May 14, 2019Walt Disney Parks and Resorts was sued for two alleged violations of federal law. A California court ruled in favor of the employer.Backgrounds Online | May 14, 2019
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts was sued for two alleged violations of federal law. A California court ruled in favor of the employer.
About The Case
A lawsuit known as Culberson v. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts was considered at a California court. Culberson was the lead plaintiff in this class action suit. He alleged that Disney was guilty of two violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The lawsuit asserted that Disney failed to properly inform job seekers of their intent to run background checks. It also accused the employer of not following a federally mandated adverse action process. Claims like these are common. They can be extremely costly for employers who are found to have willfully violated the FCRA.
This case was reviewed at the Los Angeles Division of the Superior Court of California. Disney was granted a summary judgment which meant the lawsuit would be dropped without the need for a trial. While this outcome was against the plaintiff, every employer should have policies in place to ensure they follow laws where they operate. This includes complying with the FCRA.
Before running a background check, employers must provide a document that discloses their intent to do so. The person who is meant to be screened must give consent to this and an authorization form. Both must be standalone documents that do not contain any additional content. Learn more.
Culberson claimed Disney’s disclosure included unnecessary content. While this may have technically been true, the court considered whether or not it constituted a willful violation of the FCRA. They determined it did not and noted that this situation failed to demonstrate “objective unreasonableness.”
Every employer has the right to review background checks for applicants, employees, contractors and volunteers. In some cases, an organization may wish to deny employment based on something contained in that report. Before doing so, they must send the person a letter that states an adverse action is being considered, a copy of the background check and other documentation. The applicant must then have time to review this information and file a dispute if they feel something is incorrect. Until this process is complete, the employer cannot take an adverse action.
In the lawsuit against Disney, Culberson claimed the employer took adverse actions before completing this mandatory process. The suit alleged Disney has an internal status that labeled certain candidates as “No Hire.” This was said to indicate the employer made hiring decisions before job seekers were allowed to appeal.
The court disagreed. Their findings said Disney only used “No Hire” internally and that was not the same as making a final determination. Therefore, the employer was not found to have violated the adverse action process.
What Employers Should Know
Every employer should be aware that they must comply with relevant federal and state laws. Failure to do this could result in class action lawsuits, fines or other repercussions.
Backgrounds Online provides educational resources and documents that can help bolster your compliance efforts. We offer sample disclosure and authorization forms that can be customized as needed. Our site also contains sample pre-adverse and adverse notices as well as information on how to handle all these tasks properly.
If you need to run background checks for employment-related purposes, please contact us. Every member of our processing team earns their FCRA certification and stays educated on background screening laws and best practices. We are available Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
May 09, 2019Employers that operate in New Mexico should be aware of a new expungement law and updates to the state’s Ban the Box bill.Backgrounds Online | May 09, 2019
Employers that operate in New Mexico should be aware of a new expungement law and updates to the state’s Ban the Box bill.
Ban The Box Updates
New Mexico has an active Ban the Box law that prohibits public sector employees from including question about criminal convictions on job applications. A new law known as the Criminal Offender Employment Act was signed on April 3, 2019. It states that private employers may not ask about an applicant’s arrests or convictions until after “a review of the applicant's application and upon discussion of employment with the applicant.”
This law expands the state’s Ban the Box policies to encompass private organizations. Every employer in New Mexico is still encouraged to run criminal background checks on potential employees, contractors and volunteers. The bill specifies that a criminal history can be sufficient cause to deny employment. However, it will help ensure that an employer cannot automatically disqualify a job seeker before completing an initial review of the candidate’s qualifications.
This act becomes effective statewide by mid-June of 2019.
New Expungement Law
A law known as the Criminal Record Expungement Act was also signed on April 3, 2019. It grants New Mexico residents the right to have certain types of arrest and conviction records expunged. To do this, the person must file a petition with the court. If their request is granted, then the record(s) in question can be sealed.
Once a criminal record is sealed, it cannot be reviewed or considered by employers. That means it will not be available on a background check.
