or the general public.

If the bill passes, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) would be required to issue rules and guidelines for employers to follow. They would define the categories in which an applicant’s criminal history would pose such a safety risk, and the factors to consider when making the determination that hiring an individual poses unreasonable risks.

The bill’s sponsor is Representative Hansen Clarke (D-MI), who has said the goal is to curtail recidivism, since individuals with criminal histories who cannot get jobs are more likely to commit additional crimes. Co-sponsors of the bill are John Conyers, Bobby Rush, Charles Rangel, Frederica Wilson and Keith Ellison.

According to, a website that provides information on pending legislation and members of Congress, the bill is currently is in Committee, awaiting a report. The site’s prognosis is that the bill as a 2% chance of being enacted, mostly because just 4% of all House bills in 2009 – 2010 were enacted.

“The Box” refers to the area on an employment application where applicants are required to check a box if they have been convicted of a crime. Many states and municipalities across the U.S. have enacted such bans for themselves and employers of certain sizes. Some prohibit criminal background checks and employment screening until a conditional employment offer has been issued. Others allow criminal history checks if a conviction is related to the position.

Employers should check the laws in their localities, and utilize only a professional, trusted background check provider such as

EEOC Updates Guidance on use of Criminal Records in Employment Decisions

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Employee background check, pre-employment criminal background checkThis week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated guidelines regarding employers’ use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions. The ruling was made pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The new guidance updates and clarifies the EEOC’s previous policy, in an effort to help job seekers, employees and employers. The report discusses how using criminal history reports could violate Title VII, how federal court decisions analyzing Title VI as applied to criminal records, compliance with other federal laws that restrict or prohibit employing individuals with certain criminal records, and the differences between treatment of arrest and conviction records, among other topics.

While little of the guidance document is new, it does consolidate a series of documents in one place. One HR group spokesperson said it does not appear “to impose a one-size fits-all set of rules” and seems to consider employers’ disparate needs and concerns when using criminal background checks for pre-employment screening.

However, there appear to be potential conflicts between this document and state laws that require criminal background checks in certain industries and positions.

Among the groups showing support for the new guidance include civil rights law groups. One issued a statement saying that it will “greatly reduce the misuse of criminal history background checks to deny employment to persons of color,” because the guidance strengthens enforcement efforts against employers who are not using criminal background checks properly.

A Q and A page on the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance can be found here. It reinforces that Title VII does not prohibit employers from obtaining criminal background reports on job applicants.

Florida Workplace Violence Happens After Termination

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

pre-employment screening, employee background checkEarlier this week, a tragic ending to an employee termination occurred at a private school in Jacksonville, Florida, when a just-fired teacher returned to the school and shot the head of the school and then himself. The gunman, Shane Schumerth, was a Spanish teacher at the school.

It appears that the firing meeting took place away from students and with a witness. The terminated teacher was then escorted off campus; security was informed and a guard was placed at the school’s entrance.

The school had a full time Director of Safety and Security, and implemented security measures such as video surveillance, security gates and a digital patrol system that ensured required safety patrols were completed each day.

However, the former teacher was able to gain access to the administrator’s office by going through the football field. He carried an AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifle and nearly 100 rounds of ammunition in a guitar case.

Officials say this sort of tragedy cannot be prevented—especially when the individual gives no warning, and is determined to hurt someone. This school did all the right things: badges are required of all visitors; classroom cameras, intercoms and panic buttons are connected to the main office; gates are closed and locked at night.

Still, while a random act of violence can’t be prevented, a tragedy like this is a wake-up call for all employers. Termination procedures should include notification to all staff that the fired employee is no longer allowed on site, as well as instructions on what to do if he or she is seen on the premises.

Security badges must be deactivated immediately. Managers should pay extra attention, and be extra sensitive, to any unstable or unusual behavior by an employee before, during or after the termination process. If they feel the employee could be a threat, everyone should be notified so they can be on guard.

And don’t wait until termination to deal with an unstable or threatening employee. Suspending the person while an investigation takes place is always an option.

Be sure that hiring procedures include thorough pre-employment screening. It’s vital to know who you’re hiring, and to screen potential employees for past criminal activity, felony convictions, sex offenses and work history.

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.

Conducting Informal Social Media “Background Checks” is Risky

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

credit check, background check, employee background checkLegal experts say that employers who perform Internet searches on employment candidates risk violating employment and privacy laws. At a recent conference, employment attorneys warned that Googling applicants is akin to interviewing them, and employers should avoid doing so.

Internet searches can lead to inappropriate or incorrect assumptions about a candidate. For example, seeing photos of an applicant in which she is drinking, attending a religious service, protesting for a cause or in a hospital bed can automatically bring about questions or judgments that have nothing to do with her skills or ability to do the job. You cannot ask her about her religion or health in an interview, so why would you subject the candidate to an online search of her personal life in which these topics come up?

