Posts Tagged ‘Employee Screening’

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a six-year-old conviction for possession of a controlled substance was offered employment, only to have the offer rescinded, based on Dollar General’s policy not to hire anyone with that type of conviction within 10 years.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.

Employee Pulls Gun on Customer; KFC Not Liable

Friday, September 28th, 2012

employee screeningThey say “Dog Bites Man” is not news, but “Man Bites Dog” is. In an unusual case in Pennsylvania, a fast-food employee pulled a gun out and pistol-whipped a customer. Why? Because he was taking too long to place his order.

Sad, but true. The customer suffered a concussion and other injuries and, not surprisingly, sued KFC. Among other claims, the customer said KFC was negligent because they had not conducted a background check on the employee, and should have known he had a propensity for violence.

KFC did have a policy in place prohibiting employees from bringing weapons to work, but only conducted employee screening on candidates for management positions. The federal district court in Pennsylvania rejected the customer’s claim and said KFC was not legally required to conduct criminal background checks on front line employees. In addition, a background check would have revealed that the employee did have two convictions for nonviolent crimes on his record—but not that KFC could have known he would bring a gun to work and use it.

While not legally required, conducting background checks on employees is still a sound practice. Putting your business, your customers and staff at risk can leave you liable in certain circumstances. While the owner of this KFC did not have to pay damages to the plaintiff, the story could have had a much more serious ending—and nobody wants to put their customers at risk for their lives.

Schools Fail Students by Failing to Screen Sex Offenders

Friday, December 17th, 2010

background checkFederal investigators reported that individuals with records of sexual misconduct are hired to work in public and private schools as teachers, other staff, volunteers or contractors. The Government Accountability Office explored 15 cases and found disturbing trends. Schools are failing to thoroughly screen sex offenders who then go on to abuse additional students.

Among the findings:

  • A Virginia teacher who recently pleaded guilty to abusing a student also faces charges in three other states and Japan. His long career in education mirrors his long list of sex and pornography charges.
  • In 11 of the cases, offenders who had previously targeted children found new jobs in schools. In six of these instances, more children were abused.
  • A teacher and registered sex offender was hired in Louisiana in 2006 and 2007 without undergoing a background check at all. He is now sought on charges he engaged in sexual conversations with a student. The teacher had previously taught in Texas, but had his license revoked.
  • In Arizona, a teacher who had been convicted of sex abuse on a minor was hired as a teacher without a criminal screening of any kind. He was subsequently convicted again of having sexual contact with a minor.

According to the GAO report, sex offenders are in schools because:

  1. Teachers accused of misconduct are allowed to resign rather than face termination or prosecution. School districts avoid litigation because of the financial impact and time involved. Even harder to believe, these teachers are given positive recommendations or reference letters, and suspected abuse is not always reported to law enforcement.
  2. School officials fail to perform criminal background checks. And when they do, they are not thorough. Some schools checked only their own state’s database, instead of conducting a national criminal records check. This makes it much easier for sex offenders who move across state lines to prey on new victims.
  3. Schools miss the obvious. Even when the Arizona offender answered “yes” on his job application to the question about whether he had ever been convicted of “a dangerous crime against children,” no one followed up on it.

It is almost impossible to believe that school officials are allowing sex offenders into schools. No matter what business you’re in, next time you hire a new employee, ask yourself how well you really know him or her. When you pre-screen employees and conduct thorough background checks, you can weed out the criminals and sex offenders, before they have a chance to cause additional harm.

4 Steps to Take When Ranting Employees Threaten Your Business

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

prescreen employee, employee background checkMany employers have experienced the dramatic exit of a fired or quitting employee. While most don’t compare to the infamous JetBlue flight attendant who slid away on the emergency chute, any company can suffer embarrassment or damage to its reputation or brand when disgruntled employees leave. Especially now, in the age of instant broadcasting via Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, employers can be the brunt of ugly rants or even brutal verbal attacks.