Exceptions can be made for certain positions such as law enforcement or medical workers. The Act decrees: “Upon entry of an order to expunge, the proceedings shall be treated as if they never occurred, and officials and the person who received the order to expunge may reply to an inquiry that no record exists with respect to the person; provided that arrest or conviction records shall be disclosed by the person and officials in connection with any application for or query regarding qualification for employment or association with any financial institution regulated by the financial industry regulatory authority or the securities and exchange commission.”
This bill becomes effective on January 1, 2020.
Employers In New Mexico
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed these bills and they cover most employers in the state. If you operate in New Mexico you should prepare for compliance with both laws.
Every employer should create and maintain written hiring and background screening policies. When new laws are implemented, these policies should be reviewed and updated as necessary. For example, employers in New Mexico can add information about these two laws and ensure everyone involved in the hiring process is aware of and prepared for any required changes.
Keep Up With Laws Where You Operate
It is the responsibility of every employer to be aware of and compliant with laws that are in effect where they operate. To help, Backgrounds Online provides educational resources such as this blog, a monthly newsletter and more.
If you need to run background checks that comply with federal and state laws, please contact us. Our processing team members earn their FCRA certification and work diligently to keep up with laws that impact our customers. We are available to assist you Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
May 07, 2019Executive Order 93 prohibits state agencies from asking job seekers about their current or previous salary history.Backgrounds Online | May 07, 2019
Executive Order 93 prohibits state agencies from asking job seekers about their current or previous salary history.
Equal Pay Day In North Carolina
April 2, 2019 was known as Equal Pay Day in North Carolina. Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 93 which addresses a gender-based wage gap in the state. The Governor shared his thoughts on this subject: “Women have strengthened our state and our country for generations, but an unfair wage gap continues to hurt women workers—especially women of color. My administration is taking action to address the gender pay gap among state workers.”
According to a Press Release (PR) issued by the Governor’s office, the median wage for men in North Carolina is $45,000 while women only earn around $36,400. The PR further stated that this gap is even larger for women of color. Executive Order 93 is a step towards fixing that issue.
Executive Order 93
The Order bans all state agencies from asking job seekers about their salary history. It also stipulates that these employers may not use a person’s salary information, if it is known, when determining what compensation to offer.
To help enforce this, the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources (OSHR) will make “best efforts” to ensure state agencies do not use salary information in a “discriminatory manner when making employment decisions.”
Every state employee’s salary is public record in North Carolina. OSHR will monitor salaries to look for potentially discriminatory practices. Barbara Gibson, Director of OSHR spoke in favor of this order. She said: “State government is committed to ensuring that all women have fair and equitable compensation. We appreciate Governor Cooper’s commitment to leveling the playing field for women, who represent a large portion of state government's workforce."
Salary History In The U.S.
North Carolina is not the only state dealing with gender-based salary disparity issues. Several others have passed laws that prohibit employers from asking job seekers about their current or previous salary. Various cities have also passed similar laws.
To help raise recognition about the wage gap, a group of equal rights advocates started a website called Equal Pay Day. It discusses wage gaps by gender and demographic. The site also has information about Equal Pay Day events throughout the nation.
What Employers Should Know
As new laws are passed to reduce wage gaps, employers should be aware that it may not be legal to ask applicants about their salary history. Even if you don’t operate in a state or city where a law is currently in place, one could be implemented in the future. Employers should document their hiring and screening policies and review them periodically to ensure they continue to cover all relevant laws.
If you are bringing on employees, contractors or volunteers, please contact us. Our team works hard to keep up with laws the impact you. We can help you build background screening packages that are ideal for any position and we provide numerous resources to educate you about laws that are active in your state or industry. Our team is available Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
April 30, 2019A proposed bill would allow ex-convicts to obtain licenses that are required for various career paths.Backgrounds Online | April 30, 2019
A proposed bill would allow ex-convicts to obtain licenses that are required for various career paths.
What The Bill Hopes To Accomplish
According to the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, MS has the third highest rate of incarceration in the country. There is great concern that people who spent time in prison will be unable to find jobs after serving their sentences. An inability to obtain employment often leads to more criminal acts and increased recidivism.
