In January, Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick signed the Act Relative to Background Checks bill into law. This law now allows the school systems to perform national criminal background checks on employees. Previously, employees were only screened for crimes committed in the state of Massachusetts.
In February, a Boston Herald investigation revealed that a man with two previous drunk driving arrests plus multiple breaking and entering convictions was currently employed to drive a van for a public high school. As a result, the Boston area began performing a sweep of background checks on their current employees. The results have been shocking.
The area has 9,000 school workers, and currently one-third of the background checks have been completed. So far, 11 “support” staff” employees (non-teachers) have been placed on administrative leave due to their criminal records. Some of the employees had a history of serious offenses that included: felony kidnapping, drug possession, assault, and unlawful ammunition possession. Of the eleven staffers with previous offenses, none of them had ever been charged with a sex crime.
Prior to this year, a school review board only turned down job applicants who had been convicted of serious crimes. Now, more consideration is being given to those employees who’ve also been charged with a crime, but had a non-conviction. The panel realized some individuals who made plea deals that resulted in non-convictions should be turned away as well.
Employers who are beginning to use social media as part of their background check process might be opening themselves up to a negative impression – and even job offer rejection – by prospective employees.
That’s according to research from a study on the effects of social network screening in the workplace conducted by researchers out of North Carolina State University. The study, which was presented at a recent Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference, found that social media background screening actually reduces an organization’s attractiveness for the job applicant and incumbent worker.
According to the study, 175 students applied for a fictitious temporary job they believed to be real and were later informed they were screened. Applicants were less willing to take a job offer after being screened, perceiving the action to reflect on the organization’s fairness and treatment of employees based on a post-study questionnaire. They also felt their privacy was invaded.
The use of social media background checks is becoming more popular among employers. While this study doesn’t suggest employers not be completely candid and transparent about the use of such employment screening methods, it should cause some discussion about whether the tactic is worth the payoff.
We know we’ve written about this before, but there seems to be some lingering confusion regarding the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s recent guidelines changes to the way background checks are used in pre-employment screening protocols. So we thought we’d try to clear it up.
In April, the EEOC issued new guidance for employers to use when considering arrest and conviction records in employment decisions. It determined that the use of an individual’s criminal history during the interview and hiring process could constitute discrimination and makes an attempt to discourage using the information differently based on an applicant’s race or national origin.
Some employers may have interpreted this in the broadest sense, doing away with criminal records checks as part of their employment screening processes because they’re scared of legal repercussions. But that’s not the safe way to go, nor is it what the EEOC intended. To remain fair and safe, employers should still conduct criminal background checks, but only consider convictions, not arrests. Arrest records are not proof of criminal conduct, so they should not be used as grounds for exclusion. Conviction records, on the other hand, typically serve as sufficient evidence that a person committed a crime. Use of these records by an employer makes good legal and business sense.
Let’s be clear, one more time: The EEOC cannot mandate that employers must refrain from obtaining or using conviction records, nor are its new guidelines trying to dissuade employers from doing so. They simply seek to ensure that such information is not used in a discriminatory way. Employers should not be using a blanket policy, such as “no felony convictions in the last seven years.” Instead, they should review each criminal background report on a case-by-case basis and make sure the company’s background check requirements make sense for that position.
Do you as an employer ask for salary history as part of your hiring process? If so, do you use that information to make your decision on whether or not to hire someone? It seems like such a small detail, but could bring problems for an employer depending on how such information is gathered and used.
Asking for salary history is well within an employer’s legal rights, and most job applicants are happy to provide such information. If you are using a third party employment screening service to gather such information, however, you must have written pre-approval by the applicant. And if the figures you find come into play when deciding not to hire that person, you are required to let them know, as according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act they have a legal right to explain or correct any errors or information you’ve found.
While a job applicant is not required to share salary history, some employers have found that asking for it ends up serving as one way to judge character, because lying about one’s salary history is an easy one to catch.
Can an employer refuse to hire someone who passes a background screening if, upon reviewing the applicant’s social networking habits, he or she is deemed to be “not right”?
Though the majority companies would assert that they do, in fact, have the power to refuse to hire someone based on that person’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or MySpace rants, they should absolutely discuss the legality of such matters with an attorney to be sure they are protected.
In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article urged companies to tread carefully when refusing to hire someone because of their social networking footprints OR when firing a current employee for the same reasons.Without a social networkingpolicy in place beforehand, any business that does so risks litigation.
Now, this isn’t to suggest that perusing an applicant’s social networking comments can’t be included as part of the decision to hire… or not to hire.Under most circumstances, it’s completely reasonable to see what a potential worker is like in a “relaxed” or “unguarded” atmosphere.But other items, such as background screening results, should always be taken into the deliberation process, too.
