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From the Columbus Dispatch:
The “collateral sanctions” bill that raced through the Statehouse last year was hailed as a measure to allow ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society to shake off their records, find jobs and make a fresh start. It is doing just that — but with unintended consequences:
A rapist was cleared to work with children. A woman who’d been charged with murder but was found mentally incompetent to stand trial was cleared to work at a hospital. A person with a pattern of crimes that would make him an undesirable neighbor — menacing, burglary and terrorist threats — was cleared to move into public housing.
In each case, the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation had to tell the prospective employer that its applicant had “no criminal record,” when just the opposite was true. This is because provisions in Senate Bill 337 require the state to shield serious criminal histories during the pre-employment background checks it conducts for schools, day-care and senior centers, police departments and children’s services agencies and others.
These omissions are dangerous. They give employers a false sense of security. They give violent people access to unsuspecting victims.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is calling on the General Assembly to hold hearings to find a way to preserve the intent of the collateral-sanctions law and still protect the public.
The measure was billed as a way to remove unreasonable roadblocks that afflicted 1.9 million Ohioans. For example, one of the most-frequent sanctions, the revocation of a driver’s license, was tacked onto many crimes unrelated to the operation of a motor vehicle. And someone with a criminal record generally could not get a barber or cosmetology license. Such sanctions are pointless impediments to employment, making it that much more difficult for former inmates to go straight.
But the law also requires BCI to shield highly relevant information, including arrests without convictions. That’s a problem because Ohio counties fail to report one out of 10 convictions to the state’s database. And some conviction notices arrive months late. Further, a pattern of charges that haven’t led to a conviction — for domestic violence, for instance — is telling. It could prevent a wife-beater from becoming a police officer.
Also purged from the background investigations are serious juvenile-court convictions. The laws allow reporting only of murder, aggravated murder and sex crimes, but only if the youth is still required as an adult to report as a sex offender.
“From a common sense-point of view, if I was looking for a foster parent or looking for someone to work with children or to be with children, I would want to know whether they had been convicted of rape,” DeWine told the Associated Press.
Since the law took effect in September, DeWine has compiled a list of 24 background checks — he calls them “horror stories” — in which BCI had to cross its bureaucratic fingers behind its back and report “no criminal record.”
The intent of the law is worthy, but it needs fine-tuning, and soon.
Photo credit: Zepfanman.com
News reports this week confirmed rumors that New Hampshire plans to reorganize their court system, eliminating approximately 60 court clerks. The money saving effort, will see many clerks dismissed or demoted. In their place, New Hampshire plans to adopt a “circuit court system” with the remaining clerks managing more courts. If passed by the legislature, the reorganization will go into effect on July 1, 2011. New Hampshire’s court system has not reported whether delays are expected as a result of the reorganization.
Read more here.
Photo credit: Zoom Zoom
Hopefully your company doesn’t have this kind of policy…
(Source: yubanet.com) According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP) more than one in four U.S. adults — roughly 65 million people –have an arrest or conviction that shows up in a routine criminal background check, and a new report from NELP finds that these Americans are facing unprecedented barriers to employment. With the rapidly expanding use of background checks, employers are routinely, and often illegally, excluding all job applicants who have criminal records from consideration, no matter how minor or dated their offenses.
The new report highlights the widespread and illegal use of blanket no-hire policies by providing numerous examples of online job ads posted on Craigslist, including some by major corporations, that effectively bar significant portions of the U.S. population from work opportunities. Because of their blunt impact and extreme overreach, these blanket no-hire policies have become the subject of increasing litigation, attracting heightened scrutiny from the courts and concerned policymakers. At the same time, 92 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks, according to a 2010 Society for Human Resources Management survey.
The NELP report, entitled “65 Million ‘Need Not Apply’: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment,” surveys online job ads posted on Craigslist in five major cities—San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Atlanta. The survey found numerous examples in which extreme requirements precluded consideration of anyone with a criminal record, in clear violation of federal civil rights law. Major companies, such as Domino’s Pizza, the Omni Hotel, and Adecco USA, were just some of the employers that listed entry-level jobs on Craigslist—ranging from warehouse workers to delivery drivers to sales clerks—that unambiguously shut the door on applicants with criminal records.
Read the rest of the article here.
Download the NELP report: “65 Million ‘Need Not Apply’: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment” (PDF)
How Do You Become a Model Employer and Comply with the Law?
(Source: NELP’s guide to best practices for employers who conduct criminal background checks)
Identify positions that require a background check under state or federal law, or that require a background check due to the sensitivity of the job. You are not required by law to perform a background check for most positions.
Do not request criminal history information on the initial job application. Inquire into an individual’s criminal history only after the applicant has been selected as a final candidate.
Many cities, states, and even some federal agencies delay background checks because “it is generally more practical and cost-effective.” (U.S. Office of Personnel Management Regulations.)
If you conduct a background check, be sure to comply with the legal requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
First, give notice to the applicant and get the worker’s consent. If the background report includes criminal history information, provide a copy to the applicant and allow the applicant to contest or explain the information included before making an employment decision.
See the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.) and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) for your obligations. Your state may have additional requirements.
Consider only job-related and recent convictions when making an employment decision. Consideration of arrest information likely violates federal civil rights law and may violate state law.
See the EEOC Policy Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest Records (www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/arrest_records.html).
Be sure to comply with the legal requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e).
Deny employment only if the conviction is job-related and doing so is consistent with “business necessity.”
Be sure to consider the following factors:
1. The nature or gravity of the offense or offenses;
2. The bearing, if any, of the offense(s) on any specific responsibilities of the job or position;
3. The time that has elapsed since the offense;
4. The age of the applicant or employee at the time of the offense;
5. Any evidence of rehabilitation.
See the EEOC Policy Statement on the Issue of Conviction Records (www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/convict1.html).
Let the community know that you are a model employer committed to considering all qualified candidates and building a diverse workforce.
Reach out to the local Chambers of Commerce, Workforce Investment Boards and other local partners to publicize your model practices.
Download NELP’s guide to best practices for employers who conduct criminal background checks (PDF).
I recently checked out Quora which is getting a lot of buzz lately (with mixed reviews). What is Quora you ask? The best way to describe it is it’s a Q&A social networking site. I’m not sure if Quora is going to be social media’s newest “it” platform, but I did find some questions on employee background screening that you might find helpful.
Here’s one question that I recently answered:
Q – Is it legal for an employer to charge a potential employee for a background check? If a business requires employees to be screened for past criminal behavior, is it acceptable to charge potential employees for the cost of the screening?
A- There is no federal law that prohibits employers charging a potential employee for a background check but the following states (and Washington, DC) have laws that limit this practice:
- California, Minnesota, Washington,DC – the employee cannot be required to pay for a background check as a condition of employment.
- Vermont – limits an employer charging a potential employee for a background check if they are using specific sources.
- Kansas – employers can’t require potential employees to obtain their own records and give them to the employer.
What questions do you have about background checks?
Photo credit: Valerie Everett