To help prevent this, the state is considering House Bill 1284, which is also referred to as the Fresh Start Act. It would help ex-convicts obtain the licenses they need to acquire a variety of jobs in the Magnolia State. Many positions - such as barber, teacher and nurse - require a license. Without one, a job seeker will be ineligible to work in multiple industries. Currently, Mississippi residents who have criminal convictions are prohibited from obtaining certain licenses that are required by many industries.
State Representative Mark Baker spoke in favor of the proposed bill. “It is clear to us that obviously employment is the number one precursor in the reduction of recidivism. Fresh Start is an important piece of legislation which will begin to allow individuals and open up the barriers for individuals to reintegrate back into the work force."
The Fresh Start Act would provide credentialing opportunities for more than 60 professions. There would, however, be limitations. Individuals who served their time, were not arrested again and are actively trying to change their lives would be qualified. People who get arrested again are not likely to be approved.
Second Chance Laws
This bill would be considered part of a Second Chance movement that has been growing throughout the U.S. The most well-known example is Ban the Box, which calls for the removal of questions about criminal history from job applications.
Second Chance laws encourage employers to run criminal background checks after an interview or conditional job offer. While the primary goal is to give ex-convicts new employment opportunities, these laws can also benefit employers by giving them a larger applicant pool.
Running Background Checks
Employers in MS and throughout the country always run background checks when hiring new employees, bringing on contractors or considering volunteers. Background checks show if a job seeker has a serious criminal history that could present a risk to the employer or the public. They also provide essential information about an applicant’s employment and education history. Running them demonstrates you are performing due diligence and provides information that helps you build strong teams.
When you are ready to screen people on behalf of your organization, please contact us. The experienced team at Backgrounds Online can help you build custom screening packages that show if a candidate has a reportable conviction, required license and is otherwise qualified for the position. We are available to assist you Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
April 23, 2019In 2018, the University of Illinois made conditional job offers to numerous applicants. After reviewing background checks, 25 offers were withdrawn.Backgrounds Online | April 23, 2019
In 2018, the University of Illinois made conditional job offers to numerous applicants. After reviewing background checks, 25 offers were withdrawn.
The University’s Hiring Process
Every year, thousands of people apply for positions at the University. Those who appear to be eligible move on to the next step. After resumes are reviewed and interviews are conducted, the University determines which people are most qualified. Those individuals are granted a conditional job offer.
At that point, the applicants are asked to authorize a background screening. These background checks can verify each person’s employment and educational history and show if they have any reportable convictions. This information helps University administrators select the best person for every job opening.
25 Offers Revoked
A report created by the University’s Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer was submitted to the Board of Trustees in March 2019. It stated that 4,569 background checks had been run on job seekers over the last twelve months.
Out of those, 25 conditional offers were withdrawn. According to the report, this can happen if a candidate has a criminal conviction that is a: “nexus to the duties and responsibilities of the position sought.” The revoked offers were said to represent approximately.2% of the background checks the University ran within a one year period.
Background checks can return a variety of reportable criminal records. It is important to note, however, that not every conviction warrants denial of employment. Convictions should be reviewed to determine how long ago they occurred, if they are relevant to the position and whether or not hiring the person could create a risk for the employer, existing staff or the public.
At the University of Illinois, a Hiring Risk Assessment Review Committee reviews convictions and makes recommendations Their goal is to determine if a candidate’s criminal history renders them ineligible to work with and around students. The Executive Director of University Relations said this about the process: “The safety of University students and employees is one of the highest priorities of the University. This is just one element of the things that the University can do to try and ensure that level of safety to the best of its ability.”
Creating A Safe Work Environment
Every employer is responsible for taking steps to ensure the safety of their staff, customers and anyone who has contact with people who represent their brand. Running background checks is an ideal way to demonstrate you are performing the due diligence that is required to create and maintain a safe work environment.
