Background Check Lesson of Sorts in “The Kings Speech”

My wife and I saw an unbelievable movie last night called The King’s Speech which was based on the true story of British King George the VI’s (played by Colin Firth) determination to overcome a speech impediment.  Okay, that didn’t do the movie justice, but trust me it was a great movie that will likely sweep the Academy Awards this year.

Anyway, the main character has struggled with a debilitating stutter for his entire life and finally finds a speech therapist who is able to help cure his condition.  Immediately, Dr. Lionel Logue insists on being called “Lionel”.  After years of therapy, the prince is annointed to king and is to accept the throne in front of the public at Westminster Abbey.  The Arch-Bishop responsible for the ceremony is introduced to Dr. Logue and decides to look into his credentials.  Upon completion of the background check, he informs the king that Dr. Logue is not,  in fact a doctor.  Now, he explains that he never claimed that he was a doctor and that regardless of whether he was or not, he had successfully treated the king.  And of course, this being a movie everything ends happily.

While the movie is based on a true story, I am not sure if there was ever a controversy over Lionel Logue’s credentials.  However, true or not it does raise the issue of how important it is to know the qualifications of those we choose to employ.  It also depicts what reference credentialing might have looked like in the late 1930’s.

Pretty interesting stuff.  And in my maiden voyage as a film critic, I give it two thumbs up!

Obama Congratulations to Eagles For Vick Signing is Hypocritical

Yahoo! Sports is reporting that President Obama has reached out to Philadelphia Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie to congratulate him for giving Michael Vick a second chance.  And while I applaud Vick for turning his life around and for the monster season he is having, I can’t help but feel that the President shouldn’t have made that call.

As we all know by now, it is incredibly difficult to find employment in this country right now.  It is doubly hard if you have criminal record.  It is no secret that the Obama administration would like to see former convicts find work so that they don’t turn back to crime.  Of course, this is a admirable stance.  However, it cannot come at the expense of employers, something the Obama administration recognizes with their own hires, but not with their policies.

Does anyone actually believe Michael Vick could have gotten a job at the White House or any other government agency for that matter?  We would have never passed a background check.  Now, I’m not suggesting that the government should abandon its employment screening policies.  What I am suggesting is that it is hypocritical to commend an employer for hiring those with a criminal past, when you, yourself would not.  I am also suggesting that the government’s drive to curb the use of background checks or the information they are allowed to use in a hiring decision runs counter to their own hiring policies.

I also think that if the president truly wanted to congratulate the team, he should have done so 16 months ago when they first signed Vick.  It’s easy to do so now that the coast is clear so to speak and when Vick is having all this success.  Would he have called if Vick was still riding the bench or was waived? Would he have called if Vick returned to criminal activity?

P.S. Just to prove I can play nicely with the Democrats, kudos to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell for saying that we’ve become a country of wusses in response to the postponement of this week’s Eagles’ game due to a blizzard on Sunday.

Keep Up On All the Latest Background Screening Trends

Effective immediately, MyEmployeeScreen 4.0 users will notice some great new enhancements to our login page.  Most noticeably is the inclusion of our informative educational resources EmployeeScreen University, our IQ Blog, The Verifier (our quarterly newsletter) and our popular IQ Podcasts.  Now, our valued clients have all the latest employment screening and background check happenings, legislative updates, compliance tips and trends through one streamlined portal.  Be sure to check it out.

12/27/2010 Enhanced Login Page for MyEmployeeScreen 4.0 Users

Effective immediately, MyEmployeeScreen 4.0 users will notice some great new enhancements to our login page.  Most noticeably is the inclusion of our informative educational resources EmployeeScreen University, our IQ Blog, The Verifier (our quarterly newsletter) and our popular IQ Podcasts.  Now, our valued clients have all the latest employment screening and background check happenings, legislative updates, compliance tips and trends through one streamlined portal.  Be sure to check it out.

EEOC Targets Another Employer for Credit Checks

ERE.net reporter John Zappe contacted me yesterday and told me that the EEOC is suing Kaplan Higher Education Corp. over their use of credit checks as part of their background screening process.  We spent a few minutes talking about the EEOC’s latest action and he asked for my reaction.  Since I’m on vacation, I’ll do the lazy man’s blog and republish John’s post on this story.

Newly Aggressive EEOC Sues Over Credit Checks

With the U.S. beginning its fourth year of a sour economy that is taking its toll on consumer credit scores, the EEOC signaled this week that it is taking a hard look at employers who use credit checks as a screening tool.

Kaplan Higher Education Corp. was sued Tuesday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over its use of credit checks. The suit claims Kaplan denied jobs based on credit histories in such a way that it had a disparate impact on blacks.

The EEOC said Kaplan “engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination by refusing to hire a class of black job applicants nationwide.”

“This practice has an unlawful discriminatory impact because of race and is neither job-related nor justified by business necessity.” The types of jobs at issue weren’t disclosed.

A company spokeswoman denied the charge, saying background checks are conducted on all potential employees. Credit checks are part of the screening for jobs involving financial matters, including advising students on financial aid.

