Posted in background screening, ban the box, criminal background checks, employment
After last month’s Senate vote to pass statewide ban-the-box legislation, the Virginia House of Delegates approved the new measure and Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed it into law on April 3. The new law requires state government job applications to remove all questions about an applicant’s criminal history.
The law allows for background checks to be conducted on these individuals after the candidate has been found to be qualified for the job; according to the order, this will only happen after a candidate has been deemed eligible for a position, is being considered for a specific position, and has signed a waiver authorizing the state to conduct these checks.
Provided the candidate signs the waiver, he or she cannot be turned down for the job unless former convictions are specifically related to the position for which the candidate is applying, or if convictions prevent him or her from working in certain capacities.
“We should not seal the fate of every man and woman with a criminal record based on a hasty verdict,” said Gov. McAuliffe. “If they are eager to make a clean start and build new lives in their communities, they deserve a fair chance at employment.”
While the order only applies to state jobs, it encourages private employers to take similar action on their job applications. Several private employers, including Target and Wal-Mart, have already removed criminal history questions from job applications in Virginia.
Gov. McAuliffe also cited statistics about criminal history questions disproportionally screening out people of color; this law is an attempt to reduce the “unequal impact on our minority families,” according to Gov. McAuliffe.
According to the National Employment Law Project, an estimated 70 million Americans have some kind of criminal record.
Virginia is now the 15th state — not including Washington D.C. — to have ban-the-box legislation on the books.
photo credit: Application – pen via photopin (license)
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, failing drug tests
Although it has been seven years since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee has plans to continue screening past competitors and medalists for performance-enhancing drugs. If it finds drugs in the samples that it collected before and during the 2008 Games, the IOC can still strip winners of their medals.
The IOC will also be testing samples from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games in London, though those are of a lower priority, as the statute of limitations for drug-testing samples from athletes is 10 years.
The reason the IOC has waited so long to re-test the Beijing samples? Drug testing technology continues to improve over time, and newer tests may be able to detect drugs that six- and seven-year-old tests weren’t able to catch.
“Who knows what tests are going to be developed over the next two years?” asked IOC Medical Director Richard Budgett. “It makes a lot of sense to wait another couple of years for [testing the samples of] the majority.” Budgett estimates that the number of samples to be re-tested will be “in the hundreds.”
Some Olympians that were suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs back in 2008 — but were not caught — have already had their samples re-tested, and may continue to be re-tested until the statute of limitations runs out in 2018. (The statute of limitations was recently extended from eight years to 10, thanks to the World Anti-Doping Code.)
Those athletes that are likely to be competing in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games may also have their past samples more heavily scrutinized.
At least six athletes from the 2008 and 2012 Games have already been stripped of their medals since re-testing began. Samples from previous Olympics have been stored in a Swiss laboratory since 2004.
photo credit: BEIJING OLYMPICS via photopin (license)
Posted in criminal background checks, prescription drugs
In mid-March the New Mexico state Senate and House of Representatives both, separately, approved measures that take steps to decriminalize marijuana and ensure that licensed medical marijuana providers do not have felony criminal records.
State legislators have made clear that, despite these new bills, the state is not yet ready to legalize cannabis.
“This is not legalization,” said Senate bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes. “This is decriminalization of less than one ounce.”
Decriminalizing possession of less than one ounce of marijuana barely passed Senate scrutiny, with a vote of 21-20. It appears that the bill did not survive the House chopping block. That bill suggested tickets and $50 fines for possession of less than an ounce, and also lesser penalties — though still a misdemeanor charge — for possession of up to eight ounces of the drug.
Slightly less controversial was the House Bill, which would require medical marijuana providers to pass criminal background checks. That bill passed the House 34-24, and would disqualify job applicants from being considered to work in medical marijuana dispensaries or for licensed producers if the applicant has previous drug-related felonies on their record. Ensuring this would require fingerprint background checks and criminal background checks to be set up through the Department of Health.
