A recent ordinance has been passed that will change the way most employers in Newark, New Jersey are allowed to use and conduct criminal background searches on applicants. Effective November 18th 2012, the ordinance will have a significant impact on the process of hiring new employees for all employers of five or more people that do business in, employ in, or take applications from, the city of Newark.
Your new potential hire has just left your office following a final interview. You feel great about their attitude and they appear to have the pedigree of a top candidate. They have all the signs for success: a resume full of great experience, stories about converting tough clients, and the charisma/charm and character you’ve only ever read about in hiring books.
The Association’s guidance is targeted to all employers that utilize employment background checks to vet employees for job opportunities. Company roles in human resources, legal compliance, risk management, finance and general management should review the full press release.
In recent years identity protection has become an increasingly big deal. Specifically, the handling of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) by companies has been reworked in a number of states in order to better safeguard their employees against identity theft. The sudden concern arose primarily due to companies putting employee’s financial information at risk for years by asking for SSNs in places they really do not need to be. Identification cards, employment applications, pay stubs, mail, or even the electronic transmission of SSNs via the internet all unnecessarily heighten the risk for identity theft. With today’s criminals consistently finding new ways to exploit inadequate security systems, it’s important that companies and employers strive to cut down on excessive exposure of sensitive information.
In most states across the U.S. it is illegal to do the following:
- · Publicly display or post more than the last four digits of SSNs.
- · Print SSNs on employees’ badges, parking permits or timecards.
- · Require people to use their SSN to access a website unless encrypted or over a secure connection.
- · Use more than the last four digits to access a website unless a password or other unique identifier is also required.
- · Use more than the last four digits of an SSN as an employee number.
- · Send SSNs through the mail, unless the documents are applications or other such forms; and then SSNs must not be visible through a windowed envelope.
- · Keep unsecured files containing SSNs and allow non authorized personnel access to such files.
The California Office of Privacy Protection has put together a set of recommendations, click here, for any entities who wish to tighten up their SSN practices.
Prior to the NCAA and Big Ten Conference sanctions, board of trustee decisions following the Freeh Report and the release of chilling voicemails left by Jerry Sandusky on a victim’s phone, the looming question of Penn State’s next steps still remain. The image of the university is undoubtedly tarnished after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial revealed university officials sat idle as children were victimized by the former assistant coach to the prestigious football team.
The university is still the subject of a number of investigations and the current president, Rodney Erickson says the university is cooperating fully. [Read more] Following the sanctions levied by the NCAA and Big Ten, credit ratings provider, Moody’s Corporation announced that it may cut the university’s current “Aa1” credit rating. A downgrade from Moody’s could make it more expensive for Penn State to borrow money – the school is already $1 billion in debt. [Read more]
Financial woes aside, the university has already begun taking steps to make a dent in replenishing the image it once had; removing the Joe Paterno statue from campus may not be enough.
Erickson announced earlier this month that the university would adopt a new background check procedure. On July 5, all current and future job candidates (including third-party candidates) must undergo a criminal background check prior to working for the university. HR99 as it’s called incorporates a “more comprehensive procedure that also ensures compliance with recently issued new guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on background checks.”
Associate vice president of Human Resources, Susan Basso, says that “to provide the safest possible environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors it is imperative that Penn State implements consistent and thorough background check procedures.”
First Contact HR has always recommended that higher education adhere to EEOC guidelines and adopt a comprehensive background check policy that meets their specific needs. No college or university is the same, yet identity verification, criminal records research, sex offender registry checks, employment and education verification and motor vehicle records review are all recommended services for any potential staff member of an educational institution.
Regarding the effectiveness of background checks, Jerry Sandusky had a criminal background and was even denied a volunteer coaching job in 2010 after Juniata College conducted a background check.
HR Professional Opinion:
Higher education institutions should audit their current practices and conduct an objective risk assessment. Student safety and security should be high priority and never subordinate to other objectives of the institution. Conducting comprehensive background checks that are in compliance with federal, state and local laws are key in protecting the institution’s reputation, hiring and retaining the right talent, while creating a culture that matches the institution’s goals, objectives and vision.
Higher education should evaluate all new hires, volunteers and contractors, considering the following factors against the work to be performed or held, the work performance location, and the degree of risk to the organization:
- Any loyalty or terrorism issue;
- Patterns of conduct (e.g., alcoholism/drug addiction, financial irresponsibility/major liabilities, dishonesty, un-employability for Negligence or misconduct, criminal conduct);
- Felony and misdemeanor offenses;
- Drug manufacturing/trafficking/sale;
- Significant honesty issue (e.g., extortion, armed robbery, embezzlement, perjury);
- Criminal sexual misconduct;
- Serious violent behavior (e.g., rape, aggravated assault, arson, child abuse, manslaughter);
- Illegal use of firearms/explosives; and
- Employment related misconduct involving dishonesty, policy violations, criminal or violent behavior.