A “disparate impact” case doesn’t require an employer to have intentionally discriminated against a class of applicants. Instead, discrimination can occur by the use of background criteria, experience, education, or other job requirements that appear neutral on their face but which more heavily impact a protected class of applicant. Unless the employer can demonstrate a “business necessity” for the requirement, it may be found guilty of discriminating. Even where business necessity can be established, a violation may still be found if there is another alternative available that is less discriminatory.

Labor lawyers and industry experts have been predicting that the EEOC is becoming more aggressive. Employment attorney Jon Hyman, who blogs at Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, warned last month that, “The EEOC is no longer an agency where charges go to die. Employers can expect more thorough investigations, quicker resolutions, and more aggressive enforcement.”

Nick Fishman, chief marketing officer, VP and co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, blogged about this same thing recently on ERE. In his look ahead at the background screening trends for 2011, Fishman listed the EEOC aggressiveness first, writing: “The EEOC is especially targeting ‘bright line’ hiring decisions that automatically exclude candidates with criminal records, arrest records that don’t result in a conviction, and/or poor credit.”

After reading about the Kaplan suit this morning, I called Fishman to ask about the issue and for advice about what recruiters can do to insulate their company against EEOC action.

He wasn’t surprised that the EEOC had sued someone over the issue. “They’ve become a lot more active in the last year,” he said.”We’re going to see a lot more out of them.” And, he pointed out, there is no way to protect against someone filing a lawsuit. However, no employer should be deterred from credit or background checks where the job demands it and there’s no intent to discriminate.

Fishman offered this guidance:

  • Assess the exposure the company has for each job.
  • Make sure there is a legitimate business purpose to conduct a credit check. Do the job responsibilities involve financial records or access to them? For a CFO position, the connection is clear. For a janitorial job, maybe not. Though there might be situations where a janitor has access by virtue of a master key to money or records.
  • Have a written background policy for each position, including a description of the business purpose.
  • If adverse credit information turns up, don’t automatically reject the candidate. Instead, ask about it.

More

12/22/2010 Newly Aggressive EEOC Sues Over Credit Checks (ERE.net)

December 22, 2010

ERE.net

With the U.S. beginning its fourth year of a sour economy that is taking its toll on consumer credit scores, the EEOC signaled this week that it is taking a hard look at employers who use credit checks as a screening tool.

Kaplan Higher Education Corp. was sued Tuesday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over its use of credit checks. The suit claims Kaplan denied jobs based on credit histories in such a way that it had a disparate impact on blacks.

The EEOC said Kaplan “engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination by refusing to hire a class of black job applicants nationwide.”

“This practice has an unlawful discriminatory impact because of race and is neither job-related nor justified by business necessity.” The types of jobs at issue weren’t disclosed.

A company spokeswoman denied the charge, saying background checks are conducted on all potential employees. Credit checks are part of the screening for jobs involving financial matters, including advising students on financial aid.

A “disparate impact” case doesn’t require an employer to have intentionally discriminated against a class of applicants. Instead, discrimination can occur by the use of background criteria, experience, education, or other job requirements that appear neutral on their face but which more heavily impact a protected class of applicant. Unless the employer can demonstrate a “business necessity” for the requirement, it may be found guilty of discriminating. Even where business necessity can be established, a violation may still be found if there is another alternative available that is less discriminatory.

Labor lawyers and industry experts have been predicting that the EEOC is becoming more aggressive. Employment attorney Jon Hyman, who blogs atOhio Employer’s Law Blog, warned last month that, “The EEOC is no longer an agency where charges go to die. Employers can expect more thorough investigations, quicker resolutions, and more aggressive enforcement.”

Nick Fishman, chief marketing officer, VP and co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, blogged about this same thing recently on ERE. In his look ahead at the background screening trends for 2011, Fishman listed the EEOC aggressiveness first, writing: “The EEOC is especially targeting ‘bright line’ hiring decisions that automatically exclude candidates with criminal records, arrest records that don’t result in a conviction, and/or poor credit.”

After reading about the Kaplan suit this morning, I called Fishman to ask about the issue and for advice about what recruiters can do to insulate their company against EEOC action.

He wasn’t surprised that the EEOC had sued someone over the issue. “They’ve become a lot more active in the last year,” he said.”We’re going to see a lot more out of them.” And, he pointed out, there is no way to protect against someone filing a lawsuit. However, no employer should be deterred from credit or background checks where the job demands it and there’s no intent to discriminate.

Fishman offered this guidance:

  • Assess the exposure the company has for each job.
  • Make sure there is a legitimate business purpose to conduct a credit check. Do the job responsibilities involve financial records or access to them? For a CFO position, the connection is clear. For a janitorial job, maybe not. Though there might be situations where a janitor has access by virtue of a master key to money or records.
  • Have a written background policy for each position, including a description of the business purpose.
  • If adverse credit information turns up, don’t automatically reject the candidate. Instead, ask about it.

More