Danish Legislatures Looking to Expand Criminal Record Policy

Currently, what dictates if an individual has a permanent criminal record in Copenhagen is the type of crime he or she commits.  Danish legislatures are looking to revamp this policy so that any person undergoing a prison term of more than 30 days receives a permanent mark on their criminal record.  Officials are looking to include in this new policy those convicted of cheating on their taxes and environmental polluters (Copenhagen is considered one of the world’s most environmentally friendly cities).

All crimes should be on criminal record

The Copenhagen Post Online – March 30, 2010

Legislative proposal wants to see all crimes resulting in a jail term of more than 30 days listed on person’s criminal record

Politicians want to target tax cheats and environmental polluters so that it’s not just drug lords and robbers who end up with a criminal record.

Currently only those who violate criminal law, receive a fine for that violation or break laws on psychedelic drugs are slapped with such a record.

Conservative Party justice spokesman Tom Behnkehas submitted a proposal that would see all those given a prison sentence of more than 30 days receive a permanent note of their crime on their criminal file.

‘It shouldn’t be the type of crime that decides what goes on the record. It should be that you’re given a criminal record if you’ve committed a crime so serious that it warranted a prison sentence,’ Behnke told Politiken newspaper.

The proposal has received support from a number of political parties, but they have called for further debate on the issue to ensure that criminal records are not used to further punish people after they have served their time.

‘It’s a good idea to record all serious crimes on a criminal record to send the signal that society is taking a stand against these violations, but at the same time we can’t brand people. If you’ve been sentenced for polluting then it’s fortunate if you don’t get a job in the Environment Ministry, but maybe you could still be employed by DSB,’ said Liberal justice spokesman Kim Andersen.

Defense Finance Agency Fires Employee Over Poor Credit

On Sunday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that The Defense Finance and Accounting Service planned to terminate 67 workers after employment credit reports revealed what the agency found to be derogatory information.  Many of the positions DFAS has are highly sensitive (responsibilities include issuing President Barack Obama’s pay check),  as employees have access to both personal data and bank accounts.  These are positions where reviewing a credit report as both a condition of employment and continued employment is warranted.  According to the article, the problem started “when jobs deemed to be noncritical and nonsensitive were moved by DFAS into the noncritical, sensitive classification. That allowed DFAS to conduct credit checks on employees for security reasons.”

Naturally, when I read that statement, I bristled and fully expected a firestorm to ensue.  Why? Pick up any paper these days and you’ll read about both state and federal laws designed to ban the use of credit reports.  Most are aimed at employers that review credit checks as part of the employment screening process on candidates whose jobs have no responsibility for financial records, sensitive information or money.

So, you can imagine my relief when I read yesterday’s news that DFAS has agreed to suspend their credit-related firings.    While I can’t find much common ground with Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments on this issue:

“Kucinich said the agency needs to review whether its payroll workers need the ‘very aggressive level of security clearance that would be applied to only high-level employees’ that resulted in the credit-related firings.”

That’s good advice for all employers.  In fact, our good friend Pam Devata offered similar suggestions in her recent article entitled, “Using Credit Wisely“.  See her suggestions below.

* Evaluate Pre-employment Inquiries and Hiring Procedures

HR leaders should review key documents and processes to make sure they comply with the various state laws and the EEOC’s E-RACE initiative. Include in the review all documents beginning with employment applications and throughout the pre-employment/background-screening process.

For example, employers should evaluate when credit information is being sought and how it is being applied. Of course, employers obtaining and evaluating such information must also continue to ensure that the requisite disclosures are provided to the employee/applicant under the FCRA and applicable state laws.

* Consider Using Credit History More Narrowly

To comply with the new limits set by state laws and prepare to defend employment practices in the event of EEOC investigation, employers should reconsider the manner in which they are using credit. For instance, reliance on credit history may be a substantial concern for a high-level financial executive, while its application to a clerical position who does not handle cash may be more attenuated.

* Review Background Check Criteria with Counsel

The most critical proactive measure employers should take is to have their background-screening policies, employment applications and hiring criteria reviewed by counsel. Without doing so, employers are vulnerable to the possibility that the EEOC will become the first set of eyes to review them — and then it will simply be too late.

Brady Bill: 29 Years Ago Background Checks Took on a New Meaning

Reagan_assassination_attempt_4_cropNot directly related to the background screening industry, however, this was the biggest background check story of the last century!   Twenty-nine years ago today, President Ronald Reagan was shot in the chest by a deranged man, John Hinckley Jr.

Reagan was walking out of the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1981, when Hinckley, standing among a group of reporters, began firing at the president and others in his group.

