Seattle Really Is Trying to Ban Criminal Background Checks

More information has come to light about the Seattle proposal to restrict employers’ ability to use criminal background checks. I wrote about the ordinance and confusion surrounding the proposal here a couple of weeks ago. As it turns out, maybe the headline that drew my attention (and criticism) in my last post was right.

The proposed ordinance was introduced by Seattle Council member Bruce Harrell with the support of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. Now that the details of the proposal have been made public, employers are justifiably concerned. And not to sound alarmist, so should anyone who cares about the financial security and the safety of Seattle businesses, consumers, and employees. Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business, recently wrote an op-ed echoing my concerns, that appeared in the Columbian on September 18th.

Public comment in support of the bill was heard by the Seattle Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee on September 19, 2012.  The emotionally charged meeting included a long parade of proponents who showed up to testify in support of the bill. Notably absent was any opposition. The eclectic group included attorneys, non-profits such as Puget Sound Sage, the NAACP, the South Seattle Community College, ex-cons, parents of ex-cons, siblings of ex-cons, and a singing activist group of seniors known as the Raging Grannies. If you have an hour to kill you can see for yourself– a video of the hearing can be found here.

Supporters believe that the ordinance will boost public safety by reducing recidivism and unemployment amongst ex-offenders.  They claim that the law will not allow frivolous actions—all charges will be fully investigated, and there is no private cause of action.  Unfortunately the other side of the issue has not officially been heard nor publicly discussed.

A few points that Councilman Harrell and his colleagues need to consider:

•    The proposed ordinance is a drastic measure that would create an unprecedented legal standard. The legal standard proposed in the new ordinance goes far beyond what the courts, Congress and even the EEOC require an employer to consider. It would require a “direct relationship” between the criminal offense and the job sought, and would require that the employer could “reasonably foresee” whether hiring the individual would result in harm or injury. This standard is a far stretch from the already cumbersome test advocated by the EEOC in its guidance and would require employers to exercise superhuman powers or otherwise face the threat of legal action.

•    The legislation as submitted would establish ex-convicts as a protected class. Unlike Title VII and EEO laws, the ordinance would allow any ex-offender, regardless of race or color or other protected status, to allege a violation when a decision is made based on a criminal record.  The ordinance would allow a white ex-offender to have a potential claim against an employer who chooses to hire a law abiding citizen of any race or color.  This outcome is absurd, is not supported by any legal precedent, and puts employers at risk for a whole new wave of litigation.

•    The proposed ordinance presumes that a job ensures that someone will not be a repeat offender, while offering employers no safe harbor if they choose to hire someone known to have a previous record. It requires that employers all but ignore the potential connection between past criminal behavior and future transgressions.

The end result is a scenario where employers cannot reasonably act upon criminal background checks. Which leads to fewer checks. Which leads to unscreened workers being hired to work in your home, take care of your yard, drive your truck, clean your hotel room, or deliver your pizza. Not good.

Council member Harrell said he wanted to “socialize” the proposed ordinance to hear from other stakeholders.  Let’s hope he expands his invitation list to the next party.

Employment Background Checks: There’s An App For That

We know that HR professionals are constantly looking to increase their awareness on the latest pre-employment background screening industry trends, legislation, compliance and best practice tips.  And while we are proud to offer these resources on our website and through EmployeeScreen University, we know that you don’t always have the luxury of sitting in front of your computer.

So now, there’s an app for that!

Introducing the iEmployeeScreen app which allows you to follow your favorite EmployeeScreenIQ articles, white papers, blog posts, etc. and enhances that experience by allowing you to post your own employment background check articles, download free HR and background screening forms, add future EmployeeScreenIQ conferences, events and speaking engagements to your calendar and much more.

Download Here 

 

9/24/2012 Introducing The iEmployeeScreen Background Screening Mobile App

We know that HR professionals are constantly looking to increase their awareness on the latest pre-employment background screening industry trends, legislation, compliance and best practice tips.  And while we are proud to offer these resources on our website and through EmployeeScreen University, we know that you don’t always have the luxury of sitting in front of your computer.

