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.
Are you an HR professional who believes in the importance of background checks but can’t get the rest of your team on board the employment screening bandwagon? The human resources department often takes the fall for a bad hire, because they’re the ones who are charged with checking references and obtaining drug test results for new hires. But it’s not fair to blame HR when there is no clearly established system of checks and balances in place for prospective employees.
If you’ve been at this awhile, chances are you already have employment screening protocols in place – it just might not be formal “policy” yet. In order to get your employer to adopt a formal policy, you might have to do the legwork. But that’s still worth it, if it means you will avoid trouble down the line – legal or otherwise – thanks to a bad hire that slips through the cracks.
First you’ll need internal support for the practice, so educate key decision makers and stakeholders about the benefits of pre-employment screening. Point out benefits like the ability to make intelligent and informed hiring decisions, having a safer workplace and enjoying the efficiency of a more productive workforce.
Next, put together a draft of a formal policy. Include the different types of screenings for the different positions at your company. Then based on the kinds of screening reports your company needs, research to find the best available professional screening service to meet your needs. Doing the work up front for this very important policy will benefit everyone in the long run.
Well, it has happened again. This time it’s Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson whose resume was found to be padded. Thompson, who was hired by the internet giant in January, has two degrees listed on his resume: A bachelor’s degree in accounting from Stonehill College, and a degree in computer science, which would make sense given his history in the workforce – Thompson previously was an executive with Paypal. Unfortunately, he doesn’t hold a computer science degree.
This lapse in employment screening seems particularly stunning given that it was such an upper-level position (the very top!) with such a public company. But skipping such a critical step in the pre-employment screening process – namely, that of education verification – is something that is commonly done, particularly with someone of Thompson’s stature and distinguished career. Collectively, people in human resources and others involved in the hiring process think ‘Why would he make up anything at this point? Surely someone else would have caught a lie by now.’ It can seem almost ridiculous to spend time and money verifying someone’s education credentials at that level.
But Thompson’s story is exactly why it’s critical to conduct a thorough employment screening every single time. Yahoo is now dealing with a public relations nightmare, not to mention upheaval within its ranks and among its biggest investors. Those are headaches no business wants. So do yourself a favor, learn by others’ mistakes, and be thorough and unbiased in your own screening protocols.
Recent news reports that several new airport security employees were given their security badges before their background checks were complete raises concerns about whether other employers take short cuts on employment screeningprotocols that could compromise the safety of the public and/or fellow employees.
The Transportation Security Administration confirmed that some new employees were issued their security badges even though the third and final step in the background check process had not been completed. The delay was due to a backlog from a computer switchover, the TSA reported.
During the screening process, new employees are required to verify their identity. Then, they are matched to a terrorist watch list. If they are on the list, then they are tossed out. Next is a verification of a prospective employee’s criminal record. Finally, there is a security threat assessment conducted by the TSA. That check is pending for many of the new employees, but airports have been given the OK to grant the badges without that step being completed. The TSA has said security access is limited for those with the provisional badges, and there is no security threat in issuing the badges prematurely.
However safe the public is despite this lapse in protocol, the public relations nightmare it has caused is reason enough for all employers to make sure that their pre-employment screening processes are followed to the letter. No shortcuts should be allowed, for safety and financial concerns, as well as possible legal ramifications.
A recent report by the National Consumer Law Center claims that background checks can be erroneous, advising employers to be careful when hiring an employment screening service to conduct background checks on their prospective employees.
According to the report, nearly 75 percent of employers are conducting some sort of pre-employment screening on job applicants. The report claims that errors made by fly-by-night background check companies using shoddy business practices can — and have — cost qualified people good jobs.
“Federal regulatory agencies and states should rein in the Wild West of the background screening industry by holding companies accountable,” said Persis Yu, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) staff attorney and co-author of the report.
When hiring a screening service to conduct your business’s background checks, research the company’s history and reputation. VerifyProtect.com is a division of American Tenant Screen, which is a leading provider of integrated screening services for businesses in the markets we serve. The company provides screening services globally to more than 3,000 clients, and has been in business for nearly 25 years.