One of the six shots collapsed Reagan’s lung. White House Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the head, while Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and D.C. Police Officer Thomas Delahanty were also shot. Reagan, 70, was able to walk into the hospital under his own power and resumed some of his duties the following day after surgery. More

This set off a culmination of events that would later produce what was known as the “Brady Bill.” Also known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, it instituted federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States.  According to Wikipedia:

The Brady Act requires that background checks be conducted on individuals before a firearm may be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer – unless an exception applies. If there are no additional state restrictions, a firearm may be transferred to an individual upon approval by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) maintained by the FBI. In some states, proof of a previous background check can be used to bypass the NICS check. For example, a state-issued concealed carry permit usually includes a background check equivalent to the one required by the Act. Other alternatives to the NICS check include state-issued handgun purchase permits or mandatory state or local background checks.

Section 922(g) of the Brady Act prohibits certain persons from shipping or transporting any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce, or receiving any firearm which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, or possessing any firearm in or affecting commerce. These prohibitions apply to any person who:

  1. Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is a fugitive from justice;
  3. Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  4. Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  5. Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  6. Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  7. Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  8. Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  9. Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

Section 922(n) of the Act makes it unlawful for any person who is under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year to ship or transport any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce, or receive any firearm which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

From 1994 through 2008, 1.8 million attempted firearm purchases were blocked by the Brady background check system. For checks done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation  in 2008, felons accounted for 56 percent of denials and fugitives from justice accounted for 13 percent of denials. In April 2009, the FBI announced it had completed its 100 millionth NICS approval since its inception 10 years before.

Oregon Law Bans Use of Credit Reports

On March 29, 2010, Oregon Governor Kulongoski signed legislation (SB1045) that specifically prohibits employers from using credit history in making hiring, discharge, promotion, and compensation decisions unless the applicant or employee is given advanced written notice and the credit history is substantially related to the position sought. The legislation provides additional exceptions for financial institutions and public safety offices. This law is effective immediately. See below.

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to obtain or use for employment purposes information contained in the credit history of an applicant for employment or an employee, or to refuse to hire, discharge, demote, suspend, retaliate or otherwise discriminate against an applicant or an employee with regard to promotion, compensation or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment based on information in the credit history of the applicant or employee.

(2) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to:
(a) Employers that are federally insured banks or credit unions;
(b) Employers that are required by state or federal law to use individual credit history
for employment purposes;
(c) The employment of a public safety officer who is a member of a law enforcement unit, who is employed as a peace officer commissioned by a city, port, school district, mass transit district, county, Indian reservation, the Criminal Justice Division of the Department of Justice, the Oregon State Lottery Commission or the Governor and who is responsible for enforcing the criminal laws of this state or laws or ordinances related to airport security;
or
(d) The obtainment or use by an employer of information in the credit history of an applicant or employee because the information is substantially job-related and the employer’s reasons for the use of such information are disclosed to the employee or prospective employee in writing.
(3) An employee or an applicant for employment may file a complaint under ORS 659A.820 for violations of this section and may bring a civil action under ORS 659A.885 and recover the relief as provided by ORS 659A.885 (1) and (2).
(4) As used in this section, “credit history” means any written or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency that bears on a consumer’s creditworthiness, credit standing or credit capacity.

Read Complete Legislation

Special thanks to FCRA expert Pam Devata from Seyfarth Shaw for brining the passage of this bill to our attention.

Oregon Ban on Employment Credit Reports Signed Into Law

On March 29, 2010, Oregon Governor Kulongoski signed legislation (SB1045) that specifically prohibits employers from using credit history in making hiring, discharge, promotion, and compensation decisions unless the applicant or employee is given advanced written notice and the credit history is substantially related to the position sought. The legislation provides additional exceptions for financial institutions and public safety offices. This law is effective immediately. See below.

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to obtain or use for employment purposes information contained in the credit history of an applicant for employment or an employee, or to refuse to hire, discharge, demote, suspend, retaliate or otherwise discriminate against an applicant or an employee with regard to promotion, compensation or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment based on information in the credit history of the applicant or employee.

(2) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to:
(a) Employers that are federally insured banks or credit unions;
(b) Employers that are required by state or federal law to use individual credit history
for employment purposes;
(c) The employment of a public safety officer who is a member of a law enforcement unit, who is employed as a peace officer commissioned by a city, port, school district, mass transit district, county, Indian reservation, the Criminal Justice Division of the Department of Justice, the Oregon State Lottery Commission or the Governor and who is responsible for enforcing the criminal laws of this state or laws or ordinances related to airport security;
or
(d) The obtainment or use by an employer of information in the credit history of an applicant or employee because the information is substantially job-related and the employer’s reasons for the use of such information are disclosed to the employee or prospective employee in writing.
(3) An employee or an applicant for employment may file a complaint under ORS 659A.820 for violations of this section and may bring a civil action under ORS 659A.885 and recover the relief as provided by ORS 659A.885 (1) and (2).
(4) As used in this section, “credit history” means any written or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency that bears on a consumer’s creditworthiness, credit standing or credit capacity.