So now, there’s an app for that!

Introducing the iEmployeeScreen app which allows you to follow your favorite EmployeeScreenIQ articles, white papers, blog posts, etc. and enhances that experience by allowing you to post your own employment background check articles, download free HR and background screening forms, add future EmployeeScreenIQ conferences, events and speaking engagements to your calendar and much more.

Download Here 

 

9/20/2012 EmployeeScreenIQ Offers New Gateway to Compliance Resources

Employment background screening compliance can be a full time job if you don’t have all the resources.  Thankfully, we work hard every day to try to condense the important stuff so that human resource professionals can get their compliance fix and move on to other important strategic initiatives.  It is with that in mind that we have refined our Resources page to act as your gateway to the important laws that affect your use of employee background checks; specifically the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and EEOC guidelines among others.

You can also use this page to get our latest legislative updates, download our latest compliance newsletter, and keep informed any court delays.

So, leave the heavy lifting to us. (And of course, our VP of Compliance and General Counsel will stalk me if I mention that we are not providing legal advice.  You know the rest . . .)

New Resource for Employment Background Screening Compliance

Employment background screening compliance can be a full time job if you don’t have all the resources.  Thankfully, we work hard every day to try to condense the important stuff so that human resource professionals can get their compliance fix and move on to other important strategic initiatives.  It is with that in mind that we have refined our Resources page to act as your gateway to the important laws that affect your use of employee background checks; specifically the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and EEOC guidelines among others.

You can also use this page to get our latest legislative updates, download our latest compliance newsletter, and keep informed any court delays.

So, leave the heavy lifting to us. (And of course, our VP of Compliance and General Counsel will stalk me if I mention that we are not providing legal advice.  You know the rest . . .)

Unemployment is a Larger Barrier to Employment Than Criminal Record

You read that headline right.  According to a survey conducted by social media recruiting firm Bullhorn, people that have been unemployed for two years or more are more likely to have trouble getting hired than those with criminal records.  The study which focused on identifying the most prevalent barriers to employment asked recruiters to rank the most impactful reason candidates have a hard time finding a job, revealed the following job obstacles:

  • 39% felt that job hopping was most significant
  • 31% felt that being unemployed was most significant
  • 28% felt that gaps in employment were most significant

Employment background checks weren’t the main thrust of this study, but when he survey asked respondents to rate, on a scale of one to five, who would be most difficult to place, forty-four percent said someone who has been unemployed for more than two years would rate a 5, while only 31% said someone with a (non-felony) criminal record would be most difficult the place.

How soon until we see unemployment discrimination law suits?

September Issue of BTW: Compliance Resource

Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a settlement with background screening giant, HireRight. The scenario is pretty much every compliance officer or in-house counsel’s worst nightmare. The company has signed a consent decree that requires it to pay $2.6 million in penalties. Along with the payment, HireRight has to submit to monitoring by the FTC, is enjoined from some allegedly bad practices, and agrees to regular reporting and ongoing investigation by the agency for at least five years. Read more…

The Washington Post Digs Into D.C.’s Background Screening Process

Today The Washington Post reported that the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer tightened background screening procedures due to a history of bad hires leading to theft, embezzlement, and falsified credentials.  Internal reports recently discovered by the Post provide new insight into the city’s fabled history of internal fraud, embezzlement and cronyism.

The problems in the spotlight today actually date back to 2001, when the city learned that the General Counsel to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Saamir Kaiser, was not actually a lawyer. Kaiser’s primary responsibility was to provide legal advice and counsel to the city’s CFO, Natwar M. Gandhi. Instead, he embezzled $250,000 in city funds to pay for a lavish wedding, honeymoon, and a Mercedes-Benz. His falsification of credentials would have been exposed with a thorough background check.