It’s difficult to put a dollar figure on the value of background checks. But that got a lot easier recently for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The value for them turned out to be $1 million – that’s how much a woman embezzled over a seven-year period while working as a volunteer bookkeeper at the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.
The bookkeeper was hired in 2003 before background checks were a routine part of the hiring process. If the diocese had run a background check on her, it would have discovered she had been convicted of grand larceny in one case and had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in another, according to an article in The New York Times.
This story should serve as a reminder to all those who still believe pre-employment screening is not worth the time and money it takes to conduct them. Criminal records and credit checks are a must for anyone who will be entrusted with the finances of your business. In particular all those who handle money, or care for others, should be thoroughly vetted.
With background checks and other pre-employment screening methods on the rise, one would think the incidence of committing fraud in the workplace would be declining. Not so, according to a recent survey of Chief Financial Officers of private equity and venture capital firms.
The survey, conducted by business investigations firm Corporate Resolutions, Inc., found that 39 percent of CFOs who responded to the survey had encountered fraud during their tenure as CFO within their own firm or at a portfolio company. And 81 percent had decided not to invest in a company because of suspected fraud or other integrity issues.
Such numbers underscore the importance and relevance of background checksas part of a healthy company’s investment in its own future. It’s not enough to blindly trust employees, particularly ones who have some hand in and handling of the company’s finances. Sixty-seven percent of CFOs surveyed had encountered asset misappropriation, and 17 percent had discovered corruption of some kind.
In today’s global economy companies sometimes hire people overseas or across the country without ever actually meeting them and shaking hands. While long-distance hiring is a normal part of 21st century business, the practice makes conducting due diligence on every viable employee candidate more important than ever.
Many employers have a “one and done” attitude about background checks for employees. They conduct what they deem to be a thorough pre-employment screening before someone is hired, and that’s it. There’s never any follow-up background screening, or random drug testing, or periodic driver’s license check.
Is that the safest way to run a business? While it’s a great business practice to conduct pre-employment screening, the wise business owner understands that people change, circumstances change and unless you’re periodically checking into things, your staff might have changed – and not for the better.
Employers should follow up their wise hiring practices by implementing safeguards against current employees who could be breaking the law. The most obvious step is to institute a Drug and Alcohol policy that includes random periodic drug testing, if you don’t have one already. And it’s not a bad idea to conduct periodic background checks for current employees and implement pre-hire and periodic screening for temporary or contingent workers as well .
Are you requiring job applicants to fork over their social media website login information as part of your company’s pre-employment screening process? While checking social media sites is becoming more and more popular among employers as yet another avenue for finding out all they can about a prospective employee, some state lawmakers and organizations are already gearing up to fight this practice, which they say is an invasion of privacy.
This past week Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was added to the handful of state representatives across the country who are proposing laws to make this practice illegal. Blumenthal says that his bill, once finished, will include some exceptions, like for federal and local law enforcement agencies, and government agencies that handle national security issues. He did indicate that private companies that receive government contracts would be regulated under the legislation.
A similar bill in Illinois is backed by the ACLU. Such a law, if it passes, would make it just as illegal for an employer to ask for an applicant’s Facebook password as it is illegal for an employer to ask a woman if she plans to have children.
As we’ve advised before, employers who wish to conduct social media background checks – and the numbers are growing – should tread carefully, so as not to open themselves up to discrimination claims or risk using false information when weighing their hiring decisions.
When should you bring up the background check process? When you make initial contact with a job applicant? After you have a successful interview? If you do it too soon will you appear to be distrusting and defensive, turning off potentially great employees? If you do it too late will you have wasted precious time considering someone whose background poses too many risks for your company to take?
Background checks are clearly a good business decision, but you need to know how and when to disclose and initiate them, as well as when and how to show the results. The Fair Credit Reporting Act states that an employer must notify an applicant or employee in writing and get written authorization before any pre-employment screeningis done.
Other regulations vary from state to state, so make sure you review your company’s policy with a lawyer and follow the letter of the law when it comes to best practices, to avoid any discrimination suits brought on by applicants who were turned down for a job after a background check.
Above all, be open and honest about your policy and the process, and make sure each applicant is given the opportunity to dispute and/or discuss the background check findings before a decision about their employment is made.