4 Steps to Take When Disgruntled Employees React

  1. Act quickly. If an employee is ranting, ask to meet with him or her privately. If they refuse, then have them quickly escorted from the building. If the situation escalates and the individual threatens harm to himself or other workers, call police.
  2. Keep credibility intact. While responses are sometimes warranted, retaliation is usually not. Making the wrong move can cause more damage than the temporary hit a company might take when the employee quits or rants upon being fired. Keep cool, respond in a professional way, and do your best to move on.
  3. Reassure the rest of the staff. Assure staff that their jobs are not affected. Be open and invite questions. Let remaining employees know that they are welcome to share frustrations in private and that working toward win-win solutions is the goal. .
  4. Control the message. Take the power back from the employee. Generally, employee terminations are not to be discussed. Responding with “We do not discuss employee matters” is sufficient. But when the company’s reputation or brand is on the line, it is appropriate to distribute a message via press release or on the company’s website that a regrettable situation has occurred, but business will go on as usual. “We will continue to focus on providing excellent service and fulfilling your electronics needs” is one example of a simple, effective message. Avoid responding to endless comments on blogs or Facebook pages.

Of course, you should continue to thoroughly prescreen employees to avoid similar situations in the future. By conducting criminal background checks, and verifying ID, address and previous employers, you’ll know you’re hiring the most qualified employees and minimizing risk to your company and staff.

What Employee Traits are Employers Looking for Today?

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

pre employment screening, background check employeeHiring employees
has been off the to-do list for business owners struggling to recover from a down economy and for those who are again starting to do well after a couple of tough years. So, what has changed? Have employers’ needs changed due to a different economic reality? Have potential employees changed, too?

Ask a dozen employers what they’re looking for in employees today, and you’ll probably hear a variety of answers—as well as some commonalities. Here are a few answers we’ve received to that question:

Attitude: “I’m seeing a new commitment to work from potential employees,” says Andrea, a floral shop owner. “A respect for me as an employer and a real desire to work is replacing the ‘you owe me a job’ attitude that some employees exhibited over the past several years.” Andrea says hiring for attitude is her #1 goal. “Positive people contribute to a great company culture and make customers feel great about dealing with my company.”

Appreciation: “I want people who appreciate my company and my customers,” says Kevin, a heating and air conditioning company owner. “They represent me with every interaction and I can’t afford to hire employees who are not customer-centric.” Kevin makes sure he asks every potential employee to give examples of how they have gone above and beyond for customers in their previous jobs. “If they can’t answer that question, I won’t hire them.”

Excellent references: With so many more people looking for work, it pays to know whom you’re hiring. Checking with previous employers, running pre-employment screening checks and calling references are more important then ever before.

Easier recruiting: Your best new employee could be a link or two away. “I ask my contacts on LinkedIn for referrals when I’m hiring,” said Jeanne. “And, I ask my employees if they know of a good person for a particular position.” Employees usually try to make good recommendations, since it reflects directly on them.

Community involvement: “I always look closely at applicants who say they volunteer or are otherwise active in the community,” said Mark. “Their contacts usually become my customers.” And it goes both ways. Mark says he works toward supporting the groups hisvolunteer with. “It makes for a better community, which is important when times are tough.”

Is it Hiring Time Yet?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

criminaldata.comWhen it comes to the economy, everyone seems to be waiting for something to happen. Reports we used to pay little attention to, like unemployment, consumer confidence, savings rates and housing starts, capture our attention and are analyzed closely.

Employers are no exception. They’ve weathered the economic storm, and many want to know if it’s ever going to turn around. You may be asking yourself if it’s time to spend some of the cash you’re holding on to, or if it’s time to hire again. Or you may just want to know if you can exhale yet!

We can’t tell you the answer to Questions 1 & 3, but here are some tips for question #2: How do you know if it’s time to hire?

1. You and your employees are stressed out. You might have cut positions, combined workloads, or just kept piling tasks on yourself and your staff. If your people are starting to show signs of discontent, are leaving things undone, or are threatening to walk out—you know you have a problem. It just might be solved with a new employee.

2. You are profitable. Profitability is a very good sign. But only when it happens for several months in a row. Much of this depends on your business, but if you’ve been turning a profit for 18 months, and your current staff is overworked, it might be time to hire. If you’re not steadily seeing profits, see #3.

3. The new hire will produce profit. If you’ve crunched the numbers and a new hire will pay for him or herself and then some, what are you waiting for?

4. You’re paying for temps or independent contractors. If there are services you need enough to pay higher temp and contractor fees, can you afford to turn that expense into an employee? Consider hiring a good-fit contractor or temp. If they have skills you need, then find a way to create a sustainable solution.