“I think what we’re trying to do is take a preemptive step to make sure the program stays steady and there are no problems with it,” said sponsor Rep. Paul Pacheco.
According to Pacheco, the state has 23 licensed providers registered in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, and 387 people are employed within the program.
Posted in EEOC, employment, Federal law
A few weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court began to hear a religious discrimination case that began back in 2008. In that case, then-17-year-old Samantha Elauf was interviewed for a job at an Abercrombie Kids in Oklahoma, and received high scores and an indication that she would be called back for orientation. She never received that call, and a friend who worked at the store told her that it was because the headscarf Elauf wore in the interview was not compatible with the company’s dress code. Elauf is Muslim, and wears a headscarf in public.
After her case was brought to court in 2011, Elauf received $20,000 in damages, but soon afterwards that award was overturned in a higher court because Elauf had not requested a religious exemption from Abercrombie’s dress code at the time of the interview.
So does the responsibility fall on the individual to request religious exemptions at the time of the interview, or on the company to make those exceptions without it being formally requested in instances where religious expression is clearly at play? The Supreme Court is expected to determine that, likely within the next few months.
In the meantime, employers can avoid getting sued for religious discrimination by erring on the side of caution. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects applicants or employees from being discriminated against due to religious garb and grooming practices, and employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodation for an applicant or employee’s beliefs in regards to their appearance, provided that doing so does not provide “undue hardship” on the business.
For all applicants, regardless of religion or appearance, companies should take care to ensure applicants are aware that a job offer is contingent on being able to perform essential job functions and meet conditions such as dress code. If it appears that an applicant may be in need of an exemption, the EEOC agrees that “the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request” at the point of hire.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, employee drug screening, prescription drugs
At the end of February, Alaska officially legalized recreational use of marijuana for citizens that are over the age of 21. However, employers in the state — and in fact, across the country in other states in which recreational or medical cannabis is used — find that they are not sure how to handle employee drug tests when the drug in question is no longer illegal.
Alaska has a large number of jobs in oil, gas, transportation and similar fields, where safety is of the utmost importance, and so of course employers are concerned about employees arriving to work impaired. But it may take some individuals taking their cases to court before it is determined how far employers may go in reprimanding or even firing employees for marijuana use, when it is on the employees’ own time and is not affecting the ability to work.
Similar problems have arisen in Colorado, and at least one court case has found its way to the state Supreme Court. There is also a precedent in Alaska from a state Supreme Court case in 1982, that employees may be fired for failing drug tests provided there is a “nexus between the use and the work.”
Neither state, nor any of the others that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, can take cues from federal law, as marijuana usage is still illegal at the federal level.
The legislation that allowed marijuana legalization to be voted on in Alaska — ballot measure 2 — stated that “[employers] have the right to make up their own rules about cannabis use.” Of course, it goes without saying that disciplinary action may be taken against an employee who shows up to work under the influence of any drug or alcohol.
“Alcohol is legal, but I imagine most jobs, if you show up drunk, you’re getting fired or disciplined,” said Jason Brandeis of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Justice Center.
The issue with drug testing for marijuana is that traces of cannabis can remain in one’s system for days or even weeks after use, so it can be difficult to determine when the drug was actually used.
One human resources consultancy has begun teaching classes for employers about how to create drug-testing policies that make it clear what company expectations are regarding drug use. Other employers think existing drug policies are still fine and should be left as-is.
Posted in babysitter, babysitting, background checks, nanny background checks, potential babysitter
Whether you’re looking to hire live-in help for your kids, need a five-day-a-week day care center or just need to find a sitter now and then, you want the best care you can give your children while you’re away. Hiring a nanny or day care that you can trust can seem like a difficult task if you don’t know where to start.
In order to ensure that your children will receive excellent care from a qualified and trustworthy individual, you’ll want to ensure that any potential caregiver has been properly and thoroughly screened. Here are six ways to ensure that your family will be in great hands.
