The State of California: Making Crime Pay?

Last week California Assemblymember Roger Dickinson introduced AB 1831, a proposal to expand California’s “ban the box” policy for state public employees to city and county workers across the state. If it passes, the criminal background check requirement would be waived in the initial stages of hiring for all public workers at all levels in the state of California.

That’s right—no criminal background checks. I don’t know about you, but I might be reluctant to let the kids participate in the city parks and rec program in a world with no background checks. And what about the city building inspector who wants to come in to take a look at your plumbing? Public building custodians, museum workers, utility workers, workers at public golf courses and swimming pools –all jobs where background checks would potentially be waived.

Proponents claim that the “box” on employment applications asking about criminal history is a barrier to employment for ex-offenders. According to the supporters of the bill, one in four Californians have some level of arrest or conviction record. That’s twenty five percent! That’s a lot of people! With a troubled economy and continued high levels of unemployment, there is no doubt that a criminal history could eliminate you from consideration when there are so few open jobs.

Certainly giving ex-offenders and non-violent felons a better chance at stable employment is a cause that most people can get behind. It might even reduce recidivism. But is foregoing the screening process for hundreds of thousands of public employees the best way to accomplish that result? Especially when so many of those public employees are interacting with children, teens, and the elderly?

Ignoring a criminal past is a dangerous proposition—not to mention that the public is footing the bill. SMH.

Colorado Closes In On Employment Credit Report Restrictions

The Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 3 “The Employment Opportunity Act” which prohibits pre-employment credit checks that some companies use to determine hire eligibility.  The bill is borne out of notion that people are being unfairly denied employment based on their credit when their financial well-being has nothing to do with the job they are seeking.

This bill’s sponsor, Senator Morgan Carroll (D) asserts that, “Credit scores were never intended to be used in hiring practices,” and goes on to say that, “Tying credit scores with employment opportunity creates a vicious circle that unfairly punishes struggling Coloradans. We should be doing everything in our power to get citizens back to work, and this legislation ensures that we are removing unnecessary punitive barriers and helping citizens get back on their feet.”

Note: The Senator holds a common misconception that employment credit reports contain a credit score.

The bill seeks to prohibit employers from evaluating a prospective employee’s credit information unless it is directly related to the position for which a candidate is applying, such as a money or asset management role.

This bill is now officially out of committee and will be presented to the full state senate for consideration.

If this passes state approval, Colorado will join the states of Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois and California who each have similar laws.

Also, please note that we understand that the EEOC will be reviewing draft guidance on this issue over the coming weeks which could make any state actions a moot point.

2/24/2012 Credit Report Restrictions Seem Likely in Colorado

The Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 3 “The Employment Opportunity Act” which prohibits pre-employment credit checks that some companies use to determine hire eligibility.  The bill is borne out of notion that people are being unfairly denied employment based on their credit when their financial well-being has nothing to do with the job they are seeking.

This bill’s sponsor, Senator Morgan Carroll (D) asserts that, “Credit scores were never intended to be used in hiring practices,” and goes on to say that, “Tying credit scores with employment opportunity creates a vicious circle that unfairly punishes struggling Coloradans. We should be doing everything in our power to get citizens back to work, and this legislation ensures that we are removing unnecessary punitive barriers and helping citizens get back on their feet.”

Note: The Senator holds a common misconception that employment credit reports contain a credit score.

The bill seeks to prohibit employers from evaluating a prospective employee’s credit information unless it is directly related to the position for which a candidate is applying, such as a money or asset management role.

This bill is now officially out of committee and will be presented to the full state senate for consideration.

If this passes state approval, Colorado will join the states of Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois and California who each have similar laws.

Also, please note that we understand that the EEOC will be reviewing draft guidance on this issue over the coming weeks which could make any state actions a moot point.

Investigation Into Transportation Authority Reveals Busload of Criminal Records

True or False: The bus company referenced below actually performed employment background checks on their job candidates.

The Times-Union checked the driving and criminal histories of the 330 people employed as bus drivers in November. The investigation found 258 of those drivers had a total of 1,276 criminal and driving violations going back to the 1970s. Some had as many as 20 offenses on their record.

Violations include domestic battery, child abuse, driving without a valid license and writing bad checks.

Given the totality of the information above, many would think that perhaps the Jacksonville Transportation Authority didn’t have a background screening program in place.  And in this case, they would be wrong (if you answered true, give yourself a big pat on the back).

The Florida Times Union began their investigation of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority after one of their drivers ran over and killed a passenger who had just gotten off the bus.  This coming a year after a second driver was charged with sexually assaulting a 12 year old girl on his bus.  To make matters worse, that same driver had been reprimanded in 2001 for making advances at a 15 year old girl.

When informed of the investigation the executive director of the JTA was incredulous and said that they had a screening program in place.  He has since terminated three people who had responsibility for performing background checks on the drivers.

It’s unclear from the article whether these three people just weren’t conducting background checks or if they were, if the checks they were performing were insufficient or if they were aware of the criminal records and driving infractions and chose to look the other way.

Whatever the case, this underscores the need for organizations to not only look closely at their screening methods and hiring criteria, but also to make sure that the people responsible for overseeing the process are making the right choices when it comes to identifying the right methods and employee selection.

Those in the transportation industry might be interested in checking out our recommended screening packages for this sector.

P.S. The executive director at the JTA is quoted as saying that he will not hire anyone with a criminal record from here on out.  The EEOC might have something to say about that.  Another post, another time.

Ex-cons in Ohio: getting on the state’s payroll is about to get easier

Ohio’s governor John Kasich is trying to make it easier for ex-cons to get on the State of Ohio payroll. As reported today by the Columbus Dispatch, the Kasich administration is working with private organizations to remove questions concerning criminal history from state job applications. According to the article, the state will still conduct background checks, but later in the process—after a candidate has been screened for qualifications.

The Governor was quoted as saying “We have rules that are overly punitive. That’s just not right.” As part of the proposed changes, the Ohio prisons director is also working with state lawmakers to ease requirements for some jobs that call for a clear criminal record. The argument is that laws preventing ex-offenders from becoming a teacher, getting a professional license, working as a security guard or in a casino are overly restrictive and are keeping ex-offenders from getting back to work.

While the article contained conflicting information as to whether the state would be removing the check box on state employment forms, the proposed changes certainly appear to be part of the growing trend to “Ban the Box”—a movement that is gaining momentum across the country in both the public and private sectors. Tell us what you think.

Out With The Old and In With The New

You know that feeling you get when you can’t stand to look at anything anymore? Well, that’s exactly how we felt about our website homepage.  Don’t get me wrong, the old dog served us well for about three years, but it was time to move on.

So without further ado, I give you the new and improved EmployeeScreen.com

And the crowd goes wild!

Expanded Archive of Free Employment Screening White Papers

Some things in life are free after all.  You just have to wait. We’ve published a number of white papers and webinars over the last year or two on topics ranging from the latest trends in background screening and survey results to compliance and best practices recommendations.

If you were one of those holdouts that just didn’t want to give us your contact information in order to get the content, your ship has come in.  We just published a bunch of them sans the need for registration.  Some of our most recent works include:

Your Applicants Have Something to Hide: Why You’re Not Finding It (Webinar)

No Shortcuts: Why Smarter Screening Matters

Background Screening and the Candidate Experience

Trends in Background Screening: 2011 Survey Results

Download More White Papers Here

Hope you enjoy!