October 10, 2017An Indiana-based news team recently published an article that discussed background screening policies for applicants at Halloween-themed haunted houses.Backgrounds Online | October 10, 2017
An Indiana-based news team recently published an article that discussed background screening policies for applicants at Halloween-themed haunted houses.
October is packed with thrills, chills and... employment opportunities. Every year, hundreds of seasonal businesses sell costumes and create spooky fun experiences for Halloween enthusiasts. One common attraction is the haunted house - a place where customers can receive a safe scare from actors in an assortment of "horrifying" costumes.
Haunted houses are popular with the public and people who are seeking temporary jobs in the "scare industry." It's not unusual for hundreds of individuals to apply for work at a single location. People who run these facilities need employees to do a wide range of tasks such as selling tickets, cleaning up and attempting to frighten crowds.
Are Temporary Workers Being Screened?
CBS4 in Indianapolis, Indiana decided to find out if haunted house employees go through a background screening before they are hired. They published an article that showed mixed results. Their investigation revealed that local haunted houses are not required to screen applicants. Each facility is allowed to decide if they want to run background checks on prospective employees.
The news team discovered that some locations ran background checks while others did not. The level of screening varied as well. Procedures ranged from checking to see if applicants have active warrants or are listed on a sex offender registry to running comprehensive criminal background checks.
According to the CBS4 article, most employers also put their performers through a rigorous training program that covers safety, interacting with the public and other key topics.
Why Background Checks Are Important for Haunted House Workers
People who work at haunted houses or similar attractions have direct access to the public. This can include minors, elderly individuals or others who could be part of a vulnerable population. It is essential to ensure that employees who are hired to create terrifyingly memorable experiences are also well trained on how to establish and maintain a safe environment.
Background checks provide important information about each applicant, including the subject's employment history, whether or not they are listed on a sex offender registry and if they have any reportable criminal convictions. If they do, then the report will contain details about the offense(s) that employers may consider when making hiring decisions.
While most haunted houses are "hands off", a few allow the staff to touch patrons. Customers are informed of this in advance. They expect everyone who is working inside the haunted house to be trained, safe and knowledgeable about what is and is not an improper touch. In situations like this, background checks become even more crucial.
If you're hiring for the Halloween season, we recommend screening all potential employees to help ensure a positive experience for everyone. Best practice is to create a background screening package that will be used on all potential performers. This helps establish a fair and transparent hiring policy.
It's easy to build a custom background check package that includes an array of criminal record searches, employment verification, reference checks and other position-focused searches. If you are hiring staff for a holiday-themed attraction and need help building a custom background package, contact our experienced screening staff for assistance.
October 3, 2017Governor Jerry Brown has until October 15, 2017 to sign a bill that would prohibit questions about criminal records on all CA job applications.Backgrounds Online | October 3, 2017
Governor Jerry Brown has until October 15, 2017 to sign a bill that would prohibit questions about criminal records on all CA job applications.
About the Bill
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (Sacramento) sponsored the bill which is known as AB 1008. This bill would prohibit California employers from including questions on job applications that ask if the applicant has an arrest or criminal record. Employers would still be allowed to run criminal background checks but only after a conditional job offer was extended.
If the bill is signed, California would become the tenth state to pass a statewide "Ban the Box" law. While many experts believe that this is inevitable, there is some resistance to the bill.
The California Chamber of Commerce and a group of employers in the golden state voiced concerns about AB 1008. They felt the bill would create several unfair scenarios.
Attorney Benjamin Ebbink believes it would create an untenable situation for employers. He commented: "On one hand, if they don't hire an individual, they face a discrimination claim. On the other hand, if they do take a chance on an individual and something goes wrong, they are subject to liability for negligent hiring and retention. I think there is concern that this places employers in a box where they will face litigation."
To address these and similar concerns, several amendments were made before the bill was presented to the Governor.
The amendments are designed to:
- Create exemptions for CA employers that have 1 - 4 employees.
- Allow employers to consider misdemeanor and felony convictions that occurred more than 7 years prior during the background screening process (an early version of the bill prohibited this).
- Eliminate a proposed requirement that said employers would have to explain why they chose to deny employment to a person who has a criminal record.
- Remove the proposed requirement that employers must complete individualized assessments in writing and follow the Federal 2012 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidance and the State Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) guidance.
Even with the amendments, there is still opposition to this bill. The primary concern is that it might contradict existing Ban the Box laws in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, thus making it impossible for employers in certain areas to comply with both city and state regulations.
To avoid this scenario, an effort is underway to encourage Governor Brown to veto this iteration of the bill. The goal is to get a revised version of AB 1008 that overrides all existing Ban The Box and related laws in favor of a single, statewide policy. This would ensure that California employers would all be expected to follow the same laws.
What This Would Mean For CA Employers
The primary change would be that job applications for CA-based positions would not be allowed to include questions about arrests or criminal records. Applications that currently contain such questions would need to be updated.
Employers that choose to deny employment after learning an applicant has a criminal record (following a background screening) would be required to perform an individualized assessment. This would include determining whether or not the person's conviction has a "direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job." Employers would be asked to consider factors such as the nature of a conviction, how the conviction relates to the expected job duties and how much time passed since the conviction occurred.
If the bill is signed, a date will be scheduled for AB 1008 to go into effect. Once that date occurs, every California employer must adhere to the law unless they are eligible for one of the recently added exemptions. We will watch for updates and keep you informed.
Complying with federal, state and local laws can be tricky. The screening experts at Background Online are committed to keeping up with these laws and informing our customers of changes that could impact you. If you have questions about how we can help with your compliance efforts, please contact us for assistance.
September 26, 2017A Maryland man learned the hard way that his background check contained data for a Florida resident who has multiple criminal convictions.Backgrounds Online | September 26, 2017
A Maryland man learned the hard way that his background check contained data for a Florida resident who has multiple criminal convictions.
Same Name. Same Birthdate.
Maryland resident Christopher Jenkins is dealing with an unusual situation. He shares the same name and date of birth with a man who lives in Florida. That may be somewhat common, but it's causing problems for the MD-based Jenkins.
The Christopher Jenkins from Florida has multiple criminal convictions including marijuana possession and grand theft auto. Those convictions were inadvertently attributed to the Christopher Jenkins from Maryland in a background check report.
Christopher Jenkins - the one who lives in MD - has applied for jobs and had other experiences that require a background check. He's had a difficult time dealing with the fact that his report includes criminal records that belong to someone else.
Coping with this Issue
Jenkins realizes that he could miss out on employment and other opportunities because of the mistaken identity. He admitted this is an ongoing source of stress and depression for him. To help prevent additional problems, Jenkins collected a few useful documents:
- A notarized affidavit that addresses his mistaken identity case.
- A letter that was issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to confirm he is not the person who has a criminal record.
- A copy of his fingerprints.
Jenkins brings these documents with him most everywhere he goes just in case he must prove that he does not have a criminal record.
How Backgrounds Online Helps Avoid Identity Mistakes
At Backgrounds Online, we take numerous precautions to avoid scenarios like this one. Before we start a background investigation, we use several data points to confirm the subject's identity:
- Authorization: The person we screen must personally provide permission for us to run a background check.
- Full Name: This includes first, last and middle. If someone doesn't have a middle name, we offer an easy way to let us know. We ask for the person's full legal name – exactly as it is on their photo ID.
- Date of Birth: We require the person's birth day, month and year.
- Social Security Number: This is a unique identifier that helps us pinpoint the correct person.
- Contact Information: We ask for the person's address and phone number.
If Your Background Check is Incorrect
It doesn't happen often, but now and then a background check contains incorrect information. If this occurs, we have a system in place to help.
The person who was screened can start by filing a dispute. We provide a simple form that requests the individual's name, email address, phone number and the name of the company to which they applied. Optionally, the person can give us the reason for their dispute.
Once we have this information, our team of screening experts launches an investigation. If an error is discovered and revisions are made, we send an updated report to both the individual and the organization that initially requested the background check.
We hope Charles Jenkins is able to resolve his case of mistaken identity. If you are curious or concerned about what might be on your background check, you can find out by running a personal report from our sister site IAmScreened.com.
September 19, 2017The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency updated Form I-9 for Employment Eligibility Verification. Employers must now use the revised form.Backgrounds Online | September 19, 2017
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency updated Form I-9 for Employment Eligibility Verification. Employers must now use the revised form.
Updates to Form I-9
The Department of Homeland Security website, https://www.uscis.gov/, states that employers who recruit, refer potential employees (for a fee) or hire must complete a Form I-9 for each candidate to help verify the person's identity and their authorization to work in the United States. As of September 18, 2017 employers must use a revised version of the Form I-9.
Employers can find a copy of the updated form here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9. The USCIS also created a handbook for employers that answers questions about Form I-9 and provides guidance for properly completing all relevant documentation. See that handbook here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/handbook-employers-m-274.
Regulations Regarding Retaining Form I-9
U.S. employers must retain a copy of every employee's Form I-9 for as long as the person is on payroll or receiving any form of remuneration. When that employment ends, the employer must keep the I-9 form for a period of time. The USCIS provides a simple method for determining how long employers must save each Form I-9 for previous employees.
Regulations Regarding Storing Form I-9
The USCIS provides rules for storing these forms. They must be:
- Kept at the work site or off-site at a storage facility.
- Retained either in a single format or via multiple formats such as paper, electronically, microfilm or microfiche.
- Accessible for review within 3 business days in case a government official asks to inspect the documents.
If the Form I-9 and related documents are available on paper, they may be kept with other personnel records. However, they should be separated to easily facilitate an inspection request.
Form I-9 Inspections
Government officials from various departments, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor, have the right to review and inspect an employer's I-9 forms and accompanying documents. In most cases, a government official will provide written notice of their inspection request and give the employer 3 business days in which to collect the necessary materials. In some cases, subpoenas and warrants may be issued to supersede the 3-day time frame.
When asked to provide I-9 forms and related documents for inspection, employers must:
- Collect and make available all relevant documents within the required time frame.
- Retrieve and/or reproduce forms that are stored electronically.
- If necessary, provide hardware or software to enable viewing of electronically stored documents.
- Provide an electronic summary of the data contained on the Form I-9 if a summary exists.
It is a violation of law for employers to either delay an inspection or refuse to collect and present the requested documentation.
Staying Compliant with New and Ongoing Regulations
When new state and federal laws are created, or existing laws are updated, employers must be aware of and compliant with those changes. Backgrounds Online endeavors to keep up with these laws and provide relevant information via our website, blog and Newsletters.
Check our State Law section for important information about laws that that affect employers, background screening and hiring. Watch this blog for new articles about topics that might impact you. If you have questions about how we can help improve the background screening portion of your hiring process, please contact our team for assistance.
September 13, 2017Many employers make the same basic mistakes when hiring new employees. Understanding and avoiding these mistakes can save your business time and money.Backgrounds Online | September 13, 2017
Many employers make the same basic mistakes when hiring new employees. Understanding and avoiding these mistakes can save your business time and money.
1. Being Unprepared For Interviews
Failing to prepare for an interview is one of the most common hiring issues. Before scheduling an on-site appointment, think about what you'd like to tell each applicant and what you want to learn about them. Strategize on the best way to get information that helps you determine whether or not the person is right for your business.
Prepare questions that are designed to encourage applicants to talk - not just answer "Yes" or "No." Create ways to test their knowledge about the type of work they would do if hired. Have them perform a task that is similar to one they might encounter on the job.
Stay away from personal topics, such as asking the applicant about their family or marital status. Create a plan that keeps the interview focused and advancing forward to ensure you get everything you need during your allotted time. Listen carefully to each person so you can properly assess their performance.
2: Hiring Too Quickly... Or Too Slowly
When a hiring need arises, employers can be so eager to find someone that they rush through the process. While this may result in faster hires, it is unlikely to result in the right hire.
Conversely, taking too long can cause your business to miss out on qualified candidates. If you keep an eligible applicant waiting too long, they are likely to accept another offer.
Finding the right balance is tricky, but possible. Start by writing a thoughtful job description that provides a detailed picture of your expectations. Post the opening on various platforms to attract a wide range of applicants. Though it can be time consuming, go through each resume and schedule interviews with people who appear to be qualified. When possible, schedule phone interviews first to help optimize the list of people you will meet in person.
3: Not Understanding Background Screening Laws
Even when the hiring process appears to go smoothly, you can still encounter problems if you are not compliant with background screening laws. You may be familiar with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) - federal legislation that is designed to protect consumers such as job seekers - but you should also be aware of relevant state laws.
Here are a few federal and local laws you should know about:
- Ban The Box - many cities and states have laws that prohibit questions about criminal records on job applications.
- Disclosures - when asking an applicant for permission to run a background check, you must provide a disclosure document. This must be a standalone document that does not contain any additional requests, waivers or content.
- Marijuana Usage - a few states have legalized medical marijuana usage, which has led to some changes in laws about marijuana-related misdemeanors. If you live in one of these states, make sure you are up-to-date on relevant laws.
4: Using Outdated and Illegal Practices
The background screening industry is constantly evolving. Some practices that were once acceptable are now prohibited in various cities and states. Examples include:
- Asking about salary history. While this is still allowed in many places, a growing number of cities and states are banning this practice.
- Making choices based on the applicant's personal traits. Hiring decisions should never be influenced by a candidate's gender, ethnicity, religion, age, marital status or similar factors.
- Denying employment due to any criminal conviction. Numerous states have implemented laws to help people with non-violent criminal records find employment. While these laws vary, best practice is to consider each conviction individually. Factors to review include the type of offense, how long ago it occurred and whether or not the individual may pose a safety risk to others.
Hiring is an often difficult but essential process for every business. Take time to develop a strategy, prepare for each interview and comply with relevant laws. These simple steps will help save your business time and money while empowering you to make informed hiring decisions.
September 5, 2017Hurricane Harvey has caused countless tragedies in Texas and Louisiana. One side effect of this disaster is that many courthouses have been temporarily closed.Backgrounds Online | September 5, 2017
Hurricane Harvey has caused countless tragedies in Texas and Louisiana. One side effect of this disaster is that many courthouses have been temporarily closed.
Court closures will cause delays for all background checks that are being run in the affected locations. No rush orders can be accommodated in those areas at this time.
Court Delays in Texas
The Supreme Court Of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals Of Texas issued a joint order to suspend court proceedings. This order called for court closures in the following cities/counties:
Aransas, Austin, Beaumont, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Hardin, Harris, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Matagorda, Palo Pinto, Refugio, Victoria, and Wharton.
On August 23, 2017 Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared 30 counties to be disaster areas. Three days later, 20 more were included. As the full extent of storm damage is determined, additional courts could be temporarily shut down.
Court Delays in Louisiana
Multiple courts in Louisiana are also experiencing temporary closures due to Hurricane Harvey. The list includes:
Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Grant, Jeff Davis, Natchitoches, Vernon, and Winn.
Most Louisiana courts were closed on Tuesday, August 29. This is likely to cause minor delays in areas that are not listed above.
Keep up with the Closures
Backgrounds Online will be watching for news about new court closures in areas that have been hit by Hurricane Harvey. We will post additional blog entries as needed. If you have questions about the status of background checks in these or other areas, please contact us.
Our thoughts are with the people who have been impacted by this tragic event.
August 29, 2017Spokeo v. Robins is a nationally known lawsuit that's been making headlines for over a year. A recent Court Opinion created a new chapter in this landmark case.Backgrounds Online | August 29, 2017
Spokeo v. Robins is a nationally known lawsuit that's been making headlines for over a year. A recent Court Opinion created a new chapter in this landmark case.
A Brief History
This high profile case began when Thomas Robins filed a lawsuit against Spokeo, alleging that they violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Spokeo is a website that offers people search reports with data such as addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and more. Robins' lawsuit was based on his claim that the site published incorrect information about him.
A district court initially dismissed the case, stating that the plaintiff was unable to show any actual or imminent harm due to the incorrect data. Robins wasn't ready to give up. He went through the appeal process and his case was eventually heard by the Supreme Court.
In May 2016, the Court ruled in favor of Spokeo. A 6-2 decision stated that Robins did not meet the requirements from Article III of the FCRA, which says a concrete injury (or actual harm) must occur to establish a violation. It seemed Robins had lost and the matter was concluded.
The Case Receives a New Opinion
The Spokeo case wasn't over yet. It was remanded to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration. Robins continued to claim that Spokeo did cause a concrete injury by having incorrect information about him on their website.
Robins argued that Spokeo created a detriment to his ability to find work. Allegedly, the website implied that he was wealthy and had a graduate degree, which limited his employment options and caused him anxiety and stress. To determine whether or not any actual harm might have occurred, the Court examined Article III of the FCRA.
The Appeals Court provided a new Opinion on August 15, 2017. They concluded that the "ubiquity and importance of consumer reports in modern life" demonstrates that an inaccurate report is a "threat to a consumer's livelihood." Therefore, they determined, certain types of inaccuracies in reports can constitute a concrete injury.
In Robins' case, the Court agreed that the incorrect data found on Spokeo's site did cause harm. It was also noted that not every inaccuracy can result in a concrete injury. For example, an incorrect zip code on a people search report is not likely to lead to any real or potential harm.
What Employers Should Learn from This Case
Since the Spokeo case first made national news, we've seen a large increase in the number of class action lawsuits that allege FCRA violations against employers. In some instances, the courts have sided with the employer and dismissed a case because no actual harm occurred. Other courts, however, have sided with plaintiffs that can show an employer violated the FCRA in any way.
Every employer should know that not following FCRA laws could lead to lawsuits, fines and related issues. It is essential to only use background checks that contain accurate, reportable information. Refusing to hire someone based on incorrect or outdated data can also be seen as a violation of the FCRA.
To protect your business, best practice is to use a reputable Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA). This is a company that is authorized to produce background checks for employment and business-related purposes. They work diligently to keep up with new and evolving laws that affect their customers.
Backgrounds Online is one of the few CRA's to be accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. Our entire staff of screening professionals has earned their FCRA certification. We are here to partner with and help guide you throughout the background screening process.
If you have questions about following FCRA regulations during your screening process, please contact us for assistance.
August 23, 2017After applying for numerous positions, a job seeker filed lawsuits against potential employers. He claimed these businesses violated the FCRA.Backgrounds Online | August 23, 2017
After applying for numerous positions, a job seeker filed lawsuits against potential employers. He claimed these businesses violated the FCRA.
A Lawsuit Based on Disclosure and Authorization Documents
According to a recent article published by JD Supra, a man named Cory Groshek applied for 562 jobs over a period of one and a half years. He filled out applications, authorized background checks and initiated class action lawsuits against Time Warner Cable, Inc. and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation (henceforth referred to as "The Appellees").
These lawsuits stemmed from the Disclosure and Authorization forms Groshek was asked to review and sign. Such documents are used to obtain permission for an employer to run background checks on potential employees.
Later, Groshek initiated class action lawsuits based on alleged technical violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA states that a disclosure must be a "clear and conspicuous" document that is provided on a "standalone" form. Groshek claimed the disclosure documents he received did not fit this description. At Backgrounds Online, we've seen a sharp increase in lawsuits that suggest an employer did not meticulously follow FCRA regulations with their disclosure document.
Groshek admitted that he authorized background investigations for employment consideration purposes. He also agreed that he was not confused by the disclosures he received. His only claim was that the prospective employers had technical violations of the FCRA.
The Seventh Circuit Court Rejects This Case
When Groshek filed a class action lawsuit against The Appellees, his claim was reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit. They rejected Groshek's standing and dismissed the lawsuits.
The reason for this dismissal was that Groshek did not establish an "injury-in-fact." Since he admitted that he understood the documents he received and agreed to the screenings, the employer was deemed to have committed no injury against him.
Instead, the court found that this was a case of a "statutory violation completely removed from any concrete harm or appreciable risk of harm." Since there was no harm or intention to cause harm, the court ruled that the plaintiff would not be allowed to proceed.
Another Reminder for Employers
It is unclear whether or not the candidate was specifically looking for potential FCRA violations. Regardless, this case serves as yet another reminder about the importance of adhering to federal laws that cover the screening process.
Every employer is responsible for following FCRA and relevant state laws. As we've stated before, we recommend fully documenting your hiring and screening policy to help ensure it is followed each time you hire new employees. When creating or updating this documentation, make sure it covers specific FCRA laws such as providing a standalone Disclosure.
Understanding and following all the laws that cover background screening can be tricky. Backgrounds Online is here to help. We offer FCRA-compliant documents, such as Disclosure and Authorization forms, that our customers can use during their screening process.
If you have questions about your screening policies or need assistance, please contact us. Our screening professionals are FCRA-certified and here to help Monday through Friday from 5am to 5pm PT.
August 15, 2017HR.com surveyed more than 1,500 HR professionals to ask if they ran background checks and, if so, why. Their results showed most employers do screen candidates.Backgrounds Online | August 15, 2017
HR.com surveyed more than 1,500 HR professionals to ask if they ran background checks and, if so, why. Their results showed most employers do screen candidates.
Statistics from the Study
Background checks are an essential part of the hiring process. Results of the HR.com survey showed that 96% of the businesses they contacted do screen potential employees. The study also provided reasons why a few employers do not. Out of the 4% that don't run background checks:
- 29% said they didn't have a budget for screening
- 37% use their own methods
- 27% did not provide a specific reason
The Primary Reason Businesses Run Background Checks Is:
Safety. Nearly 90% of the respondents said they screen applicants to help ensure the safety of current employees, customers and others. Criminal background checks show employers if an applicant has a serious misdemeanor or felony on their record. This information helps them make educated hiring decisions and create safe working environments.
There are numerous reasons to run background checks. Another common survey response was that businesses screen candidates to improve the quality of their hires. A background report can confirm a person's identity, employment and educational history. Employers use this information to see if an applicant is properly qualified for the position to which they are applying.
Background checks are also used to verify mandatory licenses or credentials. They can be easily customized for any type of position in every industry. For example, employers who hire drivers can run a Motor Vehicle Record Search to confirm a candidate has the proper type of license and learn if they have reportable convictions, infractions or accidents. Employers in the medical industry can run a FACIS® Search to verify an applicant's qualifications and ensure they are not banned from participating in federally funded healthcare programs or from being awarded federal contracts.
When Do Employer's Run Background Checks?
The study showed that 86% of respondents initiate the screening process following a successful interview. Nearly 55% stated that they only run background checks after extending a conditional offer. In both scenarios, the employer is looking for the facts they need to make the best hiring decisions.
If the results of a background check are clear, the candidate is likely to get hired. If the results raise concerns that cause the employer to consider denying employment, then the applicant must receive a pre-adverse notification, a copy of their report and a document that lists their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. When this happens, the applicant must then have time to review their report and file a dispute if necessary.
Are Background Checks Affordable?
Background checks can be customized to suit specific positions and accommodate budgets. A basic screening package starts at $29.95 and Custom Background Checks are priced based on the searches they include.
At Backgrounds Online, we think of background checks as an essential investment into the safety and success of every business. As the HR.com study showed, they are used to create a safe working environment and to improve the quality of hires. Not running background checks can be a far more costly and problematic situation.
Hiring someone who is not qualified can lead to a multitude of unexpected costs. Every employer invests time and money into hiring and onboarding people. If a new employee doesn't work out because they lack the background or education they need to succeed, the employer must go through that process again.
Hiring someone who has a history of violent criminal activities can damage a business' reputation and, in worst-case scenarios, lead to a hostile or dangerous work environment. The potential outcome of this scenario cannot be quantified.
That's why, out of more than 1,500 employers surveyed by HR.com, the vast majority ran background checks on all prospective employees. These reports involve a small one-time cost that provide real, ongoing benefits and reduce the risk of unexpected expenses.
The screening experts at Backgrounds Online are FCRA-certified and here to help. We are available Monday through Friday from 5am to 5pm PT.
If you have questions or would like to discuss your background screening needs, please contact us.
August 9, 2017When a California man learned he was denied employment due to information that should not have been in his background check, he took action.Backgrounds Online | August 9, 2017
When a California man learned he was denied employment due to information that should not have been in his background check, he took action.
What Prompted the Lawsuit
According to an article published by JD Supra Publications, a California resident applied for work at a large company in 2011. He received a preliminary hire approval and was asked to report to an orientation. Later he was told to not show up.
No explanation was given, so the man contacted his potential employer. He learned that he'd been denied employment due to a criminal record on his background check. There were three problems with this scenario.
Before his background check could be run, the man had to sign a disclosure and authorization document. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) stipulates that these authorization and disclosures, which are used to confirm an individual authorizes a report, must be provided in a standalone document. The document cannot contain any additional content, waivers or other information. The lawsuit alleges that the authorization included a liability waiver - a statement that said the applicant understands all employment decisions are based on legitimate and non-discriminatory reasons.
Although the applicant was convicted of a crime in 1998, he later had this record expunged. By 2010, that record could not legally be included on a background check. If this conviction was divulged on the background check, that constitutes another FCRA violation.
The third problem was the way the applicant was denied employment. He was not informed that the employer was considering an adverse action and therefore had no opportunity to review his background check. The FCRA stipulates that a consumer must receive pre-adverse notification, a copy of their report and a summary of their rights. Consumers must then have a "reasonable" amount of time to review and respond. Had this happened, the man could have informed the employer about the mistake on his report and taken steps to get it resolved.
When he learned why he was denied employment, the applicant initiated a dispute. By that time, the employer was no longer hiring.
Potential Impact of the Class Action Suit
This lawsuit could have a massive financial impact on the employer. Since the plaintiff initiated a class action suit, everyone who had a similar experience was eligible to participate.
There were two ways for potential plaintiffs to join. Anyone who signed the authorization and disclosure, which allegedly contained additional content, had the right to take part. Nearly 42,000 people were deemed eligible for this group. People who were denied employment without first having an opportunity to review their background check could also sign on. This group included about 715 individuals.
The FCRA allows for statutory damages of $100 to $1,000 for every violation. If the plaintiffs win, this employer could face substantial monetary penalties.
Why This Matters to Your Business
As more FCRA-based lawsuits are filed against employers, more job-seekers become aware of their right to sue. That makes it critical for every employer to be aware of and compliant with federal and state laws that cover the hiring process.
The FCRA is intended to protect consumers. The laws it creates are meant to ensure that people who seek jobs, credit and other necessities are treated fairly. Business must comply with these laws to avoid the threat of legal action and large fines.
To help ensure compliance, it is best practice to document your screening and hiring policies – and review them periodically to ensure they are up-to-date. It is also advisable to document each hiring phase, including details about why candidates were denied employment. If an applicant is denied employment based on their background check, it's also a good idea to document what led to the decision, when the candidate was notified and what was done to ensure FCRA compliance.
The screening experts at Backgrounds Online are all FCRA-certified. We watch for new laws that cover the screening process and provide information to help our customers remain compliant. If you have questions about how we can help you, please contact us today.
August 2, 2017According to a recent study, Ban the Box laws are helping job seekers who have minor criminal records without increasing discriminatory practices.Backgrounds Online | August 2, 2017
According to a recent study, Ban the Box laws are helping job seekers who have minor criminal records without increasing discriminatory practices.
Terry-Ann Craigie, an Assistant Professor of Economics at Connecticut College, published the results of this study in January, 2017. It advocates Ban the Box laws and suggests they increase the probability that individuals with minor convictions will be able to obtain employment.
Ban the Box Laws Are Spreading
Some job applications include a question that asks if the applicant was ever convicted of a crime. If the answer is yes, the job seeker must check a box. This box allows employers to immediately see if the person has ever incurred a criminal record. Ban the Box laws prohibit questions about criminal convictions on applications and call for the removal of these checkboxes.
The movement to Ban the Box has grown exponentially in recent years. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) notes that more than 150 cities in 28 states have adopted Ban the Box laws. Similar laws are expected to be passed in additional cities and states.
Ban the Box laws are designed to help people find employment if they have minor criminal convictions on their records. The goal is to prevent employers from automatically disqualifying candidates with minor or irrelevant convictions without first conducting interviews and learning more about each applicant. Although many people see these laws as a positive step forward, there are critics.
Criticisms of Ban the Box
One criticism of Ban the Box is that there are no standard guidelines. Laws have been implemented in numerous locations and there have been scenarios in which local regulations conflict with state or federal laws. This can make it difficult for employers to comply.
A few studies have concluded that Ban the Box laws can prevent some demographic groups from receiving employment opportunities. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggested that these laws inadvertently lead to discriminatory practices against the people they are designed to help.
These conclusions stem from a concern that employers might make assumptions about the names of their candidates. Ban the Box critics caution that hiring managers could see names that are commonly associated with Hispanic or African-American men and make uneducated guesses about whether or not each person has a conviction. If that happens, people might not be considered for employment based on nothing more than their name.
The study published by Terry-Ann Craigie of Connecticut College disagrees with those conclusions.