Colorado HB1023 Protects Businesses from Hiring Convicts?

The Denver Business Journal is reporting that Colorado governor Bill Ritter has just signed into law House Bill 1023, a measure that “prohibits an employee’s criminal history from being part of a lawsuit against a business unless that criminal history has direct applicability to the legal action”.  See article. In other words, if a company is sued by for behavior by an employee that had a previous criminal record, the record can only be introduced into evidence if it is directly related to the actions that led to the lawsuit.
The law was enacted to encourage businesses to hire those with criminal records.  However, I have concerns about the language. “If the criminal history has direct applicability to legal action” seems to be pretty vague.  It would seem that this law might give employers a false sense of security.  Direct applicability leaves much to interpretation.
Now, the positives.  The law does nothing to inhibit the ability of an employer to conduct an employment background check on job candidates and to use that information to make a hiring decision.  The bill also prohibits civil litigation if the employee’s criminal record has been sealed, if they’ve received a pardon or if an arrest record did not result in a criminal conviction.  I believe that this is a very positive development for both businesses and job seekers with criminal records.

The Denver Business Journal is reporting that Colorado governor Bill Ritter has just signed into law House Bill 1023, a measure that “prohibits an employee’s criminal history from being part of a lawsuit against a business unless that criminal history has direct applicability to the legal action”.  See article.

In other words, if a company is sued by for behavior by an employee that had a previous criminal record, the record can only be introduced into evidence if it is directly related to the actions that led to the lawsuit.

The law was enacted to encourage businesses to hire those with criminal records.  However, I have concerns about the language. “If the criminal history has direct applicability to legal action” seems to be pretty vague.  It would seem that this law might give employers a false sense of security.  Direct applicability leaves much to interpretation.

Now, the positives.  The law does nothing to inhibit the ability of an employer to conduct an employment background check on job candidates and to use that information to make a hiring decision.  The bill also prohibits civil litigation if the employee’s criminal record has been sealed, if they’ve received a pardon or if an arrest record did not result in a criminal conviction.  I believe that this is a very positive development for both businesses and job seekers with criminal records.

Colorado Law Protects Businesses from Hiring Convicts

The Denver Business Journal is reporting that Colorado governor Bill Ritter has just signed into law House Bill 1023, a measure that “prohibits an employee’s criminal history from being part of a lawsuit against a business unless that criminal history has direct applicability to the legal action”.  See article. In other words, if a company is sued by for behavior by an employee that had a previous criminal record, the record can only be introduced into evidence if it is directly related to the actions that led to the lawsuit.

The law was enacted to encourage businesses to hire those with criminal records.  However, I have concerns about the language. “If the criminal history has direct applicability to legal action” seems to be pretty vague.  It would seem that this law might give employers a false sense of security.  Direct applicability leaves much to interpretation.

Now, the positives.  The law does nothing to inhibit the ability of an employer to conduct an employment background check on job candidates and to use that information to make a hiring decision.  The bill also prohibits civil litigation if the employee’s criminal record has been sealed, if they’ve received a pardon or if an arrest record did not result in a criminal conviction.  I believe that this is a very positive development for both businesses and job seekers with criminal records.

Hey, I Graduated From Cormell – Hire Me?

fake_degree_exampleTwo fantastic articles this morning that really have competing topics.  One is on the validity or acceptability of legitimate online degrees. The other is an expose on diploma mills.  I felt it was important to include both topics in this post because sometimes people don’t know the difference.  As both concepts become more ubiquitous, performing a thorough background check and thoroughly screening the applicant’s claimed degree becomes that much more important. In today’s economy, professionals (and crooks) are looking for a way to stand out from the crowd.  An upstanding citizen may decide to go back to school and get an advanced degree.  In some scenarios, going to a traditional ‘brick and mortor’ school is not possible due to schedules, family, work, etc.. In those cases they may decide to go to an accreditated online university.  There are many of them and they are reputable.  However, some employers don’t feel they carry the same weight as a traditional degree.  This is a debatable topic but ultimately that decision is up to the employer.  According to a recent CNN article:

To many people, a degree is a degree — but to others, there can be an issue of trust, or lack of reputation and familiarity, says Marc Scheer, a career counselor and educational consultant based in New York City.


“Traditional programs have been around for hundreds of years, but online programs are relatively new [and] employers tend to be less familiar with them,” he says.

Employers are getting there, however. In a survey done by online institution Excelsior College and Zogby International, 61 percent of CEOs and small business owners nationwide said they were familiar with online or distance learning programs.

Not only are they familiar with them, but 83 percent of executives in the survey say that an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program. Employers said such factors as the accreditation of the college or university, the quality of its graduates and the name of the institution awarding the degree were among other things they considered to make an online degree more credible.