In addition to jumping to conclusions, there is also the chance of mistaken identity. There are plenty of people who share names, but nothing else. One John Doe is a successful and respected business professional, while the next John Doe has an extensive criminal background. You can’t be 100% sure that you’re looking at your applicant’s profile unless he has given you access to it.

The attorneys advise that employers should obtain an applicant’s permission before conducting an Internet search, and then give them the opportunity to explain any questions that come up.

The conference attendees also heard advice about using caution when determining how employees can and should use social media. Policies should be established that set guidelines for employee use, to prevent them from harming the firm’s reputation or business.

In a related matter, employers should also review their liability insurance policies to be sure that they are covered in case of lawsuits stemming from employee or employment candidate use of social media.

Employers in every industry are vulnerable to sensitive data theft, financial losses, security breaches, and safety issues. Pre-employment credit checks and criminal background screening on all applicants can protect your company and your staff from possible harm.

Supreme Court Backs Up Employee Background Checks

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

background check, employee screening The U.S. Supreme Court this week ruled that background checks of scientists by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) did not violate their constitutional rights. In a unanimous decision, the Court backed up the Obama administration, which defended background security investigations they called “standard” for federal employees since 1953 and for contractors since 2005.

NASA instituted the background checks for every employee with access to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California beginning in 2007. 28 scientists, engineers and others challenged the depth of the background checks as needlessly intrusive, citing requests for information on medical treatment and counseling for drug use, and some sensitive matters. They challenged the potential loss of their jobs for refusing to undergo the investigation, and won in an appeals court.

The Supreme Court justices overturned that U.S. appeals court ruling that had blocked NASA from conducting the background checks. In its opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said that the questions being challenged were reasonable inquires that allow the government to properly manage internal operations. Further, the questions were found to be employment-related, and similar to those used by millions of private employers.

The justices rejected “the argument that the government, when it requests job-related personal information in an employment background check, has a constitutional burden to demonstrate that its questions are ‘necessary’ or the least restrictive means of furthering its interests.”

The government also has an interest in conducting background checks to ensure the security of its facilities and to deploy a competent, reliable workforce, the justices said in the ruling. Further, they stated there are sufficient protections in place to prevent disclosure of sensitive information to the public.

For Employers: 5 Ways to Uncover Resume Fraud

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Just because it’s almost assumed that job seekers fudge their résumés doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to it. Hiring managers can and should uncover little white lies and big fat fibs on a resume. From misleading the employer about where a college degree was earned, to inventing positions at companies that don’t exist, experienced human resources pros have seen it all.

Various studies show that more than 50% of job applicants submit false information to potential employers. And this includes everyone from Fortune 500 CEOs to college football coaches. A 2004 survey of human resources professionals reported that over 61% of them had uncovered falsifications or inaccuracies in resumes “often” or “sometimes” after carrying out pre-employment background checks.

With a more competitive job market than we’ve seen in a very long time, business owners and hiring managers are sure to see an increase in desperate job hunters hoping you’ll believe what they claim for education and experience—or at least that you won’t take the time to verify it.

Here are 5 Ways to Uncover Résumé Fraud:

  1. Conduct a thorough employee background check: You can receive reports verifying an applicant’s name, social security number, sex offender status, criminal and civil court records, address history, credit report and more.
  2. Verify employment and personal references: Job seekers sometimes get away with phony references—because employers don’t take the time to actually check them. If a phone number and reference name provided by an applicant don’t match, that could be a red flag. It could also be a simple mistake, so be sure to follow up with the candidate. Make sure you double-check employment dates with previous employers to determine whether the applicant stretched them to cover gaps in experience.
  3. Do some social network sleuthing: a simple check of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter could reveal more about a job candidate than they want you to know. Or, it could provide you with the good feeling that they are who they say they are.
  4. Ask questions: Require job applicants to explain gaps in employment history. Ask detailed questions about education or work experience. If you know a professor at the school they claim a degree from, drop the name. Ask about their supervisor or team leader. Listen for any signs of nervousness or inability to answer questions immediately and succinctly. Broad, vague answers are another warning sign.
  5. Make them nervous: It might sound a bit unkind, but suggesting to a job candidate that you’ll be checking references, including past employers and colleges or universities, might spur a confession by one who has been less than truthful. Those who do not fudge will have no problem with you checking every reference, so try this tactic if you wish to sort out dishonest applicants.

When hiring, you have an obligation to your company, your customers and the rest of your staff to take the time necessary to check out applicants thoroughly. After all, if you hire a liar, trouble could follow.