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Brrrrr it’s cold . . . and snowy . . . and icy!!!! No, this isn’t my way of forcing uncomfortable chitchat while we wait for a conference call to start. I actually have a point here.

The Winter of 2014 is wreaking havoc on employment background checks. More specifically, the winter weather has caused more courts to close in more jurisdictions across the country than I ever remember. And when the courts close, that delays criminal background checks. It seems like everyday I am receiving notices from multiple courts indicating that they are closed due to weather. Just within the last couple weeks, we were notified that all courts in the Kansas City area were closed as well as throughout the state of Missouri, Kansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee (parts of), Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Kentucky.

Even those in the Southeast portion of the country aren’t immune to this winter’s inclement weather. Last week, courts throughout the state of Alabama were closed due to winter storms and though I haven’t yet received any notifications today, I’d be shocked if the courts are open in North Carolina and Georgia.

Other Than Building A Snowman, What Can You Do?

Unfortunately, the short answer to this question is all that you can do is wait.

Twiddling your thumbs isn’t for you?  Here are a few words of advice.

  • If you are requesting employment background checks in any of the affected areas, it is important to be prepared for how you might handle these delays. Do you need to postpone start dates? Should you be reaching out to the candidate so that they don’t feel like they are twisting in the wind? Is the start date so important that you might be willing to allow them to begin working while the background check is still processing? (For the record, I really don’t like this option).
  • The good news is that most of these courts only close for a day or two at most, so hopefully that won’t affect a candidate’s start date. However, when delays do occur, it is important not to deviate from your company’s safety and security policies. Any good background screening company will keep you informed about these delays so that you can plan accordingly.
  • Further, just because your criminal background check is delayed shouldn’t mean that the other elements of your background check will be. Things like Motor Vehicle Records, Credit Reports, National Criminal Database checks, Employment and Education Verifications should still proceed as usual. It is okay to review these results, just don’t make your final hiring decision until the all of the information (including the criminal background check) is complete.



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Credit Reports in Employment Background Checks

Our friend Pam Devata at Seyfarth & Shaw blogged yesterday that Colorado became the ninth state to prohibit the use of employment credit reports in hiring. As Pam reports, Colorado’s law will prohibit employers from using “consumer credit information” for employment purposes.

Colorado joins eight other states–California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont and Washington—in restricting access to consumer credit in the hiring process. The rational for the state action is summarized in the bill’s introduction: [...]

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I have a confession to make.  I’ve looked back on all of my blog posts from this past year and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: I’m angry.  Angry at the the EEOC for introducing new criminal background check guidelines which I believe are unclear and unfair to employers.  Angry at fellow background screening companies when they don’t do everything in their power to ensure accurate employee background checks and for giving those that are against what we do fodder to oppose us.  And angry at organizations that fail to perform proper due diligence on prospective employees, especially those working with children.  I suppose someone could have staged an intervention when I started using the photo above on some of my posts or added “Rants” as a blog category (which is what I’m categorizing this blog as).

Why am I so angry?   [...]

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You can’t be too careful when it comes to employee background checks these days. Just yesterday, The Onion reported that a PetSmart background check gave a gerbil their stamp of approval with a clean record. Shortly after it was sold to its Los Angeles family, it became immediately apparent that this gerbil was not fit to live in a home. His behaviors included hoarding pellets, maniacally shredding wood chips, and hiding in dark holes, according to the family. This mishap is clearly the result of a faulty background check. [...]

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I came across this article yesterday while perusing the internet! As the unemployment crisis improves, organizations are looking for the best way to find, recruit and hire new talent.  This latest survey from Silkroad Technology uncovers where employers are in fact finding their talent!  This latest study; “Recruitment Marketing Effectiveness: Meaningful Metrics Straight From the Source” is now available via their website!

To me, the most intriguing finding is that internal sources, such as employee referrals, inside hires, walk-ins and a company’s career site, produce almost twice the number of hires as external ones, which include job search engines, job boards, print advertising, and job fairs.  I am sure my good friend Ron Bower, of the Bower Consulting Group would agree, he has been preaching this for years!  (Shameless plug for his article written a few years ago on EmployeeScreen Univeristy). You are probably asking yourself how I am going to tie this into background checks and employment screening?  I’m not, the point is you can’t have quality screens until you find good talent!

New Research Shows Where Employers Find Their New Hires

Have you ever wondered where companies find their most qualified candidates and new hires? We have the answer: referrals and their own company career sites.

SilkRoad technology, a global provider of social talent management solutions, has teamed up with more than 700 of its customers to uncover which recruitment methods yield the largest number of interviews and hires. It released its findings in a new report titled “Recruitment Marketing Effectiveness: Meaningful Metrics Straight From the Source.”

It turns out that job applications who come in through internal sources get the same number of interviews as ones from outside. However, internal sources, such as employee referrals, inside hires, walk-ins and a company’s career site, produce almost twice the number of hires as external ones, which include job search engines, job boards, print advertising, and job fairs.

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ap steve jobs apple wy 120209 wblog Steve Jobs FBI File: Bomb Threat, Drug Use Noted in Background Check

In 1991, Apple’s Steve Jobs was asked to submit to a background check in order to secure his appointment by President George H.W. Bush (not Dubbya).  I found two of the finding interesting.

  • There were many allegations of drug use
  • A common theme among those interviewed cited an integrity issue.

Now, let’s just say that this wasn’t Steve Jobs.  How would this affect your average Joe’s ability to secure a job?

Check out this excerpt from ABC News concerning Jobs’ alleged drug use:

“[Name redacted] also advised that he was aware that Mr. Jobs used illegal drugs, including marijuana and LSD while they were attending college.”

While mere allegations of drug use are probably not reason enough to deny employment, an employer would be well within its rights to perform a drug test.  Plus, another thing to bear in mind is that the person was referring to drug use when Jobs was in college, not even in the recent past.

The second item is very interesting to me; the issue of trustworthyness and integrity.  On that the ABC News Story offers the following:

It [the background check] reveals no felony convictions and dryly lists lawsuits in which Jobs was involved, but also cites unnamed associates who mentioned Jobs’ drug use and questioned his “honesty.”

Wow!  This is indeed interesting.  We’ve heard a lot of negative stories about Jobs’ behavior and general demeanor in the office.  Now, we’re also learning that his colleagues didn’t trust him.

So I ask, if you were to receive such information while conducting a reference interview and you didn’t know anything about the applicant, would you have hired the person?

In this case, not hiring him would have been one of the most monumental hiring mistakes of all time.

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CBS3 in Philadelphia is reporting that former Penn State coach, Jerry Sandusky was denied the opportunity to coach at a local college because the school saw that he was under investigation at the time they conducted a background check.  Well, thank goodness for that.

It’s been quite a year for those involved in the background screening industry: employers, consumer reporting agencies, attorneys, etc.  Every time we turn around it seems the industry is being attacked and accused of being the sole reason why people cannot find jobs.  And sure, it’s easy for these folks to file suit against, conduct studies unfavorable to background checks and to create a media storm about people that are denied work.  There are a lot of stats they can rely on and in many cases, twist to prove their point.

However, on our side of the equation, the stats are hard to come by.  How do you prove that you prevented loss, violence, a bad hire when you didn’t hire the person because the background check gave you pause?  Well, unfortunately, this Sandusky case helps us prove our point.  Being denied this job might not have stopped him from abusing others, but it wasn’t going to happen at this school.

Do we need further proof that background checks work; that they are a vital part of the hiring process?  Do we need to continue to prove that children’s lives were not altered, that families weren’t shaken to their core, and that the employer wouldn’t be responsible for millions of dollars in damages?

It’s time for those who oppose what we do to take a good look at the whole picture.  There are many ways to address the problems of former convicts finding work, combating recidivism and not create a disparate class of those who are unemployable.  They just can’t come at the expense others.

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As the Occupy Wall Street protests continue to gather steam and garner national attention, I’ve been thinking about how to correlate this anti-corporate sentiment as it relates to the background screening services we provide.  There have been a number of arrests, whether for disorderly conduct or violence which will inevitably lead to convictions.  And those that express their opinions through social networking sites are creating a digital footprint of these same sentiments.

I’m not really sure I have an intelligent opinion on the merits of these rallies or the lack thereof.  And let’s face it, who cares if I do?  However, the question I have is how this activity may affect their future employment prospects.  We all know that people’s political belief’s are not supposed to be considered in employment decisions.  But how about anti-business sentiment?  Will it scare employers away?  Will arrests and, or convictions for civil disobedience cause employers to move to the next candidate?  There is no real precedence for the answers to these questions.

It would have been interesting to see how these activities would have been viewed by employers had background checks been in vogue in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s protests over things such as racial equality and the Vietnam War.

I suspect that the backlash to participants, specifically those convicted of criminal activity, will be punished by both the justice system as well by future employers.  As far as participation in these rallies and online rhetoric designed to incite people, we’ll just have to see.

What do you think?

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Background checks uncover dirt on candidates

Background checks on this year’s field of 36 City Council candidates uncovered a felon, alcohol-related offenses, assault arrests, deadbeat parents, financial woes and a particularly vindictive divorce.

Each municipal election cycle, the Tulsa World relies upon records and databases from courts, jails, law enforcement and government agencies to vet those seeking public office.

The checks revealed current and past issues with 13 of the 36 candidates.

The city’s municipal primary is set for Sept. 13 and general election Nov. 8.

District 1: Democrat Jason Trent Jr., 45, is a convicted felon.

In 1994, Trent pleaded guilty in Tulsa County District Court for failing to return rental property, including a TV and VCR.

Trent was fitted with an ankle monitor, which he eventually cut off and left for Oklahoma City.

As a result, Trent was charged with escape, which he pleaded guilty to in 1995 and spent about 18 months at Jess Dunn Correctional Center in Taft.

“This all goes back to when I was addicted to crack cocaine and making a lot of bad choices,” he said.

“I’ll be honest with you, I was a straight up (screw) up.”

Trent said he has been “clean and sober” for 15 years, but when the Tulsa World brought up a 2001 charge for marijuana possession, he said he meant he was clean off of crack cocaine for that period.

Trent added he hasn’t used any illegal substances since that 2001 arrest.

In that case, Trent pleaded guilty in Tulsa County on charges of speeding, driving with a suspended license, obstructing a police officer and marijuana possession. He received a one-year suspended sentence.

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It’s that time of year when the ice cream trucks start patrolling the streets looking for their target customers – kids on summer vacation.  I remember the excitement of hearing the ice cream truck coming and tearing across my front lawn into the house to ask my mother and father for a dollar to buy any one of my favorite ice cream treats - the pink panther ice cream bar with the bubblegum eyes, an orange sherbet push up, a red white and blue rocket popsicle…just to name a few.  But I can honestly say I never once thought about who I was buying that treat from! 

One of our neighboring counties is though - just in time to kick off the summer season.  While one could argue that conducting background checks on these drivers should have always been mandatory, it’s better late than never.  Here’s hoping other communities follow suit!

Summit County officials push for ice cream truck driver screenings

AKRON, Ohio – Summit County officials are considering tougher restrictions on ice cream truck drivers.

“It’s been brought to my attention, some of them could be selling drugs out of them or be sexual predators and is in close contact with your kids. To me, it just didn’t sit well,” said Summit County Council President Jerry Feeman.

Feeman is behind the legislation similar to city of Barberton, requiring drivers to get a background check before getting behind the wheel of an ice cream truck.

The drivers would also have to be fingerprinted by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. Under the proposal, people with an offense against a child, a sex offense, recent drug, assault or weapons conviction, or a homicide conviction wouldn’t be given a license.

“I’m not a big fan of legislating, legislating different things, but it just makes sense,” Feeman said.

He said the proposal would cover only ice cream truck drivers and not affect other groups that fall under the solicitor category, like Boy Scouts or high school groups, selling door to door for fundraising.

Bob Tanner has been an ice cream man in Ohio for 20 years. He’s now selling his ice cream truck to focus on his other food business, but he agrees something should be done.

“It would probably be a wise idea, especially no violent felonies,” Tanner said.

Feeman told ONN the legislation should be passed Monday.

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