Red Hot Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Background Screening’ Category

Screening Applicants

August 25th, 2014

detective-152085_640

There has been a lot in the news lately about applicant screening practices and what is considered “best practice” versus what can land an employer in the middle of a discrimination claim.  Education requirements, credit checks, genetic testing, and social media screening have all been called into question recently.  Despite the negative publicity, thorough background screening is an integral part of making a good hiring decision and is even required in some industries.

While there are some pitfalls to be avoided, below are some suggestions on how to complete thorough checks while being mindful of the laws and privacy of those individuals who apply at your company.

Contact Professional References. While some companies may have a policy against providing any information other than a previous employee’s employment dates and job title, many supervisors/past employers will provide you with their feedback on a previous employee’s performance.  We recommend you inquire about an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, why the individual left the company and if they are re-hirable.

Perform a Comprehensive Criminal Record Check. This check should include searches in the counties/states where an applicant has lived, worked and attended school as well as a check of the national criminal database.  Merely checking your county or state records is not sufficient as people can move frequently.

Run a Credit History Check. While some state laws limit the use of credit checks in hiring decisions, if the position requires access to large amounts of cash or sensitive information, they are generally allowed.  An individual who has been irresponsible with his/her own finances may have the potential to be irresponsible with yours.

Implement Job-Related Assessments. There are a variety of computer-based tests, everything from bank teller skills tests to personality/profile assessments.  These tests, if created and used correctly, can give an employer insight into a person’s skills and fit for a position.

Use Social Media Outlets Wisely. While conducting social media checks can open an employer up to potential discrimination claims, it comes down to what an employer does with the information they find on a social media site.  For example, merely Googling an applicant’s name to see what pops up is not illegal.  Taking any information you might find on the internet at face value and using it as the deciding factor in hire could land you in hot water.  Remember, not everything you find on the internet is the truth!  Do your due diligence!!!!

Legal Marijuana and the Workplace

July 29th, 2014

140706-marijuana-jms-2132_e0d7b58a25b94a6247f30b34f854470f

As you likely are already aware, Washington and Colorado have passed initiatives to permit the use of marijuana for “recreational” purposes.  If you are like many of our clients, even those who don’t live in either of these states, you are probably wondering how these laws will affect your company.

These new laws are of particular concern to employers who have employees in safety-sensitive positions such as those positions typically found in healthcare and manufacturing – and rightfully so.  In fact, due to the number of concerns they have received, the Department of Transportation recently released a notice stating that the state initiatives will have no bearing on their drug testing program and that the regulation does not authorize the use of Schedule 1 drugs, including marijuana, for any reason.    Therefore, if you have an employee who has to abide by the Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation (49 CFR Part 40) in order to retain their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and he/she tests positive for marijuana, that test will not be ruled negative because the employee admits to using marijuana for recreational purposes as allowed under WA or CO state law.  The same also holds true for employees who test positive for marijuana and admit to using marijuana as recommended by his/her physician for medical purposes, even though some states have passed “medical marijuana” initiatives.

While WA and CO have passed these initiatives, marijuana still remains a drug listed in Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act.  Employers who hold contracts with the government should follow appropriate regulations pertaining to employee drug and alcohol use/testing.

Although the federal government, in conjunction with the WA and CO state governments, have yet to determine exactly how to administer these laws, there are several steps you can take as a business owner to ensure you are prepared to properly deal with employee drug and alcohol use.

 

¨ Ensure that your company has a policy that prohibits employees from being on your property and/or performing the duties or his/her job when there are detectable amounts of illegal drugs (as per federal, state, or local law) or alcohol in their system.

 

¨ Ensure that the policy specifically covers drugs that are illegal under federal, state, or local law and addresses drugs that are prescribed by a physician.

 

¨ When writing/revising your policy, use the phrase “detectable amounts of illegal drugs” instead of the phrase “under the influence of illegal drugs.”  The focus should not be on when the employee used the drug because what an employee does on their own time is not of your concern.  Instead, the focus should be on whether or not the drug is currently in their system because if it is, it could potentially have a negative impact on their work performance.

 

¨ Notify your employees that while recreational marijuana use under WA and CO state law is allowed, marijuana can show up on a drug test days, and possibly weeks, after taken in and if detected, it may be grounds for disciplinary action which should be clearly stated in your policy.

 

While personal and professional lives are often intertwined, it is necessary to compartmentalize the two whenever possible and focus simply on job performance.  If an employee is showing up to work drunk or stoned, there will obviously be an impact to job performance.  If an employee has a drink or smokes a joint over the weekend, it shouldn’t be a concern of yours unless of course the residual effects of those actions impact their work performance on Monday.   If an employee is selected for random drug and alcohol testing or is required to submit to a post-accident drug and alcohol test, and tests positive for marijuana but swears she smoked only a joint two weeks ago, the possible discipline that might result is a risk she runs.