If you are bringing on employees, contractors or volunteers, then it is paramount to first run criminal background checks. The experienced team at Backgrounds Online can help you customize FCRA compliant background screening packages that are perfectly suited for any position in every industry. Contact us for immediate assistance from a certified background screening professional. We are available Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
April 16, 2019The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission conducted an investigation on Uber’s background screening policies. Their results were released in March, 2019.Backgrounds Online | April 16, 2019
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission conducted an investigation on Uber’s background screening policies. Their results were released in March, 2019.
Reason For The Study
In 2018, CNN investigated Uber’s background screening and vetting process. They found more than 100 drivers had been “accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years.” These results were startling and put a strong focus on the company’s hiring and background check policies.
Rideshare companies like Uber were granted the right to operate in PA by Senate Bill 984, which was signed by Governor Tom Wolf in 2016. Part of the agreement stipulated that these companies must run background checks on all drivers. In a blog entry, the Governor wrote: “This bill also protects consumers with background checks and thorough vetting for drivers, making sure we are doing all we can to keep riders safe and secure.”
To help confirm and ensure the safety of PA residents, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission investigated Uber’s screening policies. Once completed, they released a report with their findings and recommendations.
The Commission found several areas in which Uber must improve. They included:
Implement Ongoing Background Screening. Uber runs background checks on people before granting them driving jobs. The Commission decreed that drivers must also authorize ongoing criminal monitoring to see if they incur new convictions.
Improve safety features on the mobile app. The commission recommends using more visible icons to help users identify and quickly access essential safety features on the Uber app.
Provide more details about complaints. Uber allows riders to file complaints, but the commission determined that most cases don’t provide sufficient details. The company is expected to make improvements in this area.
Share information about deactivated drivers. If a driver is let go due to safety concerns, then Uber is asked to share that information with relevant authorities.
Provide safety initiatives to all users. The commission noted that Uber has introduced safety features that are not yet accessible to everyone. They are asking for these features to be made more readily available.
Set goals. While Uber has implemented various performance metrics, the Commission determined they must also establish “key aspects of business performance (that) indicate how well the company is performing and drive improvement.”
Formalize policies. The commission decreed that Uber should have well-documented hiring and background screening policies. When ready, they should be available to everyone involved in hiring.
In addition to their report, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission created an Implementation Plan. It covers each recommendation and includes discussion about how these topics will be addressed. This document includes information about when each task must begin.
Takeaway For Employers
Background checks serve several purposes. They help employers make informed decisions by providing details about a candidate’s qualifications and eligibility. These reports can also provide a variety of criminal records searches that show if the individual has reportable convictions.
Current best practice is to review any conviction and determine if it is relevant to the position. Individuals who will provide services directly to consumers, such as rideshare operators, are subject to extra scrutiny. Public safety is a key issue for such jobs. Employers should be aware of the necessity to run criminal background checks before hiring and to utilize ongoing monitoring that helps ensure employees and contractors remain eligible.
Backgrounds Online is a Consumer Reporting Agency that provides FCRA compliant background checks, ongoing criminal monitoring and other essential services. If you need background reports that help you make informed decisions, create a safe workplace and show you are performing due diligence, please contact us. We are available to assist you Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
April 09, 2019A proposed bill would automatically seal close to 8 million criminal records that are currently available in the golden state.Backgrounds Online | April 09, 2019
A proposed bill would automatically seal close to 8 million criminal records that are currently available in the golden state.
About The Bill
California residents have a legal right to request certain types of criminal records be sealed. According to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, nearly 80% of these records remain open. He believes most people are unaware this option even exists.
The proposed bill would automatically seal convictions for drunken driving, burglary and other “low level” crimes. If that happens, these records would no longer be available to the public.
Sealed records will still be available to law enforcement. Police officers would be able to review these convictions if a person is arrested and accused of another crime. They would not, however, legally be available to employers, landlords or anyone else who accesses public records.
The Reason For This Bill
There is an ongoing movement in the United States to create “second chances” for individuals who have minor or outdated criminal records. People who were once incarcerated often have trouble finding jobs, places to live and other necessities. Bills like the one proposed in California are intended to help these individuals.