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diploma millOther more ‘creative’ individuals (crooks) chose an even easier route. Buy your degree online!  I did it.  In fact I now hold a Masters and PhD from Gordon University, which were bought online for $295.00.  I hang them both proudly on my office wall, simply to make a point. They are fake, yet fully verifiable.  Gordon University is a diploma mill.  Want to see something even scarier?  Put ‘Gordon University’ into the search criteria of LinkedIn and see how many executives tout this fake degree.  Its pretty scary actually! (Shameless plug: I will be traveling the USA this year speaking about Web 2.0 and Recruiting.  One of the main topics is Diploma Mills.  Click here for dates and places).  A thorough review of every degree by a professional employment screening company is critical.

In the story below you will see that consumers are buying misleading degrees online.  Having a few good friends that graduated from Cornell, I am sure they would be happy to know others are paying for a similar degree from Cormell (Notice the  ‘m’).  Now that would have saved their parents a lot of money!  According to this article:

cornellIt may be harder than ever to attend Cornell, but — through a billion dollar industry some experts have labelled a growing “national security threat” — it is may be easier than ever to pretend you did.

Phony diploma companies, known as “degree mills,” sell a dizzying variety of bogus products — fake degrees from real colleges, real degrees from fake colleges, and fake degrees from real-sounding but fake colleges, prominent among them “Stamford,” “Berkley,” and even, “Cormell” University.

Merchandise ranges from High School G.E.D.’s to P.H.D.’s and includes everything from honors degrees to transcripts to letters of recommendation. It can even be delivered overnight.

“[Fake Diplomas are] so widespread it’s hard for any of us to believe [the] numbers are actually as [high as they are] certain to be,” said Prof. George Gollin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, physics, who has done extensive research on fake degrees.

Gollin speculated that upwards of 100,000 fake diplomas are in use — including, until recently, those of several NASA scientists, a few two-star Army Generals and 463 employees within the federal government.

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What is the moral of these two stories? Employers…..be careful.  No two degrees are the same, be sure your screening provider is checking your searches against known diploma mills and accreditation lists.  For more on this, see our recent white paper on diploma mills.

CNN: Facebook and Job Seekers

I guess CNN didn’t read our White Paper on Social Networking Sites prior to writing this story.  Had they, the story might have been more of an expose.  Fact; employers are using social networking sites to vet prospective employees.  Fact; job-seekers should be careful about what they post online.  Also Fact and not reported; employers put themselves at great risk by utilizing this practice when screening candidates.  As we have written countless times, Caveat Emptor – buyer beware.  The EEOC is taking a good look at this practice.  Aside from the many other hiring policies this could violate, the most obvious is Title VII of the EEOC.  A picture says a thousand words, a picture may also reveal a protected class and get you sued!

story.facebook.id.courtesyYoung job-seekers hiding their Facebook pages

(CNN) — Justin Gawel says there’s nothing too incriminating on his Facebook page.

“There are a lot of pictures of drinking [but] nothing naked or anything — at least I don’t think so,” he said jokingly.

Even so, the Michigan State University junior recently changed his Facebook display name to “Dustin Jawel” to keep his personal life from potential employers while applying for summer internships.

Although Gawel ditched his rhyming alias after two weeks when he realized Facebook users also can be searched by e-mail address, school and network, he is not alone in his efforts to scrub his online résumé. Many students and recent graduates say they are changing their names on Facebook or tightening privacy settings to hide photos and wall posts from potential employers.

And with good reason.

A recent survey commissioned by Microsoft found that 70 percent of recruiters and hiring managers in the United States have rejected an applicant based on information they found online.

What kind of information? “Inappropriate” comments by the candidate; “unsuitable” photos and videos; criticisms of previous employers, co-workers, or clients; and even inappropriate comments by friends and relatives, according to the survey report, titled “Online Reputation in a Connected World.”

Such prying into his online life makes Gawel uncomfortable.

“I understand that when [employers look] at someone’s Facebook page, they’re just trying to paint a bigger picture of the people they’re hiring — so they’re not just a name on a résumé,” he said. “But that doesn’t demonstrate whether they can do the job. It shouldn’t matter what someone does when they’re not in the office.”

Gawel said he’s not sure that employers would object to the information on his Facebook page. For him, it’s more about personal privacy.

“Too many people take pictures of you. I didn’t want to go through and ‘untag’ all of them,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal or too ridiculous in the photos … but people don’t take pictures of people studying or doing school work. They take pictures of people at parties and doing silly things.”

For better or worse, online screenings may be a permanent part of the 21st-century hiring process. The Microsoft survey found that 79 percent of U.S. hiring managers have used the Internet to better assess applicants.

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