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.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy
With the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics just a year and change away, participating countries are starting to think about testing for performance-enhancing drugs. One country in particular has struggled with conducting out-of-competition drug tests, relying solely on international IAAF drug-testing results.
Craig Reedie, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency and VP of the International Olympic Committee, spent some time in Jamaica recently to check on the status of the country’s rebuilt drug-testing program, after it was discovered in 2013 that, in the six months before the 2012 Olympic Games in London, no out-of-competition drug screening was conducted on any of the country’s athletes.
Jamaica has taken home 28 medals in track and field events since the 2004 Summer Games. In 2013, eight Jamaican athletes tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
The purpose of Reedie’s visit was to ensure that Jamaica is re-establishing an anti-doping program, so that potential Olympic athletes will be able to undergo the rigors of pre-Games drug tests in the months before Rio de Janiero. After its visit, the WADA and Reedie are pleased with the country’s efforts.
“I have to say, nobody could be anything other than hugely impressed by the amount of work that has been done,” Reedie said. “From the WADA point of view, we are proud of what you have achieved.”
As part of its improvements, the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission has improved its staffing and budgets, and the country has also passed an anti-doping law. It is considering blood drug tests for the future.
In other news, golf will be considered an Olympic sport in 2016 for the first time since 1904. The PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem, has announced that any player that is eligible to compete in the Olympics as of May 6, 2015, will be subject to random drug testing during these months leading up to the 2016 summer games.
Posted in drug screening, Federal law, prescription drugs
As more and more states contemplate making medical marijuana legal (for those who have a doctor’s prescription), two U.S. Congressmen filed bills late last month in an attempt to end the federal government’s blanket ban on marijuana. The concern is that — while the current administration is fairly lax about enforcing the drug’s ban, allowing the states to determine if medical marijuana can or should be legalized — future administrations may crack down on federal bans and overturn all existing (and future) state laws that allow for legalized pot.
“While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters … to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration — or this one — could reverse course and turn them into criminals,” said Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, who introduced one of the two bills. “It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works, and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”
Together, if passed, the federal bills would relegate marijuana to the same class as alcohol, transferring its regulatory control to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as set up an excise tax on regulated cannabis. Neither bill would make marijuana legal in every state; it would still be up to each state to regulate and pass laws regarding its usage, production and sale.
Currently, four states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana usage, and 23 states have legalized cannabis for medical use. Meanwhile, other states continue to consider legalization.
Utah Sen. Mark Madsen has prepared a bill that would allow for medical marijuana dispensaries in the state — similar to state-run liquor stores — which could sell marijuana oils, lozenges and edible goods for those with a doctor’s diagnosis of specific medical problems. While Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has yet to see Sen. Madsen’s bill, his spokesman stated that he is opposed to medical marijuana being legal.
Tennessee is also considering two bills that state representatives hope will make medical marijuana legal. One of those bills would make it so users of the drug would not be able to be penalized by employers, landlords, educators or lawyers for utilizing the drug. Both bills are currently out at committee.
Posted in EEOC, employment
Back in December, we talked about President Obama’s Executive Order Final Rule, which was intended to prevent federal contractors from discriminating against potential employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Meanwhile, just last month Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback chose to rescind an Executive Order that was signed in 2007 by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, which prohibited Kansas state agencies from participating in employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In its place, Gov. Brownback signed a new Executive Order, which stated that Kansas would uphold its commitment to bar discrimination for other Equal Employment Opportunity Commission-protected classes, which include race, ethnicity, gender and religion.
“This Executive Order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous Order did,” said Gov. Brownback. “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the Legislature and not through unilateral action.”
While Kansas maintains laws that prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in private hiring and housing, those that are employed by state agencies will no longer have the same job protection that was promised to them under the 2007 Order. However, because the law had already been in place for eight years, some employees may have chosen to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity over that time. Those that did could find that their jobs are at risk now.
“It’s an outrage, an absolute outrage. I can conceive of no justifiable reason for doing this,” said Equality Kansas Executive Director Tom Witt.
The EEOC does not currently include sexual orientation or gender identity in its protected classes, though in November it filed its first lawsuits against private businesses on behalf of transgender plaintiffs, claiming that gender identity discrimination would fall under the umbrella of sex discrimination. However, it is unclear what power the EEOC has when enforcing this kind of coverage against a state government.
Under the “Coverage of State and Local Governments” website, the EEOC states, “If a complaint against a state or local government agency involves race, color, national origin, sex, religion or disability discrimination, the agency is covered by the laws we enforce if it has 15 or more employees who worked for the agency for at least twenty calendar weeks (in this year or last).”
No word yet on whether the EEOC will involve itself in the protection of Kansans.
Posted in background checks, criminal background checks
Florida recently passed a state law requiring all licensed massage therapists to undergo mandatory criminal background checks and fingerprint checks. The intent of the law is to prevent crime, as human traffickers often use massage parlors as fronts for trafficking sex workers.
The state intends to use the fingerprint checks to “ferret out” massage therapists with criminal backgrounds — human traffickers, and also those previously convicted of sexual battery, lewd and lascivious behavior, sexual assault, kidnapping, fraud, and other crimes — and suspend their licenses.
State Rep. Dave Kerner sponsored this law last year, after reading about and hearing stories of scandals and problems with crime in the profession.