If passed, this bill would result in the sealing of convictions for residents who served their sentences satisfactorily, completed any probationary time and were not arrested again. It would also automatically seal numerous arrest records that did not result in convictions. Although the people who have these records can currently ask for them to be sealed, the majority may be unaware of this possibility.
How The Process Would Work
The California Department of Justice will build a database of records that are eligible to be sealed if this bill becomes law. It would work similarly to technology that was used to eliminate nearly 9 thousand marijuana convictions. Records placed into this database would then be sent to the county courts where they originated. Once there, the records would be sealed at the local level.
Supporters of this bill believe it is in line with other California policies that lessen penalties and ensure outdated or minor criminal records are not publicly available. San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting supports creating opportunities for people who have been rehabilitated. He stated: "Rehabilitation begins with a fresh start. You can't get a fresh start with something still on your record."
What This Could Mean For California Employers
This bill would eradicate millions of convictions and arrest records in California. Once a record is sealed, it can no longer be used to help make hiring, promotion or other decisions regarding the individual. It would be as if the record never existed. The team at Backgrounds Online will keep up with this proposed bill and provide additional details if it passed.
Employers should also be aware that they may only use current background checks that contain reportable information. If an employer relies on a report that is outdated or provided by a public records aggregator that does not comply with federal regulations, they could be sued or face other repercussions.
Complying With Employment Laws
To help ensure compliance with federal and state laws, employers should rely on the services of a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) that is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). A CRA, like Backgrounds Online, only uses up-to-date records that can legally be reviewed and considered for employment-related purposes.
Backgrounds Online keeps up with current and upcoming laws that affect employers throughout the nation. If you need assistance with your background screening efforts, please contact us. Our experienced team is FCRA certified and available to help you Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
April 02, 2019A House Committee is pushing for legislation that would prohibit job applications for federal contractors from including questions about convictions.Backgrounds Online | April 02, 2019
A House Committee is pushing for legislation that would prohibit job applications for federal contractors from including questions about convictions.
About The Bill
H.R. 1076 was introduced by the House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman. It is a “Second Chance” bill that seeks to create a federal Ban the Box policy for contractors. If passed, the law would require questions about criminal convictions to be removed from federal job applications. Exceptions would be made for certain positions such as law enforcement, security personnel and individuals who would have access to classified data.
The goal is to create employment opportunities for people who have convictions. Currently, federal applications are allowed to ask if the person has a criminal record. Those that do are required to check a box. Any application that has this box checked is likely to be discarded immediately. This prevents the applicant from being interviewed or considered, regardless of their qualifications or what type of conviction they incurred.
Support For Banning The Box
Representative Elijah Cummings introduced H.R. 1076. It was co-sponsored by Senator Ron Johnson, who has been an ongoing proponent of Second Chance laws. He said his work in this field is the most “inspirational activity my staff and I have been involved in since I took office.” Johnson further stated that individuals who are able to obtain employment after being released from prison only have a 16% chance of returning. Those who are unable to find work have a 52% likelihood of recidivism.
According to an article in Government Executive, many members of House sub-committees are supportive of this bill. They believe that banning the box would help individuals rejoin society after satisfactorily serving out their sentence and probation. Some members, however, have expressed concerns. Representative Chip Roy suggested that delaying the release of a disclosure for criminal records could lead to additional discrimination against potential contractors.
H.R. 1076 is not the first federal Ban the Box bill. Similar laws were implemented in 2016 by the Obama administration. These laws, however, did not apply to private companies that conduct business with federal agencies.
The government has been a big proponent of second chance legislation. Numerous laws have been passed at state and city levels with the shared objective of creating employment opportunities for former convicts.
Takeaway For Employers
Any employer that works with federal agencies should be aware of H.R. 1076 and prepared to remove questions about convictions from their applications if the bill passes. All employers should be aware of the Ban the Box and Second Chance movements. We regularly see new laws passed that support these concepts. Even if you do not operate in an area that has an active Ban the Box law, best practice is prepare in advance by following these regulations now.