Further, prior to taking any adverse action against any subject, First Contact HR recommends consideration of the following:
- The nature, extent and seriousness of the conduct;
- The circumstances surrounding the conduct;
- The frequency of the conduct;
- How recently the conduct occurred;
- The individual’s age and maturity at the time of the conduct;
- The presence or absence of rehabilitation and other pertinent behavior changes;
- The potential for pressure, coercion, exploitation, or duress;
- The likelihood of continuation of the conduct;
- How, and if, the conduct bears upon potential job responsibilities; and
- The individual’s employment history before and after the conduct.
According to a recent survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF), approximately 97 percent of all retailers in the U.S. utilize background screening procedures in the hiring process.
Retailers know the importance of keeping their employees and customers safe, which is why they use different types of background screening components, including checking criminal, credit, motor vehicle/driving records, as well as drug history, social security number traces, and education and identity verifications.
The findings released by the NRF were based upon a survey of 96 individual retail and restaurant companies. “Nearly all retailers polled (96.6%) utilize background screening as part of their applicant hiring process.”
For information on the background screening services First Contact HR can provide in the retail space, click here.
In May, 2011 a job applicant sued Toojay’s Mgmt. Corp, a private employer, when after the interview process the employer rescinded an offer of employment after finding out the applicant filed for bankruptcy in the past.
The applicant claimed that the company’s actions violated a section of the Bankruptcy Code, which states that:
“No private employer may terminate the employment of, or discriminate with respect to employment against, an individual who is or has been a debtor under this title, a debtor or bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act, or an individual associated with such debtor or bankrupt…”
The court rejected the applicant’s claim, since the applicant was not yet an employee and the company was simply reacting on facts provided by a background check. Read more about this case.
It’s no surprise that basically anyone and everyone can conduct a simple background check on whoever they like. With companies like EasyBackrgoundCheck.com and nationally-recognized BeenVerified.com, individuals and companies can input basic information about a person and obtain “background” information on that individual.
While it is fine for people to use internet background check services like these for personal use, it is important to realize that these companies are simply “public record aggregators,” and thus not a replacement for traditional pre-employment background screening or private investigative services.
Internet aggregation services are a cheap and quick way to get a bit of information on a stranger or person of interest, but are certainly not acceptable for hiring purposes. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) information that is supplied by a 3rd party vendor for hiring purposes needs to be both accurate and current (not older than seven years). Furthermore, companies and organizations that are in fact going to use the information obtained from these internet aggregation sources for employment purposes, must obtain the applicants consent before doing so. In the case of hiring, the job applicant must provide an organization with signed written consent for performing an internet background check.
Companies and organizations that have written consent from applicants to do a background check still need to make sure that the information is accurate – in many cases, the information is not. BeenVerified.com for example even states: “we do not represent or warrant that the results provided will be 100% accurate and up to date.”
More often than not, those conducting internet background checks via aggregation services are not able find the right person to investigate either because their name is too similar to another person (think, “John Smith”) or the person has taken steps to protect their internet privacy (think, “do not call list”… but more like the “do not internet background check me online list”). How could an individual do this without countless hours spent searching online? You might ask.
Well, there are a number of ways individuals can hide, block and even remove information about them so that internet background check websites cannot find them. Read this article by BGR.com explaining all the ways you can put yourself on the “do not internet background check me online list” for all the major internet aggregation sites such as BeenVerrified.com.
The best practice available for a company or organization that is looking to conduct background checks on job applicants and employees is to use a trusted company such as First Contact HR. To see what background screening services First Contact HR can provide to individuals and companies, Visit: FirstContactHR.com
On May 26, 2011, Leon Singletary discussed First Contact HR’s services as well as offered industry insights on Critical Mass: Coast to Coast on OC Talk Radio. Hosted by Ric Franzi, Leon and Ric talk about the role full-service background checks and HR security plays in mid-market company’s hiring decisions.
When asked about guiding principles used to grow the firm, Leon says “[we] have a number of values that really start with client focus, you know, [we] believe that it is the core of our business and it’s really a differentiator for us…” To listen to the entire interview click the play button below or click here.
City of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed an ordinance that will prohibit employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their criminal backgrounds until after the first employment interview.
After a first interview, employers may perform a background check or request the disclosure of an applicant’s criminal record history.
The ordinance prohibits city agencies and private employers from knowingly inquiring about criminal backgrounds, including arrest records on the employment application. The ordinance is applicable to all employers with workforces of ten or more persons in the City of Philadelphia. As a result, this ordinance will require applicable employers to update their interview and screening process, including the employment application.