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.
In this day and age, companies are becoming increasingly concerned with their financial well-being and corporate responsibility. For most of them, this means ensuring employee safety and candor in the work place.
Background screening companies like First Contact HR are here to keep company work environments safe by mitigating risky hires, while also remaining legally compliant. Providing background checks means background screening companies must have a high standard for legal integrity to help their clients make the best hiring decisions.
They’re being called the “perversion files” – a record of previously confidential files listing the names of 1,200 Boy Scout of America officials and scoutmasters who are accused of abusing young boys over a period of two decades.
The files released Thursday, October 19 contain more than 15,000 pages detailing accusations of the sexual abuse against scout leaders and officials between 1965 and 1985. The list of names in the documents were deemed “ineligible volunteers” and include those who are accused of sexual abuse towards the minors they came into contact with during boy scout meetings and functions.
Police are now responding to 523 of the alleged cases. The files were kept confidential – until now – and represent all that the Boy Scouts of America could have done to protect their young members, but didn’t. Continue reading
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.
The use of credit reports in background checks have been around for decades starting with banks and financial service institutions as a means to vet candidates who would be handling cash and have access to sensitive information, such as social security numbers, account numbers and balances, as well as other bank assets. The rationale was simple: if a candidate was experiencing difficulty managing their personal finances, then how effective could they be on the job in making leading or other financial decisions that might affect the company’s bottom line. Further, if the candidate was experiencing severe personal financial stress such as payment delinquencies, liens and collection activities, would it be prudent for the financial institution to hire and place such candidates in positions with access to cash and assets that might prompt dishonest behavior like theft or embezzlement? Continue reading
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.
There has been a surge in legislation across the U.S. with the goal of curtailing employer use of criminal records that bar employment opportunities for ex-offenders. Take for example the new EEOC guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records and the proliferation of “ban-the-box” laws.
With the enactment of the 2010 Massachusetts Criminal Offender Records Information (CORI) Reform bill, employers face a wave of changes in their use and access to criminal records.
With the increasing number of employers conducting background checks, public concerns have arisen pertaining to the method, use and fairness of such checks in potentially barring applicants from employment.
First Contact HR has compiled a list of the most significant trends that are shaping the background screening industry.
On April 25, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new Enforcement Guidance on use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions.
As a result, the new EEOC Enforcement Guidance aims to prohibit employers from using “blanket prohibitions” against hiring anyone with any kind of a criminal records, no matter how old the conviction and no matter what the prior offense may have been. When making employment decisions based on conviction records, employers should take a three (3) factor approach:
- The nature or gravity of the offense or conduct;
- The time elapsed since the offense, conviction; and/or completion of the sentence; and
- The nature of the job sought or held.
More specifically, the Enforcement Guidance provides two circumstances in which an employer’s criminal conviction policy will “consistently meet” Title VII’s “job-related” and consistent with business necessity” defense. According to the EEOC, these circumstances include:
- employers who are able to validate their use of background screening policies and practices as a business necessity will meet the defense, or;
- develop a targeted, three (3) factor screening approach (as outlined above), and provide subjects with criminal records an opportunity for an “individualized assessment.”
Other defenses for employers to consider involve compliance with federal or state laws that are specific to their business. For instance, the FDIC Act requires banks to conduct criminal background checks on applicants and restricts their ability to hire individuals with certain conviction histories. Under these circumstances, this would be valid defense for claim of discrimination brought by an applicant or employee under title VII.
With the new EEOC Enforcement Guidance in place, here are some best practice tips and action steps for employers to consider:
Best Practice tips for employers:
- Eliminate policies and practices that impose blanket prohibitions to employment based on any conviction;
- Do not request arrest records from applicants;
- Educate and train hiring managers and decision-makers about appropriate use of conviction history in hiring and promotion, and separation;
- Revise screening procedures to ensure that they are job related and consistent with business necessity;
- Do not ask applicants for disclosure of convictions that are not job related and consistent with business necessity, and;
- Keep information about applicants’ and employees’ conviction history confidential.
Employer Action Steps:
- Review background screening policies and practices in light of the new guidance, and;
- Make adjustments needed to the extent practices cannot be justified as job related and consistent with business necessity, and;
- Recruiters and job interviewers must be trained in connection with the EEOC’s Guidance in order to be credible witnesses in any challenge the employer’s hiring, promotion, or separation decision-making.
On April 26, 2012 a vice dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Education resigned after questions of his academic background arose. Doug Lynch, a trusted faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, claims that he has a doctorate. His resume states that he earned his doctorate from Columbia University in 2007, yet Columbia said that he has not yet earned his Ph.D. Additionally, on the Fels institute of Government webpage, Lynch was listed as “Dr. Lynch.”
Prior to quietly resigning following an investigation by the University of Pennsylvania into the authenticity of his claimed doctoral degree, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article about Lynch being placed on leave. Read more
Fabricating facts and figures on a resume is fraud – and while it is not necessarily a crime, it is certainly a “misdemeanor offense” in the working world. Resume fabrication commonly includes lying about receiving a degree or certification, exaggerating numbers like GPA and dates worked on a particular project or job, inflating titles, providing a fake address, etc.
Those who get caught not only tarnish their reputation, but bad press is directed towards the organization that hired the individual guilty of fraud. Basically, resume fraud doesn’t look good for anyone, hence the importance of conducting education verifications in a pre-employment background check.
This is not the first time we’ve seen organizations in the limelight for hiring employees with fabricated backgrounds. Remember these?
- Ronald Zarrella, Bausch & Lomb chief executive officer claimed to have graduated from New York University’s Stern School of Business. He actually only attended the MBA program from 1972-1976, yet never graduated.
- George O’Leary, ex-Notre Dame football coach resigned five days after being hired after admitting to resume fraud. He claimed that he received his master’s degree in education from New York University, yet he never received that degree. He also lied about playing college football for the University of New Hampshire. This was also inaccurate.
- Dave Edmondson, chief executive of RadioShack claimed to have received degrees in theology and psychology from Pacific Coast Baptist College in California. As it turns out, Edmondson only completed two semesters and that psychology wasn’t even a degree that was offered by the college.