Heres a checklist for when to request a credit check

All these new Equal Employment Opportunity Council guidelines on background checks have caused many employers to reevaluate the way they conduct their employment screening, as well as the justifications for each type of report they request on every potential new hire. While that is a positive outcome, and the desired one, from the EEOC’s standpoint, it has caused some employers to be a bit confused about just what is acceptable and OK in regards to the various types of background checks they’d gotten accustomed to using without question for just about every hire.

So when is it acceptable (and a very good idea) to request and use a credit check as part of the employment screening process?  Here’s a checklist:

  • When the position you are hiring for involves access to confidential financial information.
  • When the employer is a bank, credit union, or other financial institution.
  • When the position in question is a law enforcement officer, emergency medical personnel, or a firefighter.
  • When the position of employment requires a financial responsibility to the employer or a customer. Responsibilities might include authority to issue payments, collect debts, transfer money, or oversee contracts.
  • When the employer can demonstrate that the information is a valid and reliable predictor of employee performance in the specific position of employment.
  • When the position of employment involves access to an employer’s payroll.

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Study suggests job applicants put off by social media background checks

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.

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EEOC guidelines on background checks causing a stir

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.

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Screening only one facet of avoiding, or catching, a criminal

The headlines on the Jerry Sandusky trial are a clear indication that there needs to be more than background checks in order to protect children from predators. For those not familiar with the case, Sandusky is the former Penn State assistant football coach who is currently facing 52 counts tied to what prosecutors say was his sexual abuse of at least 10 boys over a span of 15 years. The state says Sandusky met many of his alleged victims through The Second Mile, a charity for underprivileged youths that he founded.

Avoiding the hiring of someone with a criminal record that could pose a threat to your company or your employees is one thing. But catching a criminal is another, and a background check doesn’t always reveal one. Sandusky, though his trial is ongoing and he hasn’t been convicted of any crime yet, had no criminal record leading up to this recent arrest.

Last week the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), one of the nation’s largest volunteer sports organizations, announced aggressive actions to implement the measures put forth by two independent task forces. The first steps include requiring that all adults involved in AAU activities – from volunteer coaches to AAU staff – undergo detailed background checks. The second is adopting clear policies and procedures designed to ensure that young athletes are never left alone with individual adults. And the third step is requiring all AAU volunteers and staff to report any incidents of suspected child abuse to law enforcement and to officials of the AAU and related sports clubs.

The action was prompted after child sexual abuse allegations were lodged against an ex-president of the group, according to news reports. In total, there are 42 recommendations for changes in AAU policies, procedures and protocols, all designed to make young athletes safer. The recommendations cover six broad subject areas: culture, protocols, screening, participation, training and reporting.

The fact that screening, employment screening and volunteer screening, is only part of the recommendations is a good indication that every employer and every organization across all industries should have a multi-tiered system in place for preventing – or at least catching — such abuse.

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Clearing up myths about background checks

With the use of background checks increasingly in the news, employees and job seekers across all industries are becoming more wary of what details about their personal and professional histories are being researched, reviewed and used against them during the hiring process.

The vast majority of employers use fair, unbiased measures to help them determine the best applicant for a particular job. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a slew of misconceptions out there regarding employment screening. Here are a few of the most common misconceptions, which all employers should be aware of as you journey through the hiring process.

Myth 1: Background check policies are the biggest reason the unemployment rate is so high. This is untrue. Background checks do keep the occasional applicant from securing the job, but background check policies are put in place to ensure the best applicants are hired and retained. The goal is to hire, not to keep a position unfilled.

Myth 2: If you have a criminal record, you won’t be hired. While having a criminal record could pose some difficulties during the hiring process, that depends on how long ago the crime was committed, the nature of the conviction, among other things. According to one survey, less than 10 percent of applicants with criminal records are denied employment.

Myth 3: Employers factor in your credit score when deciding whether or not to hire you. Not true in most cases. Credit checks are typically done when the job in question involves handling money and keeping track of finances. Even so, most employers use what’s called an Employment Credit Report, which does not include a credit score.