When you make the decision to hire, be sure to properly screen employment applicants. Pre-employment screening is an easy way to mitigate the risk of hiring staff with questionable backgrounds, criminal histories, or unacceptable credit problems.

Preventing Employee Embezzlement

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Office Manager Pilfers $645,000 from Car Dealership

Finance Manager’s Theft Causes Interactive Business to Shut Down

Furniture Store Suffers $250,000 Loss through Bookkeeper

These headlines are real. Every single day, real employees steal loads of money from their employers. In the United States alone, the amount of property and cash stolen by employees adds up to nearly $1 trillion each year. Whether it’s done by taking property or cash out the door, or falsifying balance sheets, deposits, and checks, embezzlement is a huge problem for businesses.

Often, employees who are charged with embezzlement have a fiduciary relationship with the employer—they are in a position of trust, with access to bank accounts and financial records.

How do they do it? Some embezzlers set up relatives or themselves as phony vendors in the bookkeeping system, then pay phony invoices with real company checks. Others just write checks to themselves or pay their personal bills with company checks.

Embezzlers often start out with small amounts, gradually building up to larger sums when they don’t get caught. Others tell themselves they’ll take the money “just this once,” but find they are unable or unwilling to stop—even after the credit card is paid off, their child’s medical expenses are paid, or they buy themselves a new car.

The guilt felt by an embezzler is often replaced with justification that they are undervalued or underpaid, and therefore the company owes them the money they are stealing. Others feel no guilt whatsoever, and are simply stealing for their own financial gain. For some employees, opportunity is the only “license to steal” that they need.

So how does an employer remove opportunity from the equation—and prevent employee embezzlement?

Be diligent: Managers and owners must have their hands in the business. Know where records are kept, and review them regularly. Are bills or checks outstanding? Are invoices missing? Be an authorized signer on bank accounts, and review activity and statements online. Keep tabs on petty cash, deposit slips, and profit and loss statements.

Listen: Don’t discount when customers complain about double billing—it could be a sign that checks are being detoured to an employee’s account. And if employees report suspicious behavior among their ranks, deal with it immediately. Let employees know you trust them, and care about their job satisfaction. Nip bad attitudes in the bud.

Pay Attention: Employees who regularly offer to work overtime are either great to have, or a potential problem. But what about when the workload doesn’t require it? Staying late with no supervision—especially for an employee with access to cash and financial records—is something embezzlers do.  Embezzlers also spend money they don’t earn—so watch for signs of spending above salary should allow. Driving a new car, showing off expensive jewelry or bragging about trips and pricey restaurants are potential warnings.

Screen employees: Pre-employment background screening is critical to prevent fraud. But don’t stop there—occasional screening for established employees who have access to fiduciary information is also essential.

Employers don’t need to be paranoid about employee fraud. Reasonable safeguards and common sense supervision of employees is often all that is needed to prevent embezzlement. But even the sharpest managers have been fooled by embezzlers—and it can happen to any business.

Alabama Campus Shooter Possibly not Properly Screened before Hiring

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Reports are surfacing that the professor charged with the fatal shooting of three colleagues last week in Alabama had a violent history that perhaps could have been discovered—with more thorough background screening.

Amy Bishop, who also wounded three others, had more than one incident in her criminal past. She was arrested in 2002 for assaulting a woman in a pancake restaurant—over a child’s booster seat. She shot and killed her brother in 1986, in what was officially ruled an accident. And she was questioned about a mail bomb received by her supervisor at Harvard.

The question remains: was this information available, and not acted upon by the University? Or did the University of Alabama use an insufficient level of pre employment screening for Amy Bishop’s position?

Employers typically choose from several levesl of background screening. The lowest level might be enough for a back office employee with no client contact, on-the-job driving, or access to sensitive data. On the other hand, day care providers and nursing homes, who work with vulnerable populations, need all the information they can get on a potential hire.

Why not the University of Alabama? Isn’t it better to know more, rather than less, information on a university professor, who is in a position of power and influence over students?

Now that the damage has been done, and the victims’ families face untold grief and loss, it is easy to look back and wish things had been done differently. Instead of regretting inaction, isn’t it better to take all possible actions—before workplace violence occurs?