 

Undoubtedly there will be much more information to come. We will keep abreast any new developments and share them with you when appropriate.  If you have any questions regarding your current policy or need help writing a policy, please do not hesitate to give us a call.

 

Employee Screening and Social Media

July 21st, 2014

Executives-Using-Social-Media

 

 

Many colleges and employers are turning to My Space, Facebook, and other social on-line forums as recruiting tools.  Some are even using them as part of the reference and background checking process when screening potential students or employees.  A client called us last week asking if he should use Facebook and My Space when screening for his summer seasonal help.

Our client called thinking it might be a good idea to access Facebook and other on-line social networks to get a better idea of his applicants’ character.  He had heard that other businesses were using internet sites as part of their pre-screening process and wanted our opinion.

As the owner of a summer resort, we recognized that his labor pool is predominately late teens and early twenties—college age men and women who probably have personal pages on many of these sites.  However, our advice was to stay away from them as a background tool.

First, most personal pages are private and one needs to be approved to view a person’s page.  We think it very doubtful that a twenty year old would allow access to a perspective employer.  Not only that, it is very time consuming tracking them down to even get permission!

Second, there are privacy issues.  Cases are now going to court on just how private these sites are, and what rights users have to keep their information secure.  Granted, it is on-line and users need to know that what goes on-line can end up anywhere.  However, unless a perspective employer is invited as a friend, we strongly advise they respect the privacy of the applicant.

Third, often what you see and read on a social network page is not 100% truthful.  Pictures can be altered; there is no fact checking on My Space!  Anyone with access can post whatever they want.

Our advice to our clients is stick with the tried and true reference and background checking tools until the privacy, access and veracity issues are resolved.

 

 

Poor Credit Reports and Hiring

June 2nd, 2014

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Credit checks can be a valuable pre-selection tool, especially when it comes to filling a higher level position that is responsible for the financial transactions of your company.  You don’t want to hire an employee to be responsible for important financial aspects of your company when he/she hasn’t been responsible with his/her own finances.  While some states have placed restrictions on the level/type of positions that can be subject to criminal/credit history checks, federal law provides administrative regulations on how such information can be obtained and used.

While many of your job applicants may have no problems with their credit history, you may eventually stumble upon one who does.  What do you do when you are faced with this information?  Chances are the applicant will not be asked to move forward in the selection process, but the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) places some restrictions on how to go about notifying an applicant that he/she was not chosen because of his/her criminal/credit history.

If any adverse action occurs against a job applicant due to an  investigation of his/her criminal/credit history, the FCRA requires employers to take the following steps:

1. The Employer must notify the job applicant that he/she may not be asked to proceed in the hiring process due to the results of his/her criminal/credit  history.  This notice has to be given prior to any adverse action being taken and the notice must include a copy of the investigation results and a summary of his/her rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

2. The Employer must wait five days before actually taking any adverse action, i.e. sending a letter notifying the applicant that they will not be considered for the position  and/or extending an offer to another candidate.

3. When sending a ‘no hire’ letter, the employer must include the following information in their notice to the job applicant:

  • Language which specifically states that he/she was not chosen due to his/her criminal/credit history
  • The name, address and toll free phone number of the background investigation company that provided the report
  • A statement that the background investigation company did not make the adverse action decision and cannot provide him/her the specific reasons why such action is being taken
  • Notice that he/she has the right to obtain a free copy of the background report from the background investigation company within 60 days
  • Notice that he/she has the right to dispute the accuracy/completeness of any information in the report

Please check your state laws for additional regulations surrounding criminal/credit history checks.   For additional information on the FCRA regulations or the specific regulations in your state, please give us a call at 866.599.1RED!

 

 

 

How to Check References

April 15th, 2014

Background-Check

Reference checks should generally be completed once the number of candidates has been narrowed down through completing a preliminary application review and conducting interviews.  You should also ensure you have a signed waiver form applicants that gives you permission to conduct reference checks.  Additionally, caution should be taken when contacting anyone at an applicant’s current employer.  Current employers should not be contacted without the explicit consent of the applicant.  Many businesses agree not to contact a current employer until after a conditional job offer has been extended to the job candidate.

When completing reference checks, you may choose to obtain information either by phone or in writing via fax or mail.  Many companies do not give information over the phone.  Instead they choose to limit their liability by requesting a signed waiver and reference form be sent to them.  However, phone references can generally be more helpful given that you may be able to tune in to verbal cues such as an enthusiastic voice or, conversely, hesitancy when answering questions.