Myth 4:  Applicants aren’t given a chance to correct or argue findings. Actually, by law employers are required to give job applicants a copy of their background check and allow them to clear up any misinformation.

As with most areas of business, communication is key. Make sure your policies are clearly stated, and strictly followed. And give prospective employees the chance to clear up any misinformation that might have been uncovered during the process.

New survey finds 37 percent of employers use social media in screening process

The use of social media background checks has been a bit of a hot-button issue lately, as more people bite back against the privacy-violating practice of employers asking for job applicants’ social media passwords. While employers are wading into this new area of employment screening with a good mix of trepidation, curiosity and legal counsel, previous surveys regarding the use of social media in the background check process seemed to point toward its growing popularity. A survey by California-based Employment Screening Resources cited a statistic that 48 percent of employers admitted using social networking websites as part of their employment screening process.

But a newer survey, this one by Chicago-based job board CareerBuilder, includes more conservative numbers. According to the CareerBuilder survey, 37 percent of hiring managers and human resources professionals use social media to look into job candidates.

The survey says employers primarily used Facebook (65 percent) and LinkedIn (63 percent) to research candidates, while 16 percent used Twitter. Employers cited the following reasons for using social media to look into the candidates’ backgrounds:

  • To see if the candidate presents himself/herself professionally: 65 percent.
  • To see if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture: 51 percent.
  • To learn more about the candidate’s qualifications: 45 percent.
  • To see if the candidate is well-rounded: 35 percent.
  • To look for reasons not to hire the candidate: 12 percent.

It’s clear this new tool for researching prospective employees is here to stay, at least in some capacity. Employers would be well advised, though, to avoid asking for passwords and instead just use the information a job applicant already has deemed to be “public.”

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Keep policy well defined to comply with EEOC guidelines

The new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on background checks for prospective employees was created to ensure nobody is being unfairly targeted or discriminated against due to their criminal past. Basically what the guidelines want to avoid is an employer using someone’s criminal conviction from many years ago as an excuse to not hire them for a job that is completely unrelated to the crime they committed.

To make sure your company is in compliance with the guidelines, avoid blanket refusals to only specific types of jobs (those who work with the finances of your company, for example). Other tips for business owners:

  • Define your policy as narrowly as possible, and don’t stray outside those parameters for any prospective employee.
  • Be specific about essential job requirements for each position, along with the circumstances under which work is done.
  • Set a length of time for which any criminal conduct will be disregarded by your employment screening reports. (For example, if the conviction was 10 years in the past.)
  • Include the justification for the policy and for each procedure. If you end up needing to justify your action regarding a prospective employee, you want your policy to be clearly written.
  • Document any counsel and/or research used in creating the policy and procedures. Let them know there were legal and industry experts behind your decisions.
  • Train managers, recruiters, and other decision makers on the policy and procedures.
  • Don’t ask about convictions on job applications. Save it for the background check.

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New federally mandated cutoff levels increase drug test positives in workforce

In 2010 the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lowered initial and confirmation cutoff levels for amphetamines and cocaine, and added additional substances including heroin and ecstacy, to their drug testing protocols for those in safety-sensitive positions, including bus drivers

In part because of the new lower cutoff levels, there has been a 33 percent jump in cocaine positives in the safety-sensitive workforce, according to new data by Quest Diagnostics. Amphetamines positives among this group also rose by nearly 26 percent, continuing an existing upward trend, but also likely boosted by better detection related to the new, lower, federally mandated cutoffs, experts say. The findings are based on 1.6 million federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics between January and December 2011.

Workers subject to these new requirements include private-sector workers for whom routine drug testing is mandated by the DOT as well as those federal employees in testing-designated positions.

Among the 4.8 million tests in the general U.S. workforce from January to December 2011, amphetamines positives are up 16.7 percent from 2010 (0.66% vs. 0.77%) and up 75 percent since 2007. Cocaine positivity is up 8 percent from 2010 (0.25% vs. 0.27%) in the general workforce, also partially driven by some private sector employers adopting the new federal standard.

The upward trends, while still a very small percentage of the workforce, underscore the importance of drug testing as part of the employment screening process, especially for those with safety-sensitive jobs.

In 2010 HCG the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lowered initial and confirmation cutoff levels for amphetamines and cocaine, and added additional substances including heroin and ecstacy, to their drug testing protocols for those in safety-sensitive positions, including bus drivers

In part because of the new lower cutoff levels, there has been a 33 percent jump in cocaine positives in the safety-sensitive workforce, according to new data by Quest Diagnostics. Amphetamines positives among this group also rose by nearly 26 percent, continuing an existing upward trend, but also likely boosted by better detection related to the new, lower, federally mandated cutoffs, experts say. The findings are based on 1.6 million federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics between January and December 2011.

Workers subject to these new requirements include private-sector workers for whom routine drug testing is mandated by the DOT as well as those federal employees in testing-designated positions.

Among the 4.8 million tests in the general U.S. workforce from January to December 2011, amphetamines positives are up 16.7 percent from 2010 (0.66% vs. 0.77%) and up 75 percent since 2007. Cocaine positivity is up 8 percent from 2010 (0.25% vs. 0.27%) in the general workforce, also partially driven by some private sector employers adopting the new federal standard.

The upward trends, while still a very small percentage of the workforce, underscore the importance of drug testing as part of the employment screening process, especially for those with safety-sensitive jobs.

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EEOC creates new guidelines for employers using criminal records in employment screening

Last month the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) voted to create new Guidance regarding employer use of criminal records under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Criminal background checks have become increasingly popular as a means for employers to, among other things, lessen the potentially tragic and expensive claims of failure to supervise or negligent hiring.

In the past the EEOC had at least partially disavowed criminal checks except in very limited industries because they were considered to be disproportionately negative for certain minorities.

The new EEOC guidance reiterates the four factors used to determine whether an employer’s hiring and other employment decisions and policies relating to criminal background checks violate the law:

  1. Convictions as opposed to arrests
  2. The nature and gravity of the offense or conduct
  3. Time that has passed since the offense
  4. The nature of the job held or sought.

It also provides specific examples of criminal background policies which the EEOC believes violate Title VII.

The EEOC also suggests employees who undergo criminal background checks should be told that they were denied the job because of a criminal conviction, and that there would have to be an opportunity for that applicant to demonstrate either that the screen was inaccurate or to state why they should not be denied the job. The employer would also have to review any additional information provided by the prospective employee regarding the conviction or their credentials.

There are many more details about the EEOC’s new guidance. We suggest every employer read the full guidance at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm.

 

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Dont make assumptions when hiring seasonal workers

More assumptions are made about summer and seasonal workers than perhaps any other segment of the workforce. Think about it: If you hire seasonal workers in the summertime, how many of them are young adults? Do you assume what kind of past they have based on the way they dress or where they go to school? Do you assume they’re too young to have a criminal record? Do you assume, if they worked for you last summer, or perhaps several summers in a row, that they haven’t gotten into any trouble in the nine months since you last saw them? If a highly respected, returning employee has brought a friend, cousin or brother to apply for a job with you as well, do you assume anything about their employability based mostly on the personal reference given to you by your current (or former) employee?

Employers need to make intelligent decisions on their seasonal and summer workforce that are based on facts, not assumptions. Many employers don’t bother with typical employment screening processes for seasonal employees, believing it to be too much hassle and too much money to spend on short-term workers. But your business is worth being careful with employees all the time, not just certain times of the year or with certain types of positions.

As you begin advertising for summer positions, and as the job applications start coming in, along with familiar faces of past seasonal employees popping into your office to see about summer work, make sure you’ve got impartial employment screening practices in place, so that you can be sure you’re hiring the most trustworthy employees, not just the familiar ones, or the ones you assume will be best.

 

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