Get references. Do you know other parents who entrust their children to a care center or nanny? Ask those families who they use, and whether they like and trust the people that are around their children. Find out who the individual caregivers are if it’s some kind of group care.
Contact previous families. A good nanny or babysitter will have a list of references of previous families they’ve worked for, and that’s a great place to start getting an idea of how this person works with the families and the children. If possible, try to set up an in-person meeting to interview former or current families. Write down questions you have so you don’t forget anything important when you’re interviewing.
Look at caregiver agencies. If you’re not able to get references from friends or colleagues, contact local nanny agencies and daycare centers. Speak with the directors and the individuals that work at the center. Ask about what kind of background checks they conduct and how often, and about any certifications or licenses they have. (The latter will help you determine if they are a reputable center or agency, and that they have the proper knowledge to keep your children safe in case of emergency.)
Check out individual certifications. Whether you’re checking out a care center or an individual nanny, ask what certifications the individual caregiver(s) have, and ask to see copies of licenses and certificates. Things like CPR and first aid certificates are a good start, and you can usually verify that they are accurate and up-to-date.
Conduct your own checks. Utilize a background screening company to conduct criminal history checks and employment verification to ensure the caregiver is who they say they are, and that they don’t have a criminal record.
Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t work with that person, center or agency. You have to trust the people that will be working with your family in order to feel confident about the care your kids are receiving.
For more information about conducting background checks on childcare providers, contact Mind Your Business.
Posted in EEOC, employment
In mid-March, Utah joined 18 other states — including the District of Columbia — in passing legislation preventing employers from discriminating against potential or current employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill that will amend the Utah Antidiscrimination Act.
The law does have some exceptions when it comes to defining which employers are required to adopt this law; due to the high population of Mormon residents, the bill exempts religious organizations and institutions from having to instate anti-discrimination practices, despite the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ stated support of the anti-discrimination law. (The law also exempts the Boy Scouts of America, though their website only lists the organization as a “values-based youth development organization” and not strictly a religious organization.)
The passing of this anti-discrimination law is great news for employees in Utah, though until the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission formally recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law, there is some risk of this newly signed law being overturned in the future, putting these same individuals back at risk of losing their jobs. (An example of this recently occurred in Kansas, as the state’s governor overturned anti-discrimination laws that were created via Executive Order by a previous governor; those laws had been in effect for eight years before being revoked by the current administration.)
The EEOC has recently gotten involved in a few lawsuits related to the treatment of transgender employees and job applicants. It is not clear if or when gender identity or sexual orientation might become protected under federal law.
Posted in background screening, criminal background checks, employment background screening, pre-employment background screening, student background checks
While some jobs require employees to pass all kinds of criminal background checks in order to begin work — jobs like teachers and police officers — other types of positions may not be so stringent. However, whether you think background checks are necessary or not, it’s always better to err on the safe side.
This subject was brought up when it was found that not all family fun centers or children’s organizations in Colorado screen their employees. (This is not such surprising news, as Colorado lawmakers recently shot down legislation requiring club sports volunteers and staff to undergo criminal background checks before allowing them to work with young athletes.) Spin City in Grand Junction, Colo., for example, provides family fun through bowling, laser tag, roller skating and an arcade, but does not conduct background checks on employees.
“We don’t do background checks here just for the simple fact that most of our staff is kids or young adults and most of them don’t really need to have a background check,” said Spin City’s Sheila Johnson. (Employees are, however, required to pass drug tests.) She said that most of Spin City’s employees are in high school or their first year of college.
Here are three reasons businesses — especially those whose employees will be interacting with children — should conduct criminal background checks.
1) Assumptions aren’t always accurate. Just because someone is young does not mean he or she is incapable of having a criminal or juvenile record. Even young adults can find themselves with a crime on record, and putting other people’s children in that situation, even via negligence, puts the company in danger of a lawsuit if something were to happen.
