Posted in Department of Labor, Federal law
On “Equal Pay Day,” which took place on April 8, President Obama issued two executive orders that will attempt to close the pay gap for women and minorities.
Obama’s first order was that federal contractors would not be allowed to retaliate against their employees for discussing compensation. The second order stated that the U.S. Department of Labor should regulate and require federal contractors to provide data on their employees’ compensation.
“Equal Pay Day” is meant to bring attention to the fact that women and minorities are often paid less to do the same jobs as their white, male counterparts. Female White House staffers currently only earn 88 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts earn.
By allowing employees to discuss their compensation, contractors will be able to better detect discriminatory hiring behavior. President Obama noted that as contractors provide that information about employee pay to the Department of Labor, they will be better able to note discriminatory practices and therefore can make efforts to close the pay gap. He encouraged the Department of Labor to minimize the burden on federal contractors, as possible.
There is concern that these executive orders do little to actually close the wage gap, since the National Labor Relations Board has previously agreed that both union and non-union employees have the right to discuss compensation without fear of losing their jobs or other forms of retaliation. However, the executive order does expand this protection to cover federal employees, including those who work for airlines and railroads, who may not have been previously covered by the NLRB sanctions.
The Department of Labor has 160 days to implement these executive orders, and 120 days to propose regulations on how federal contractors should report compensation data, including breaking down summary reports by gender and race.
photo credit: taih via photopin cc
Posted in EEOC, Facebook background checks, social media background checks
Social media sites are a great resource when you’re looking to recruit new hires. However, there is concern that the information one can glean from social media sites — such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, to name a few — can cause discriminatory actions to take place, such as a qualified candidate being passed over due to age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or other factors.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) met in March to determine how social media’s prevalence impacts anti-discrimination laws, which the EEOC enforces. The EEOC understands that, now more than ever, social media is prevalent in the workplace and has become a great tool for recruiting, while also being rife with discrimination pitfalls. Here are some ways employers and social media can peacefully coexist, without your business risking a discrimination lawsuit.
Use social media to keep employees informed.
Social media is first and foremost a way to share information, and your business is welcome to do so. Utilizing a business Facebook page, Pinterest account, Twitter handle or blog allows employers and social media to interact by sharing company information, industry trends, new products or services, and other news with both customers and staff without treading on any discrimination laws.
Utilize an impartial third party.
When conducting social media checks on a potential candidate, ask an employee that is not involved in the hiring decision to discern factors that you want or do not want in a potential employee. Also, utilize only the information that the candidate has made publicly available, and do not request passwords. (Four states already have laws about employers and social media usernames or passwords, and several others have litigation pending.)
Keep your HR department aware of online harassment.
Harassment can include comments or actions that relate to one’s race, age, sexual orientation, gender and ethnicity, and should not be tolerated in the workplace. However, just because it happens outside the workplace does not mean that an employee’s misconduct toward a co-worker is not the responsibility of the company. Online interactions between employees should always be appropriate, even during non-work hours. Include a note in your company’s handbook that any harassment, whether it takes place online or in person, should be reported to Human Resources.
For more information about ways to avoid EEOC lawsuits over social media issues, contact Mind Your Business today.
photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc
Posted in criminal background check
The U.S. Department of Defense has announced that they will begin the implementation of random background checks for department personnel who hold security clearances. The department previously has only run background checks prior to hiring, and when security clearances must be renewed; this can mean that a significant length of time — up to 10 years — can pass between each screening.
According to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, conducting random checks will allow the department to be alerted to information such as an employee’s recent arrest, which they may not find out about otherwise.
The changes come less than a year after 12 people were killed in a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. The shooter, Aaron Alexis, held a security clearance, and commanders failed to report incidences of “disturbing behavior.” There is question whether, had Alexis undergone more frequent scrutiny, the tragedy could have been avoided.
The Office of Management and Budget specified that the random employee criminal history checks should be done by priority of the position each employee maintains. The Department of Defense will also take into account suggestions from an independent review, including suggestions that background checks should be conducted internally and that the number of people holding security clearances should be reduced by 10 percent. The latter opinion is because the number of security clearances approved each year has tripled over the last 13 years.
Hagel said the Department will also be creating a Defense Insider Threat Management and Analysis Center to look into internal threats.
Posted in background check, background legislation, EEOC
New discrimination lawsuits filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may be causing some employers to re-consider their own pre-employment background screening practices in hopes of avoiding similar lawsuits. There has been concern about employers’ ability to conduct background checks while complying with the EEOC’s anti-discrimination laws; their Strategic Enforcement Plan was revised and re-released in 2012. In 2013, the EEOC filed 131 lawsuits, including suits against Dollar General and BMW.
“We have an obligation to move beyond the ‘safe’ cases, and to identify and address less familiar discriminatory barriers emerging from changes in the economy, technology and demographics,” said P. David Lopez, the EEOC’s General Counsel.
In 2013, the EEOC filed several lawsuits against employers who conducted background checks, claiming they were discriminatory because pre-employment background screening unfairly targets black and Hispanic males with criminal records.
Pre-employment background screening is still important to the safety and effectiveness of your business, and you should continue to utilize checks during the hiring process. Consider the guidelines for smart screening practices below.
- A criminal history should not immediately eliminate a candidate from consideration (keeping in mind that schools and care facilities must comply with additional laws for hiring practices). Each candidate should be considered based on the position he or she is applying for; for non-violent crimes, criminal history should only be a factor if the previous offense(s) are related to the position for which the candidate is applying. The number of offenses committed, post-conviction employment history, and attempts to rehabilitate should all be taken into account.
- Ensure policies are in place — and in writing — for fair hiring practices. While you shouldn’t say that anyone with an arrest record is disqualified, you may say, for example, that if any applicant is dishonest on an application, the applicant will be immediately disqualified. Avoid discriminatory language.
- Avoid conducting credit reports or reviews on every candidate; limit it to candidates applying for positions in which purchasing power or knowledge of financial information is required for the position.
- Ensure you comply with all state and federal regulations in addition to the ones set out by the EEOC. The best way to ensure compliance is to hire a certified pre-employment background screening company that has kept up with the law and knows how to keep your company safe from litigation.
For more information about how to avoid lawsuits over your screening practices, contact Mind Your Business.
Posted in drug screening
Because marijuana use can turn up on drug tests, some have turned to the use of a synthetic version of the drug in order to keep usage under wraps. The synthetic version of the drug, which is called “Spice,” utilizes different chemical compounds than marijuana, but has a similar effect on the brain as non-synthetic cannabis. It is also harder for drug tests to detect. Two researchers at the Air Force Academy hope to change that.
Air Force Academy professor Dr. Timm Knoerzer and senior cadet Jacob Krimbill have been working to create a method of detecting Spice, by re-creating the body’s metabolic processes and determining what the drug’s chemical compounds would look like after absorption. To do this, the two had to “boil down” Spice into its purest form and use laboratory space to re-create the effects of human bodily systems.
“It’s like chemical Legos,” said Knoerzer, who has a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical chemistry.
Airmen are more likely to use the synthetic version to prevent drug tests from turning up positive. If Knoerzer and Krimbill succeed in their efforts, drug tests will be able to determine the presence of Spice in the body, even weeks after the fact. Their research may also lead to more knowledge of how chemistry can work in unison with the body.
The two continue to work on research, subjecting their samples to a variety of tests to ensure they’re heading in the right direction. The Air Force Academy’s student-run research work is a point of pride for the campus, and many similar research projects have received federal funding.
Posted in Mind Your Business, MYB, NAPBS
Mind Your Business will be attending this weekend’s 2014 National Association of Professional Background Screeners’ Mid-Year Legislative and Regulatory Conference. The conference will take place in Arlington, Virginia, from April 6-8. The event will include speakers and breakout sessions, an exhibit showcase, and opportunities to work with legislators on screening policy.
Mind Your Business is accredited by the NAPBS.
Conference attendees will hear from speakers such as Jacqueline Berrien, Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. They will also have the opportunity to join panel sessions on topics related to the background screening industry, including recent developments and challenges in employment screening, FTC regulations in the screening industry, and ways to protect your business or organization through data security.
Attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in Capitol Hill Day, working to make positive legislative changes for the background screening industry. In addition, attendees who have completed the FCRA Basic Certification will have the opportunity to go through the Advanced Certification program.
For more information about the conference, visit the NAPBS website.
Posted in ban the box, criminal record
Charlotte, N.C., joins with other large cities such as Seattle and San Francisco in their decision to “ban the box” by removing questions from job applications regarding an applicant’s criminal history.
City job applicants were previously required to inform a potential employer if they had “ever pled guilty to, or been convicted of, a crime other than a minor traffic violation” by checking a box on the job application. City Manager Ron Carlee has ensured that the question has been removed from all applications for city jobs that do not affect public safety or city statutes.
“It sends the message to people who have paid their debt to society that you can get a fair shake,” said Charlotte School of Law professor Jason Huber.
The jobs that have not eliminated the question include positions in law enforcement or airport security, for example. These positions will still include this question on applications for reasons of public safety. But qualified candidates for other positions will not be eliminated in the early hiring process due to a previous conviction.
A North Carolina background check will also not be conducted on any specific candidate early on in the process, further reducing the chances of his or her immediate disqualification. The city will still run background checks on finalists for a given job, but will not declare a candidate ineligible based only on criminal history. Instead, each finalist will be considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on how their history may affect their ability to work in the position for which they are applying.
Rhode Island and several other states and cities have implemented or are currently considering ban-the-box legislation.
Posted in background check process, reference check
Whether you’re leasing an apartment or renting out office space, your job is to fill the openings with tenants that will help you maintain your investment and avoid potential liabilities. If you suspect a potential renter will not pay on time or will cause excessive damage to the property, you have to do what’s in your best interest to protect your assets, and find another candidate. Here are some things to consider when looking for tenants for your property or complex.
Who are their previous employers and landlords?
When you’re looking for a renter, you want to put your property in the hands of someone you can trust. Contacting a candidate’s previous employers and landlords — not just the most recent one — can give you a good picture of the kind of person you would be renting to. Is that person reliable? Honest and trustworthy? Can they be trusted to make payments on time? (If contacting a previous employer, a good alternate question would be, “Can they be trusted to meet deadlines?” If yes, it indicates that the candidate takes other people’s time and money seriously.)
Unfortunately, just as with job applications, not every potential renter will be completely honest on the rental application. This is why you should not only rely on contacting the current landlord; if he or she is desperate to get the tenant off their property, they may be willing to lie just to get rid of their own liability.
How does their credit look?
You will have to get permission from a potential renter to look up a credit report, but this documentation can give you a good picture of the candidate’s payment history. It can tell you if they’ve fallen behind on payments in the past, if they have anything tied up in court cases, and if they’ve declared bankruptcy in recent years. None of these things are necessarily absolute deal-breakers, but you will want to keep them in mind when considering the application.
Do they have a criminal history?
You cannot discriminate against a candidate just because they have a criminal record; however, depending on where your facility, rental home or apartment complex is, you do need to be aware of it, especially if a candidate is a sex offender, or is on the sex offender registry. Sex offenders must not take up residence within certain areas near schools and other facilities where children may be present, even if the crime was not against a child.
Because these checks can be extensive — especially if a potential renter is coming from another state — it may be beneficial to work with a background screening service to ensure you have all the proper documentation to safely make a decision. For more information about what Mind Your Business can do for you, contact us today.
Posted in background check, criminal background check
Texas’ Harris County, which includes Houston and its surrounding suburbs, has announced via press release that the county’s district clerk offers free criminal background checks for the county’s residents. Because the county records are matters of public record, anyone could acquire this information by going to or calling the county clerk’s office. Now, you can simply go to hcdistrictclerk.com and cut out the middleman.
The county has records from 1977 onward up on the website, though juvenile records are not included. More than 4 million residents call Harris County home.
The ability to conduct local checks could help residents to ensure any contractors or service people they hire are reputable; residents can also ensure neighborhood safety or check out suspicious behavior. All that is required to look up a person’s criminal history is their name and the year they were born.
While this service allows community members to conduct local searches, District Clerk Chris Daniel says that this service is not an alternate to federal or international background checks. When making hiring decisions, a nationwide, or even international, screening program or service would be a better option, as it can bring back records from other counties and states, and can provide information about any arrests and convictions that occurred outside the county. The website only includes records from Harris County, and does not include state records or those from any area outside county lines.
Having this service available is a good option for Harris County employers to do preliminary background searches, but if you are seriously considering a new employee, especially in the childcare or service industries, you’ll need to dig deeper into a candidate’s history during pre-employment screening in order to ensure the safety of your employees and anyone who may be in your employees’ care. In addition, not all county records are properly reported, as was the case when ride-sharing service UberX discovered some of its drivers in Dallas and Chicago had passed employee criminal history checks despite having felony records. Be diligent in doing background searches on employees for your business’ sake.
For more information about conducting county or federal checks, contact Mind Your Business.
Posted in background investigations, criminal record, employment, nursing homes
In California, those who work for daycare centers and elderly care facilities — as well as those who wish to be foster parents — must undergo employee criminal history background checks. In addition, the California Department of Social Services requires that, if someone is arrested but not convicted of a crime, they must still undergo a background investigation prior to being reinstated, or “cleared,” as a potential foster parent or care worker.
In February, it was discovered that the department has been providing letters of notification to facilities, clearing employees who had not yet undergone employee criminal history investigations. The notice to “inform you that this person currently has a criminal record clearance” allows employees to return to work before an investigation has taken place, because California “cannot delay someone’s ability to work,” and employee criminal history investigations may take anywhere from four to six months to complete.
The investigations are intended to turn up repeat allegations and determine whether an employee should be allowed to return to work — even if they have not been convicted — on a case-by-case basis. The department’s goal is to ensure the safety of the facility’s other employees, residents, and those in their care by conducting these investigations.
In the instances in which the charges are dropped, an employee is declared not guilty, or a conviction was not made, an employee may still get his or her job back following the investigation. However, even those who are arrested on felony charges are receiving clearance letters to work in daycare facilities and nursing homes — sometimes after being arrested for child abuse, attempted murder, sexual abuse and assault — before the investigations have been completed. (Those who are convicted of their crimes are unable to work in care facilities or allowed to foster children in the future, though there have been recent examples of negligent hiring.)
The department began giving out these preliminary clearances after being threatened with lawsuits for the employee criminal history investigations taking too long for those who had been arrested but not convicted. The department can later revoke the clearance if there is reason to believe an employee should not remain in his or her position. However, parents of children, as well as children of the elderly, expect their loved ones to be receiving care by safe, secure, screened people, and these clearance letters provide a false sense of security to those families.
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