When establishing a policy for conducting reference checks, it is a good idea to decide how many references will be completed for each candidate.  For management positions, you may want to check 2-3 reference; however, for an entry-level position, 1-2 references may be enough.  Just be certain to establish consistency among job groups.

What to Ask

Basic facts to check may include:

Dates employed              Equipment used to perform work

Position(s) held               Responsibilities typically performed

Salary earned                Reason for leaving the company

Eligibility for rehire

Depending on the level of position you are hiring for, you may also want to inquire about:

Dependability                 Ability to learn from mistakes

Work ethic                    Willingness to assume responsibility

Interpersonal qualities    Eagerness to learn new skills

Leadership skills             Response to pressure or deadlines

Accuracy                        Overall strengths and weaknesses

Honesty

To assist you with your reference checking, Red and Associates offers the following forms as part of our services: the Reference and Background Investigation Consent Form, the Reference Check Form by Phone, and the Reference Check Form by Fax or MailSee your HR eBook for the appropriate forms.  If you need any additional support regarding conducting reference checks, call an HR Coach.  We are here to help!

Background Screening Guidelines

December 6th, 2013

andertoons-background-check1

As we discussed in our April issue, there has been a lot in the news lately about job applicant screening practices, particularly criminal background checking.  Criminal background checking has been quite the hot topic for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  In fact, as of April 25, 2012, the EEOC approved new guidance regarding such checks.

The Commission’s guidance discourages absolute use of exclusions of candidates who have been convicted of crimes and encourages the use of individualized assessments of whether the company’s exclusion is job related and consistent with business necessity or not.

Additionally, companies must also keep in mind that part of the guidance provided preempts any current state laws regarding criminal checks if the criminal checks are not job related and consistent with business necessity.

While most state laws are based upon business necessity and job relatedness, it is advised that employers review any current policies to determine if revisions should be made.

When developing a policy for screening individuals for criminal conduct, businesses should:

  • Ensure the policy is narrowly tailored and not too broad
  • Identify essential job functions and requirements and the actual nature of the job
  • Determine the specific criminal offenses, considering all available evidence, which may demonstrate unfitness for performing such jobs
  • Determine the duration of exclusions for criminal conduct based on all available evidence and include an individualized assessment
  • Record the justification for the policy and procedures
  • Note and keep record of research completed when creating the company’s criminal check policy and procedures
  • Train managers and anyone else involved in the hiring process on how to implement the policy and procedures
  • Limit questions about criminal records to those for which exclusions would be job related and consistent with business necessity
  • Keep all criminal record information confidential and ensure the hiring team uses it only for the purposes intended

There are more “rules” than ever surrounding background checking on job applicants.  If you have any questions about drafting a policy and/or conducting criminal checks, please do not hesitate to contact us!  We are here to help!

 

Best Practices for Screening Applicants

December 3rd, 2013

getting-a-job copy

Screening Applicants

There has been a lot in the news lately about applicant screening practices and what is considered “best practice” versus what can land an employer in the middle of a discrimination claim.  Education requirements, credit checks, genetic testing, and social media screening have all been called into question recently.  Despite the negative publicity, thorough background screening is an integral part of making a good hiring decision and is even required in some industries.

While there are some pitfalls to be avoided, below are some suggestions on how to complete thorough checks while being mindful of the laws and privacy of those individuals who apply at your company.

Contact Professional References. While some companies may have a policy against providing any information other than a previous employee’s employment dates and job title, many supervisors/past employers will provide you with their feedback on a previous employee’s performance.  We recommend you inquire about an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, why the individual left the company and if they are re-hirable.

Perform a Comprehensive  Criminal Record Check. This check should include searches in the counties/states where an applicant has lived, worked and attended school as well as a check of the national criminal database.  Merely checking your county or state records is not sufficient as people can move frequently.

Run a Credit History Check . While some state laws limit the use of credit checks in hiring decisions, if the position requires  access to large amounts of cash or sensitive information, they are generally allowed.  An individual who has been irresponsible with his/her own finances may have the potential to be irresponsible with yours.

Implement Job-Related Assessments. There are a variety of computer-based tests, everything from bank teller skills tests to personality/profile assessments.  These tests, if created and used correctly, can give an employer insight into a person’s skills and fit for a position.

Use Social Media Outlets Wisely. While conducting social media checks can open an employer up to potential discrimination claims, it comes down to what an employer does with the information they find on a social media site.  For example, merely Googling an applicant’s name to see what pops up is not illegal.  Taking any information you might find on the internet at face value and using it as the deciding factor in hire could land you in hot water.  Remember, not everything you find on the internet is the truth!  Do your due diligence!!!!