2) The EEOC could get involved. It’s one thing if the only people applying for a job at a particular company are teens and young adults, but it’s quite another to only hire young people in order to avoid the background check process. If an older candidate is denied a job due to age and chooses to sue, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may wind up getting involved, which can tie up your business in court for extensive amounts of time and money.
3) You’re putting the company, and its employees and clients, at risk. By not conducting background checks, you’re opening your business up to dangerous situations. What if your employee has a history of violence or theft? If you don’t screen, you’ll never know, and that can be a danger to your other employees or the customers you serve. It can also potentially open a door for lawsuits against your business.
Always conduct criminal background checks when you’re hiring employees, especially if the employee will be working with children, the elderly, or in other situations that could put other people in danger. Working with a background screening company will help you further, keeping up to date on existing screening laws.
Contact Mind Your Business today to learn more about the process of conducting criminal background checks.
Posted in background checks, criminal background checks, criminal record, public service
It was recently discovered that, for months, several counties in Ohio were having computer issues that prevented counties from providing arrest and criminal disposition records to a statewide database that law-enforcement officers use when making traffic stops. This miscommunication caused a lack of complete records for state and city police, and had the errors not been found, could have resulted in dangerous environments for police as well as the public.
In Ohio, police officers report arrests to the county, and after an individual has been through the court system, the county keeps records of criminal dispositions (how the case was handled). Each county is then supposed to send both kinds of records — and those from municipal and common courts — to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation each week for inclusion in the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG) database, which can be accessed by police officers all over the state. Then, when police pull over an individual on a traffic stop, ideally the officer would be able to access not only that person’s arrest record and court records, but also previous background check results. This helps the officer know to take caution if the person stopped has a warrant out for their arrest, if he or she has previously been convicted of a violent crime, or has previous drug arrests.
However, at least three counties in Ohio had trouble getting these records into the state database for extended periods of time. Hamilton County — where Cincinnati is located — had more than 12,000 disposition records go unreported over a seven-month span, though arrest records were always made available in OHLEG, and a second, county database had the disposition records available. Franklin County’s arrest and disposition records were not provided for 11 months, and Clark County was missing records for 15 months before the problem was given attention.
All three of these counties have since gotten their backlog of records into OHLEG, and the Ohio Attorney General is working with the counties to ensure that any computer problems are resolved so another situation like this does not occur in the future.
Posted in Department of Labor, employment
According to a news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has decreased slightly since January. The unemployment rate is now 5.5 percent, leaving 8.7 million people out of work.
In February, 295,000 new jobs were added across several fields, including healthcare, food and drinking establishments and business services. Only an average of 266,000 jobs were created per month over the previous year.
Fifty-nine thousand new jobs were added in food and drink places last month, which is significantly higher than the monthly average of 35,000 new jobs over the previous year. Likewise, retail trade saw 32,000 new jobs in February, up from its monthly average of about 26,000 jobs over the last 12 months.
Professional and business services saw 51,000 new jobs. Some of the sectors that saw increases were architectural and engineering services and computer systems design services (5,000 jobs each), as well as management and technical consulting services (7,000 new jobs).
Construction saw 29,000 new jobs in February, with the bulk of them being specialty trade contractor positions. Healthcare saw 24,000 jobs added, primarily in ambulatory care services. (For the healthcare industry, February had a slight dip in new jobs compared to the monthly average for the previous year.)
The number of jobs available for those in the mining and manufacturing industries dropped this month, however, as support for miners decreased, and as strikes within the manufacturing industry decreased petroleum- and coal-related jobs. Overall, manufacturing continued to trend up and saw 8,000 new jobs in the industry, despite the job losses (approximately 6,000). Mining jobs decreased by 9,000 positions.
Trade, financial services, and government sectors saw little change in February.
Next Page »