If you need to run background checks for your organization, please contact us. Our team keeps up with federal and state laws that cover employers throughout the country. We can help you create custom screening packages that are suited to any position in every industry. Reach us via phone, email or chat Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
March 26, 2019Police in Fort Worth Texas discovered that a sex offender was officiating sporting events at two school districts.Backgrounds Online | March 26, 2019
Police in Fort Worth Texas discovered that a sex offender was officiating sporting events at two school districts.
About The Officiate
James Earl Williams was working as an athletic official for Granbury and Glen Rose school districts in Texas. However, due to his criminal record he was not eligible to be in this position. Williams is a registered sexual offender who is also accused of abducting and raping a 13-year old girl. According to an affidavit, Williams was linked to that kidnapping via a DNA database. The prosecution believes they have a strong case against him.
In 2016, Williams was convicted of kidnapping an 11-year-old child. He served two years in a state jail and was required to register as a sexual offender once his sentence was completed. Prior to this, he had a kidnapping conviction that occurred in Hawaii.
Williams has serious restrictions regarding employment. Because of his past, he is prohibited from working with minors. He neglected to inform local police he’d been accepted as an officiate for youth sporting events.
How Could This Happen?
Williams was contracted through an agency that provides workers to Texas schools. The agent who approved Williams was Larry Pollard.
Pollard stated that most of the people he recommends are individuals he has known and trusted for years. However, he also reportedly affirmed that sometimes he must find outside help due to a lack of available personnel. That appears to have been what happened here. Williams was allegedly approved without a background screening to fill an open officiate position.
In a statement, Pollard said his services: “provide the officials for those schools and there’s a lot of them that wouldn’t be able to have basketball games if it wasn’t for us.” Pollard also allegedly admitted that background checks are not run on the individuals he recommends to junior and high schools.
Texas School Districts React
An article about this situation revealed that police learned Williams was officiating games from posts he made online. It also divulged officers had contacted the school district regarding Williams, but no specific details were provided.
Upon learning about Williams’ disturbing history, the districts are taking steps to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Jeff Meador, spokesperson for a Texas school district, said they are working with legal counsel to create new rules for background screening employees, contractors and volunteers.
Meador said the district is: “increasing procedures to require that all prospective athletic officials submit to a background check through the same system used for booster club members, PTO members, program mentors, and others volunteering on our campuses.”
The Superintendent of Glen Rose district mentioned he was unaware that officials who were brought to them had not been screened. He supports a plan for schools to run comprehensive background checks on all future officials and others who will do any type of work or volunteering on behalf of a school district.
Individuals who are currently officiating for these schools are also being asked to authorize a background check. If anyone refuses, they will no longer be allowed to officiate at district-sponsored events.
What Employers Should Know
The families of students everywhere expect individuals who work with and around young people have been screened to ensure they do not have violent or sexual convictions. Although Williams was not an employee, he did represent the district. This is disturbing news for residents who allow their children to participate in after-school activities.
Every employer is responsible for taking steps to ensure the people they hire are not a risk to other employees or the public. Allowing someone who has a serious conviction to represent your brand reveals you did not perform due diligence. This leads to a loss of trust from people who once relied on you to maintain a safe environment.
If you need to run background checks on people who will represent your brand, please contact us. Our experienced team will help customize screening packages that are ideal for every position. We are available Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
March 19, 2019The EEOC filed a lawsuit against a furniture company that allegedly refused to hire women for sales or warehouse positions.Backgrounds Online | March 19, 2019
The EEOC filed a lawsuit against a furniture company that allegedly refused to hire women for sales or warehouse positions.
About The Lawsuit
American Freight Furniture and Mattress, a retailer based in Ohio, is being sued for allegedly violating federal anti-discrimination laws. The company is accused of refusing to hire candidates due to their gender. According to a brief, the employer was only willing to hire men for sales or warehouse positions.
The lawsuit claims that corporate managers at the company prohibited their store managers from hiring women. Allegedly, the reasons provided included that female employees:
“Complain and make trouble.”
“Are a distraction to the male employees.”
“Don’t sell furniture as well as men.”
These claims were brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After reviewing details and attempting to resolve this issue, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against the employer.