If your organization doesn’t have a written policy regarding how you can use social networking in the job application and/or firing process, it’s time to put one together.After all, social networking isn’t going away and is only likely to become a stronger part of the way business and personal life is conducted.
Contract workers for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently put up a very vocal fight against the background checks performed by their government employer.The contract workers for NASA stated that they felt that the background screening methods they were expected to to undergo in order to work for NASA were too intrusive and a violation of their privacy rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court felt otherwise.
In an eight-to-zero decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of NASA, stating they had the power to ask contract workers information (including that related to illegal drug use and professional counseling.)
In the words of Justice Alito:the background checkswere “reasonable, employment-related inquiries…The government’s interests as employer and proprietor in managing its internal operations… satisfy any [privacy issues]…”
Over 70,000 contract workers have been through the background checksper NASA’s request in the past five years; less than one-fifth of one percent have been turned down for employment as a result of background screening.
Those persons living in Nebraska and applying for or receiving welfare checks may now be subject to drug testingunder a new bill that was introduced in mid-January by Senator Charlie Janssen.
The bill, LB222, proposes that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) create a systematic program to screen welfare applicants/recipients for illegal drugs.A positive test would render them ineligible for welfare from the state for 12 months.Positive drug testing results would also result in HHS referring them to a substance abuse treatment opportunity.
LB222 is not without its opponents who feel that drug testing should not be connected to the receipt of welfare from the state.In fact, some are calling the process unconstitutional.However, Senator Janssen feels strongly that the bill will pass.And other states are jumping on board with calls for drug testing for food stamps, etc.
QUESTION OF THE DAY:
What do you think?
Should drug testing for welfare recipients be undertaken?Does your state have this kind of arrangement?
Most employers don’t consider background checking their new hires as being a way to protect their current employees, but that’s a huge outcome of making certain all workers brought into an office have been properly vetted.(It’s also a selling point for potential new hires because they know that they’ll be secure at the organization.)
Let’s consider background checking rather like the old fable that tells of a wolf dressing as a sheep and going undetected into the fold.If the shepherd were not looking closely, the wolf could have quite a meal.If the shepherd did just a bit of investigating, he would have discovered the problem immediately.
Using this anecdote as a platform to make the point, the employer is really like the shepherd, and it’s up to him or her to maintain a safe environment for all employees.With background checks, companies are taking all the steps necessary to lessen the chances that someone with nefarious tendencies or desires will find themselves on their payrolls.
What kind of shepherd are you going to be?One who takes the job seriously or one who looks the other way when solvable problems arise?
Straight from the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy come the following figures from 2009:
-The almost 30 million U.S. small businesses employ over half of the country’s private sector workforce.
-U.S. small businesses hire 40% of high tech employees.
This is the good news.The bad news is that about half of all new small businesses close within five years of opening their doors.
Much of the problem can be laid at the feet of the uber-competitive environment of a global economy.Fast-paced services and innovative products have forced small businesses to stay at the top of their games.And that means they don’t have time to deal with avoidable personnel issues… like hiring the wrong person.
That’s one of the reasons that background checks performed on all employees are absolutely essential for any small business that wants to succeed.Not only are background checks a method of protecting a company’s reputation, but they can also mean the difference between being around for a five-year anniversary… or not.
Fortunately, background checks are available at an excellent value, even for start-ups with modest budgets.And they offer a return on investment very quickly.(Hiring mistakes can bring a small business to its knees.)
If you’re a small business, prepare yourself to be around for the long term.Background check every worker you hire, including consultants.Doing so will give you a leg-up on the competition.
It’s bound to happen at some point in time… your “gut instincts” toward a job candidate tell you he or she is perfect for the position.However, when the background check comes back, you learn that you’ve been incorrect in your assumptions.
What gives?How could your “sixth sense” be so off-base?
First of all, don’t worry – it isn’t you.Secondly, that’s why you get background checks on all job candidates about whom you’re serious.
See, we “connect” with people for any number of reasons – they say what we want to hear, they make us feel comfortable, they remind us of individuals we like, they seem eager to please, they flatter us, etc.And that instant connection can often lead to a feeling of sudden trust.
Background checks enable us to step away from emotionally making human resources decisions.Job candidate vetting isn’t left to our senses alone, but to specific documentation.Thus, not only are you ensured that the job candidate is someone with whom you want to work, but that he or she is also someone whose background is clear.
In the end, it’s fine to “go with your gut” in other areas of business.But when it comes to hiring, your instincts can be wrong.