The headaches continued in 2008, when the DC tax office was hit by a $48 million tax refund embezzlement scandal. According to the Post, Stephen Cordi was hired by Gandhi at that time to restructure the tax office and tighten up then-lax background screening process. An internal report recently obtained by The Washington Post stated that “Cordi felt that without some pre-employment screening, bad hiring decisions are made. Hiring an unqualified, ill equipped or morally corrupt employee can be even more costly before they are fereted [sic] out and terminated.”

A report from the city auditor revealed that background checks are not being done pre-hire, but in fact despite recommendations to the contrary, are being conducted in-house, and only after employees are hired. Tax office chief Cordi defended the office’s practices in a written statement, saying past problems “have long-since been addressed to the satisfaction of internal and external auditors, although, like all other internal controls, they are constantly reviewed and improved.”

The hiring issues in D.C. are shared by employers in the private sector. We have recently seen top level executives caught falsifying credentials–Scott Thompson (Former CEO of Yahoo.inc) lied about a computer science degree, and RadioShack CEO David Edmondson resigned in 2006 after falsifying two degrees and after news surfaced that he had been charged and was facing trial for drunk driving. What is clear from the Post’s report is that background screening, when done right, can prevent crime in the workplace.  Failure to conduct thorough screenings can result in bad hires– at the expense of employers, government, consumers and taxpayers alike.

You Had Me At Hello: Background Screening, Your Brand and the Candidate Experience

Long before their first day, your employees are forming critical first impressions of your company and your brand. Yet employers are only just beginning to grasp the importance of the candidate experience in attracting and securing top talent. One make-or-break piece of that experience? The all-important (yet all too often poorly handled) background check.

EmployeeScreenIQ’s article, You Had Me At Hello: Background Screening, Your Brand and the Candidate Experience, is a must-read for employers and HR professionals. Written by background screening authority Nick Fishman, the article reveals how background checks can directly impact your company’s image with candidates, both positively and negatively, and how to enhance and protect your brand through transparency, verification and proper selection of a screening firm.

Employment Background Screening, Your Brand and the Candidate Experience

Screenshot of webinar - Job Applicants Do the Darndest Things: How HR Can Spot Candidates Who Game the System

Last week I had the privilege of attending an enlightening discussion led by Robert Johnson, Director of Economic Analysis at Morningstar, on today’s labor market and how the greater economy continues to impact employment.  And one of the seminal messages communicated was that we should all stop reading the news paper.

Sure, the economy isn’t great and unemployment is still too high, but Johnson talked about some of the fundamentals that aren’t being reported.  For instance, unemployment is at just 4% for those who have a college degree.  He pointed out that are a number sectors that can’t hire enough people, highlighting the fact that it is becoming impossible to fill some of the available positions (i.e. engineers or nurses).  He talked about how the economies in Europe and Asia are far worse off than we are and how us consumer confidence and spending has been brisk for quite some time.  And the big observation was that the housing sector appears to be on the rise.  Put all of these factors together, and Johnson is encouraged by the prospect of continued job creation over the next year.  That’s great news for all of us.

As I had an opportunity to digest this information, my prevailing thought was that employers will again have to return to ensuring the best possible candidate experience.  To their credit, many have recognized this and “improving the candidate experience” has been HR’s favorite buzz phrase for a while now.  In most instances, employers have embraced this concept and made the hiring process better.  But there is one key area we still think the candidate experience is being overlooked and that is applying it their employment background screening process.

We have a few ideas in this regard and thought we would take the opportunity to update an article we published a couple years ago on the topic.  Everything starts with the premise that no matter if you have something to hide or not, an employment background check can be a scary process.  We’ve all seen stories about people being turned away from jobs based on information that belonged to someone else.  In some cases, these people weren’t afforded their rights to dispute the information.

You Had Me At Hello: Background Screening, Your Brand and the Candidate Experience, is a must-read for employers and HR professionals. The article reveals how background checks can directly impact your company’s image with candidates, both positively and negatively, and how to enhance and protect your brand through transparency, verification and proper selection of a screening firm.

Download the Article Here