The EEOC’s Involvement
Representatives from the EEOC stated that American Freight Furniture and Mattress violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit against the retailer called for financial relief for female applicants who were not hired due to the company’s allegedly unfair practices. The suit calls for back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages
The EEOC is a federal agency responsible for enforcing laws that prohibit workplace discrimination based on protected factors. These include (but are not limited to):
When the EEOC is called on to investigate, they first attempt to determine if any act of discrimination has occurred. If that is their conclusion, then they first make attempts to settle the matter. Should this not be possible, their next move is likely to file a lawsuit against the accused employer or organization.
Are Your Hiring Policies Fair?
We say this often: every employer should have written hiring and background screening policies. This document should include anti-discrimination rules that demonstrate the company is committed to maintaining a valid, fair and transparent process. Legal counsel should review the document to ensure it is complete and compliant with all relevant laws in each state where the company operates. The final version can then be distributed to every person who is involved in hiring.
These policies should be referenced and followed throughout the hiring cycle. Once that begins, the employer is also responsible for following laws that cover how and when background checks are run. The team at Backgrounds Online provides a variety of useful resources to help our clients with their background screening efforts. They include a monthly Newsletter, sample compliance documents that can be downloaded and customized, a section on our website about new and upcoming State Laws and this blog.
If you have questions about running background checks for your applicants, employees, contractors or volunteers, please contact us. Our experienced team is here to assist you Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
March 12, 2019The County Board of Legislators for West Chester, NY voted to pass a bill known as the Fair Chance to Work Law.Backgrounds Online | March 12, 2019
The County Board of Legislators for West Chester, NY voted to pass a bill known as the Fair Chance to Work Law.
About The Bill
Lawmakers in Westchester County, New York, proposed a Ban the Box (BtB) bill in 2018. After several meetings and reviews, it was passed on December 3. The description of this bill says it is a "LOCAL LAW amending Chapter 700 of the Laws of Westchester County in relation to prohibiting discrimination based on one's arrest record or criminal conviction."
This law affects employers with four or more employees. Covered employers are prohibited from asking job seekers about arrest records or criminal convictions during the early portion of the hiring process or on applications. They are also disallowed from discriminating against applicants for having any type of arrest record or conviction.
Background Checks For Westchester Employers
Employers in Westchester are still permitted and encouraged to run background checks on candidates who are being considered open positions. Background reports are used to help employers:
* Create a safe workplace.
* Confirm a candidate meets the position requirements and has the skills/experience needed to succeed.
* Perform due diligence by demonstrating they are checking for serious criminal convictions that indicate the candidate could be a risk.
Simply having a conviction does not make an applicant ineligible for hire. Westchester employers will use background checks to see if a candidate has a reportable criminal history. If records are returned they must then be reviewed and assessed individually. Employers are required use Article 23-A of the New York State Correction Law when deciding if a conviction might warrant denial of employment.
If an employer in Westchester takes an adverse action without following the guidelines established by the Fair Chance to Work Law, then the affected candidate may have the right to pursue compensatory damages. This includes (but is not limited to):
* Actual damages.
* Back pay.
* Front pay.
* Attorney fees and expenses.
* Additional compensation for mental anguish and emotional distress.
Employers everywhere must also follow the federally mandated adverse action process.
Exemptions To The Fair Chance to Work Law
In certain cases, Westchester employers are allowed to run background checks immediately or inquire about criminal records at the start of the hiring process. Exemptions exist for schools, law enforcement agencies and government offices.
All other employers in Westchester must adhere to the Ban the Box law.
About Ban The Box
Ban the Box laws are part of a growing Second Chance movement in the United States. The purpose is to help individuals who have outdated or minor convictions find employment. In the past, people who had any type of arrest or conviction were unlikely to receive any consideration from hiring managers.
While Ban the Box laws are not consistent from place to place, their goals are typically to:
* Increase the pool of qualified job seekers.
* Allow people who have served their time an opportunity to re-enter the workforce.
* Reduce the rate of recidivism.