About the Study
Craigie used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which followed the lives of almost 9,000 people born between 1980 and 1984. All the participants have been interviewed biennially about their education, employment history, criminal records and other topics.
Results of these interviews, along with additional research and data, helped Craigie reach the conclusion that Ban the Box laws have helped individuals who have minor criminal convictions. In her 44-page document, the author finds numerous positives stemming from the Ban the Box movement. It proclaims that these laws have led to a 40% increase in the probability that individuals with criminal records will find employment in the public sector.
Craigie's study also investigated the issue of statistical discrimination. In direct contrast to what critics have said, Craigie concluded that Ban the Box laws do not discriminate against any demographic group.
What This Means for Employers
Studies that support Ban the Box laws could encourage more cities and states to adopt similar policies. These laws impact the hiring process.
Employers must be aware of laws that cover employment and background screening policies in areas where they operate. Businesses with locations in multiple cities and states must comply with laws that are in effect wherever they hire and host employees. Failing to follow relevant laws could lead to class action lawsuits, fines and other issues.
It is best practice for employers to document their hiring policies and watch for new laws that will affect their business. When relevant laws are passed, it is equally important to update that documentation and make sure everyone who participates in the hiring process is informed.
If you have questions about Ban the Box laws or need assistance putting together a background screening plan, contact us for assistance. All of our screening specialists are FCRA-certified and ready to help with your background screening needs.
July 25, 2017Lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would require background checks and follow-ups for state-licensed workers who deal with the public.Backgrounds Online | July 25, 2017
Lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would require background checks and follow-ups for state-licensed workers who deal with the public.
The Proposed Bill
Bill Sandifer, Chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, sponsored the bill. Its purpose is to implement mandatory background checks for individuals who need state-issued licenses for their careers. This includes pharmacists, hairdressers, medical examiners and other professionals.
The bill went to the House and was approved by a large margin. It was rejected by the Senate, but could be considered again at a later date. Sandifer hopes the bill will be made into law when the Senate reconvenes in January.
What Caused the Discussion
This bill was prompted by the terrifying story of a man named Todd Kohlhepp. He was arrested in South Carolina following a missing person investigation. Police officers were dispatched to Kohlhepp's property and when they arrived, they found the victim locked in a metal box. She had been imprisoned there for two months.
Kohlhepp owned a home in Moore, South Carolina. The property was searched thoroughly based on a tip from the person Kohlhepp had kidnapped. She told authorities that she had reason to believe multiple bodies were buried on the grounds. A search that lasted several days confirmed her statement.
Prior to his arrest, Kohlhepp worked as a self-employed Real Estate Agent. Despite having a criminal background, he was granted a license in 2006. After receiving his license, Kohlhepp opened TKA Real Estate and ran the business from his home.
In February, 2017, Kohlhepp was convicted of murder and various other charges. He was sentenced to serve seven consecutive life sentences plus an additional 60 years. The option for parole at any point was denied.
A New Law for Real Estate Agents
While still a minor, Kohlhepp was found guilty of serious crimes including rape and kidnapping. In 1987, he was sentenced to serve 15 years in an Arizona prison. He was released in 2001 and had no other known arrests until 2016.
News about the kidnapping and murders shocked the South Carolina community where Kohlhepp lived. His story raised an important question: how was he granted a real estate license with his serious criminal history?
Lawmakers set out to establish new regulations for real estate agents. They recently passed a bill that will require South Carolina residents to undergo a background check before receiving a real estate license. Licensed agents will also have to submit to fingerprinting and follow-up screenings every six years. This applies to everyone who wishes to renew their license, whether they were initially screened or not.
The new bill was sponsored by Representative Chip Huggins. It goes into effect at the beginning of 2020. According to Higgins, this bill is intended to help prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred in South Carolina.
If You Have Employees Who Work with the Public
It is essential to make sure your employees are properly screened before they are allowed to work with the public. If your employees will spend time in someone's home, offer rides to customers or have access to vulnerable individuals, then best practice is to implement ongoing screenings.
Backgrounds Online can help you establish recurring screenings for your employees. All we need to get started are the names and email addresses for each person. We'll schedule the screenings and alert your employees in advance so they can provide consent.
Regular screenings help you establish and maintain a secure and reputable work environment for your employees and customers. If you have questions about running background checks or recurring screenings, contact our staff today for expert assistance.
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