Some massage therapists are not thrilled with the idea of these checks, because the licensing board already requires background checks, and doesn’t require the individuals to foot the costs of fingerprint checks. Many think the new law will not prevent crime as well as lawmakers are hoping, and think it’s a ploy by the state to get money from the therapists.
Others think this law will benefit the public, and support the measure.
“I think it’s a great idea. There are a lot of people practicing who have records, a lot of people practicing who don’t have licenses,” said massage therapist Bob Allen of South Beach, Fla. “If you have nothing to hide, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have it done.”
The individual massage therapists would have to pay for the fingerprint checks themselves. One massage therapist says that being fingerprinted can cost between $80 and $120, and also requires the therapist to take time away from paying clients in order to complete these checks.
Kerner described these checks as “an emergency order.” The law went into effect at the end of January.
Posted in background checks, background screening, pre-employment background checks
Air travel in the U.S. requires an extensive passenger screening process; between pat-downs and X-ray machines, random hand-swabbing and required removal of belts and shoes, you’d expect the airport to be an incredibly secure place.
However, in light of a Delta Airlines employee who was charged with smuggling guns onto planes in Atlanta, there has been increased scrutiny on the screening of airport personnel. As it turns out, there are hardly any processes in place to prevent employees from bringing hazardous materials or items to their workplace.
Only two of the major U.S. airports — both in Florida — require “secure access” airport personnel to pass through metal detectors on a daily basis in order to get into the airport. Most other airports allow Transportation Security Administration and other airport employees to pass in and out of the airport without being screened.
In addition, while employees need to pass a background check in order to get hired, most never undergo any further screening, random or otherwise.
“What good is all the screening at the front door if we are not paying attention enough at the back door?” asked New York Rep. John Katko, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security, during a hearing about airport security regulations.
The Homeland Security Institute conducted a study in 2008 regarding random screening of airport personnel, and found that conducting random checks was almost as effective as screening 100% of employees. Regardless, that practice has not been implemented in the majority of U.S. airports.
The employee that was charged was a Delta baggage handler working at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He had brought guns to work with him, was not subject to any scrutiny, and was able to pass the weapons over to a passenger that had already gone through the TSA security checkpoint. The TSA is now considering what can be done to prevent similar security breaches in the future.
“We recognize that 100% screening of airport employees has operational and cost challenges. But the unmistakable fact, as recent events suggest, is that we need to be consistently vigilant in our efforts,” said Miguel Southwell, who is the general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “Any system is only as strong as its weakest link.”
photo credit: N173DZ@TXL;18.10.2010/588bl via photopin (license)
Posted in ban the box, criminal background checks, criminal record, pre-employment background checks
Late last month, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an Executive Order to remove criminal history questions from job applications in the state of Georgia. This move makes Georgia the fourteenth state in the U.S. to pass statewide ban-the-box legislation. (Both the city of Atlanta and Fulton County already had ban-the-box policies in place.)
“[Ban-the-box] policies allow returning citizens an opportunity to explain their unique circumstances in person to a potential employer,” the Order states. “The ban-the-box policy should be used to establish practices that … prevent the use of an application form that inappropriately excludes and discriminates against qualified job applicants.”
The Executive Order only affects state agencies, so private employers will still have the option to ask questions about past criminal convictions. In addition, the Order provides a loophole for “sensitive governmental positions” that require applicants to have a clean criminal record, such as police officers or corrections officers.
Meanwhile, Virginia is also considering passing statewide ban-the-box legislation. Twelve cities in Virginia — and one county that borders Washington D.C. — already have ban-the-box policies, and the Virginia Senate has approved a ban-the-box bill in a 21-7 vote. This bill also applies to state agencies, and prevents employers from asking about criminal records until a conditional offer of employment has been extended.
The bill will now be going to Virginia’s House of Delegates. The House has rejected similar bills before, but if it manages to pass the House and get the approval of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Virginia may well become the fifteenth state to ban the box.
More than 100 cities, counties and states have “fair chance” hiring policies in place, according to the National Employment Law Project.
Posted in drug testing policy, prescription drugs
Under a new bill that has been passed by the Washington State Senate, users of medical marijuana may have more rights than ever, should the bill be signed into law. The proposed Senate Bill 5052 would allow those who utilize medical marijuana — per their doctors’ orders — to possess quantities of the drug up to three times larger than those who only use marijuana recreationally.
The bill also included a number of provisions for medical marijuana users. In addition to allowing patients to grow their own marijuana at home — up to six plants worth, unless a healthcare professional authorizes more — they would also be allowed to take part in cannabis-growing cooperatives, with up to four users per cooperative.
Washington would also allow for more marijuana retailers than the previously declared statewide limit (334 retailers) in order to accommodate medical users, and would exempt those with prescriptions from paying sales tax on “medical products.”
However, these benefits would come with a cost: under SB5052, patients that have been prescribed medical marijuana would be required to have their names included on a state database, in order to assist with the enforcement of possession laws.
Not everyone agreed with the state in wanting to create this database. Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles attempted to pass an amendment that eliminated this requirement due to health care privacy laws.
“What I am most concerned about is that patients have an adequate, a safe, a secure supply of the medicine that works for them without government intrusion and without a new bureaucracy being developed,” said Kohl-Welles.
The bill passed the Senate 36-11, sans that particular amendment, and is now heading to the state House of Representatives. Last session, another bill regarding the differences between recreational and medical marijuana users did not pass House scrutiny.
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