To learn more about new and upcoming bills, follow this blog and check our State Laws section periodically.
Best Practice For Employers
Even if no Ban the Box or Second Chance laws are currently active where you operate, one could be passed in the coming years. Best practice is to remove questions about convictions from all job applications now. Employers should also document at what point during their hiring process a background check will be run. All hiring and background screening policies should be reviewed and approved by legal counsel before being implemented.
When running background checks, it is essential to only review reportable records that can legally be used to make informed business decisions. Backgrounds Online is an accredited Consumer Reporting Agency that provides FCRA-compliant reports. To learn how we can help you customize background checks for any type of position so you can build strong teams and reduce risk, please contact us. We are available Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.
March 05, 2019Due to a lack of proper background screening policies, an individual with a conviction for sexual assault was approved as a park volunteer.Backgrounds Online | March 05, 2019
Due to a lack of proper background screening policies, an individual with a conviction for sexual assault was approved as a park volunteer.
Investigating The District’s Background Check Policies
The Inspector General for Chicago’s Park District conducted an investigation on the district’s background screening practices. This led to the realization that background checks had not been run on numerous volunteers. According to a report, nearly 1,000 individuals do volunteer work at these locations each year.
Based on the audit, approximately one-third of the volunteers who were approved did not go through a background screening. The results also showed that the District’s policies for vetting potential volunteers are outdated and severely under-resourced. It was discovered that a single individual was responsible for reviewing and considering all potential volunteers for around 600 parks.
The investigation also revealed the District’s procedures were not “reliable for basic organizational purposes such as tracking the number of volunteers in the parks or knowing which of them is actively volunteering.” These red flags that are cause for concern both to the District and park visitors.
A Volunteer With A Serious Conviction Was Approved
During the investigation, the Inspector General learned that several volunteers who had “potentially disqualifying criminal records” were approved because background checks were not run. These individuals would be seen as trusted authority figures by people who visit Chicago parks.
One person who was approved had a misdemeanor sexual assault on his record. This offense occurred in another state, but could have easily been discovered with a comprehensive criminal background check. Had this happened, the individual in question would have been immediately disqualified.
Thankfully, that person did not follow through with volunteering.
The District Takes Action
Following the startling results of the Inspector General’s audit, the Chicago Park District initiated discussions on how to improve their vetting process. There was extra urgency to this as it was also discovered that background checks are not run on volunteers for youth sports leagues that use state-owned facilities.
These discussions resulted in the recommendation of a “top to bottom” re-evaluation of the entire volunteer program, switching from a manual to an electronic record-keeping system and running comprehensive background checks on every volunteer.
To help reassure the public, the Chicago Park District issued the following statement:
"Protecting the children of Chicago is paramount, particularly when they are engaged in programs and activities in our parks. Following the Inspector General’s findings, the Chicago Park District is in the midst of a thorough review of its volunteer management procedures. We will continue to work with the Chicago Children’s Advocacy and the Inspector General to implement best practices with one goal of protecting our children and patrons."
The Urgency Of Consistent Background Screening Policies
It is important for every business and organization to have written background screening policies and follow them consistently. These policies can define when a background check is run, which criminal searches will be conducted and what will be done if a potentially serious conviction is found.
The Inspector General touched on this crucial subject. He stated: “There’s no process by which the deliberation over past criminal conduct is conducted, whether it’s long in the past or recent and insignificant. We don’t show our math on how we clear or reject candidates. There used to be a committee that was impaneled to consider these cases and now there no longer is.”
If you don’t have a written document that explains how you handle hiring and background screening, it’s advisable to create one. When you have something ready, ask your legal counsel to review and ensure it is compliant with relevant laws.
Does Your Business Or Organization Run Background Checks?Whether you hire employees, work with contractors or have volunteers, it is essential to run background checks. Not doing this puts your staff, customers and the public at risk. It can also have a negative impact on your brand.
When you’re ready to run background checks, please contact us. We can create custom screening packages that are ideal for your applicants, contractors and volunteers and schedule annual screening for your current employees. Our FCRA-certified team is highly trained and available to assist you Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm.