All posts by Les Rosen

Employment Screening Resources President Lester Rosen Presents Session at 69th Annual HR Southwest Conference in Ft. Worth TX on October 13

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Author, speaker, and safe hiring expert Lester Rosen, President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), the company that literally wrote the book on background checks, will present a session titled ‘Background Checks: Trends, Best Practices, and Legal Developments’ at the 69th Annual HR Southwest Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas on Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 8:30 AM local time. To register for the HR Southwest conference, visit http://www.hrsouthwest.com/GeneralInformation.aspx. For more information about educational sessions, visit http://www.hrsouthwestsessions.com/.
 
“As hiring increases, employers need to select safe, qualified, and honest candidates,” explains Rosen, an attorney at law and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual – The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Terrorists, and Imposters Out of Your Workplace,’ a comprehensive guide for employment screening. “This session covers best practices and current issues in background checks, including EEOC considerations for criminal records and credit reports, and the dangers of using social networking sites.”

The presenter of ‘Background Checks: Trends, Best Practices, and Legal Developments,’ Lester Rosen, is a frequent speaker nationwide on pre-employment screening who has testified as an expert witness on issues surrounding safe hiring and due diligence. He was the chairperson of the steering committee that founded the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and also served as the first co-chairman.

The 69th Annual HR Southwest Conference lasts from October 10 to October 13, 2010 and is the largest regional human resources conference in the United States.

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. The company is a leading provider of information, education, and training on “all things background checks” and is dedicated to promoting a safe workplace for both employers and employees. In 2003, ESR was rated the top U.S. employment screening firm in the first independent study of the industry. To learn more about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.hrsouthwest.com/GeneralInformation.aspx
http://www.hrsouthwestsessions.com/

New Massachusetts CORI Reform Law Prohibits Employers from Asking About Criminal Convictions on Initial Job Applications Starting November 4

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Starting November 4, 2010, employers in Massachusetts will no longer be able to ask about convictions on “initial” job applications.

In August 2010, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law new legislation that prohibits employers from asking questions on initial written job applications about criminal offender record information, which includes criminal charges, arrests, and incarceration.

The new law overhauls the Commonwealth’s Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law and contains several provisions that will affect the way employers use the criminal histories of prospective and current employees and impact Massachusetts employers performing criminal background checks on job applicants and employees.

According to a ‘Management Alert’ from law firm Sayfarth & Shaw, while the new law does not prevent employers from obtaining criminal histories of job applicants or employees contained in the CORI database, under the CORI reform law those records will no longer contain:

  • Felony convictions closed for more than ten years, whether convictions occurred more than ten years ago or individuals were released more than ten years ago.
  • Misdemeanor convictions closed for more than five years.

In addition, the alert indicates the new law also includes the following provisions:

  • Employers that decide not to hire applicants or take adverse actions based on criminal histories in CORI reports must first give applicants copies of the reports.
  • Employers conducting five (5) or more criminal background checks per year must maintain a written criminal offender record information policy.
  • Employers are prohibited from maintaining CORI records of former employees or unsuccessful job applicants for more than seven years from the last date of employment or from the date of the decision not to hire the job applicant.

As previously reported on the ESR News Blog, the initial application of the CORI reform law provision which restricts questions by employers about criminal history on initial written job applications will take effect on November 4, 2010. Employers who continue to ask questions on initial written applications about felony or misdemeanor convictions after that date may be subject to liability under the new law, experts warn. The other provisions described regarding the new law do not take effect until February 6, 2012.

For more information about employment background checks and the latest legal updates for employers, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2010/Chapter256
http://www.seyfarth.com/dir_docs/news_item/8795eabd-0b60-47f6-9164-a58c9faf0d7a_documentupload.pdf
http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2010/08/12/new-massachusetts-law-prohibits-employers-from-inquiring-about-criminal-convictions-on-initial-job-applications/

Employment Screening Resources President Presents Webinar on Background Screening Best Practices with IOMA Institute of Finance and Management

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Author, speaker, and safe hiring expert Lester Rosen, President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), the company that literally wrote the book on background checks, will present a webinar titled ‘Background Screening Best Practices: How to Use the Web to Conduct Searches & Avoid Legal Landmines’ with the Institute of Management and Administration’s (IOMA) Institute of Financial Management (IOFM) on Friday, October 8, 2010 at 2:00 PM ET. For more information on this interactive webinar that will help participants discover key sources for gathering critical information while minimizing their liability, visit: http://www.iofm.com/products/view/background-screening-webinar.

“More companies are planning to use Internet searches for background screening in the next year. And many more have staff performing casual searches of Facebook, LinkedIn, and similar sources outside of the formal screening process,” explains Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual – The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Terrorists, and Imposters Out of Your Workplace,’ the first comprehensive guide for employment screening. “The information can be invaluable, including helping to identify potentially dangerous employees and job candidates—but it’s not risk free. Using these sites to conduct investigations can present legal risks, raising both privacy and discrimination issues. Failure to follow best practices in collecting information from social media sites exposes organizations to unnecessary and costly litigation.”

Through case studies and viewing Internet sites, participants in the webinar ‘Background Screening Best Practices: How to Use the Web to Conduct Searches & Avoid Legal Landmines’ will join Rosen for a first-hand guided tour of the ins-and-outs of social networking sites, the treasure trove of information they contain, and the privacy and discrimination issues they raise. By joining Rosen for this tour of social networks as they apply to background screening of job candidates and employees, participants will:

  • Learn why major employers, human resources, and security professionals use search engines and social network sites to screen candidates and gather information.
  • Understand the full scope of risks in using these social network sites.
  • Learn the myths and realities of investigations utilizing these sources: Isn’t everything on the web fair game since privacy is waived once someone places something on the Internet?
  • Learn how discrimination laws and rules concerning off-duty conduct apply.
  • Uncover best practices for conducting Internet investigations.
  • Hear how to evaluate the pros and cons of using Internet sites in background screening.
  • Get answers to specific questions in the Q&A session following the presentation.

The webinar presenter, Lester Rosen, is an attorney at law and a frequent speaker nationwide on pre-employment screening who has testified as an expert witness on issues surrounding safe hiring and due diligence. He was the chairperson of the steering committee that founded the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and also served as the first co-chairman.

IOMA’s Institute of Finance Management (IOFM) is the leading source of information, tools, and resources for corporate managers and professionals in budgeting and cost control management.

About Employment Screening Solutions (ESR):
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. The company is a leading provider of information, education, and training on “all things background checks” and is dedicated to promoting a safe workplace for both employers and employees. In 2003, ESR was rated the top U.S. employment screening firm in the first independent study of the industry. To learn more about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), please visit www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.

Source: http://www.iofm.com/products/view/background-screening-webinar

Employment Screening Resources President To Present Session at 56th ASIS International Annual Seminar on Risks of Using Social Networks to Screen Applicants

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Author, speaker, and safe hiring expert Lester Rosen, founder and President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), will present a session titled “Caution Advised! The Use of Social Networking Sites and Search Engines to Screen Applicants” at the 56th Annual ASIS International Seminar and Exhibits in Dallas, Texas on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 from 1:45 PM to 3:00 PM in Room D170. For more information and to register for the session, visit the ASIS International website at http://www.asis2010.org/.

“Employers and Security professionals have discovered a treasure trove of information on potential job applicants by using social networking sites, such as MySpace or Facebook, and search engines,” says Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual – The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Terrorists, and Imposters Out of Your Workplace,’ the first comprehensive guide for employment screening. “However, just because something is available online does not mean there is no legal risk involved.”

The session “Caution Advised! The Use of Social Networking Sites and Search Engines to Screen Applicants” will examine the pros and cons of employers utilizing such online tools as social networking sites and search engines, including discrimination, privacy, use of legal off-duty conduct, and authenticity. Through case studies and reviewing web sites, security professionals will learn:

  • How these social networking sites and search engines work,
  • What they may find on these social networking sites and search engines, and
  • Potential legal landmines and practical risks involved with social networking sites and search engines.

Rosen is an attorney at law and a frequent speaker nationwide on pre-employment screening and safe hiring issues. He was the chairperson of the steering committee that founded the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and also served as the first co-chairman.

The 56th Annual ASIS International Seminar and Exhibits runs from October 12 to 15, 2010, and is the world’s most comprehensive educational and networking event in the security industry. Founded in 1955 as the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), ASIS International is the preeminent organization for security professionals with more than 37,000 members worldwide.

About Employment Screening Resources:
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. The company is a leading provider of “all things background checks” and is dedicated to promoting a safe workplace for both employers and employees. In 2003, ESR was rated the top U.S. employment screening firm in the first independent study of the industry. To learn more about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), please visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.

Social Network Background Checks of Job Applicants Present Challenges for Employers and Recruiters

By Lester Rosen, ESR President

It appears that a new industry is popping up, whereby employers can go to third party firms that will scour the internet and locate and assemble a dossier on an applicant’s cyber identity.  These “social network background checks” will search social networking sites like Facebok and Twitter, blogs, and anywhere else on the Internet for information about job applicants, including things they may have put online yeas ago and completely forgotten about.

Companies providing social network background checks present a number of challenging questions that HR professionals and recruiters will need to deal with:

  • First, such a site may well be categorized as a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA).  Under the FCRA section 603(f) a CRA can be a third party firm that engages is the “assembling or evaluation” of consumers for employment.   That means that these types of sites are essentially background checking firms, with all of the same legal duties and obligations of any other background firm.  Therefore, such sites need to have full FCRA compliance, including client certifications under FCRA section 604 as well as adverse action notices and numerous other obligations, such as re-investigation upon request. Background checking is subject to heavy legal regulation.  
  • Another issue is authenticity. Under FCRA section 607(b), a Consumer Reporting Agency needs to exercise “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy.”  The issue of course is how to know what is real or authentic before reporting it to an employer.  If a social site contains something negative, how is the firm that supplies the information to go about verifying that it is accurate, authentic, and belongs to the applicant. If the search should happen to turn up a criminal record, then the obligations are even heavier.  A CRA must either give notice to the applicant at the same time it notifies the employer that a criminal record is being reported or it must confirm the information is complete and up to date, which typically means going to the courthouse.  In California, state law does  not even allow he notice option.  
  • There is also the possibility that some of the information obtained from a social networking may meet the definition of a special kind of background report called an “Investigative Consumer Report (ICR).” If so, there are additional special rules if matters that are likely to adversely impact employment, such as revivifying the information from another source or ensuring the information came from the best possible source.
  • Another big challenge for these types of web sites is discrimination allegations.  Employers or recruiters may be accused of disregarding candidates who are members of protected classes by passing over the online profiles of people based on prohibited criteria such as race, creed, color, nationality, sex, religious affiliation, marital status, or medical condition. All of those are things that may be revealed by an online search.  There may even be photos showing a physical condition that is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or showing someone wearing garb suggesting their religious affiliation or national origin. This issue is sometimes referred to as Too Much Information or TMI.

The problem is that once an employer recruiter is aware that an individual is a member of a protected group, it is difficult to claim that they can “un-ring the bell” and forget he or she ever saw it.  Employers may be exposed to “failure to hire” law suits based upon discrimination or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims. 

Another problem yet to be fully explored by the courts is privacy.  Contrary to popular opinion, everything online is not necessarily fair game.  Certainly if a person has not adjusted the privacy setting so that his or her social network site is easily available from an Internet search, that person may have a more difficult time arguing that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.  However, the terms of use for many social network sites prohibit commercial use and many users literally believe that their social network site is exactly that, a place to freely socialize.  The argument would be that in their circles, it is the community norm, and a generally accepted attitude, that MySpace or Facebook pages are off limits to unwelcome intruders, even if the door is left wide open.  After all, burglars can hardly defend themselves on the basis that the door was unlocked so they felt they could just walk in. 

Another issue is legal off-duty conduct.  A number of states protect workers engaged in legal off-duty conduct. If such a search reveals legal off duty conduct, a candidate can claim they were the victims of illegal discrimination  

These concerns are just the tip of the iceberg.  Employers need to be very careful when it comes to harvesting such information from the internet.  How and when an employer obtains such information is critical. For example, employers may have increased protection if such searches are done after there has been a conditional offer, and consent has been given.   Legality may also depend on whether the employer has well written job description with the essential functions of the job defined, so that information used from such searches can be justified.  Another issue is whether employers engage in any sort of objective analysis using metrics. 

The bottom line: Before using the internet to screen candidates, or using third party services, see your labor attorney.  

To read a related article on social network background checks, ‘The Rush to Source Candidates from Internet and Social Networking Sites,’ visit: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2009/08/01/the-rush-to-source-candidates-from-internet-and-social-networking-sites-2/.

For more articles on social network background checks, visit: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/social-networking-sites/page/2

For more information on background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/social-networking-sites/page/2/

CA Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes Bill Limiting Use of Credit Reports for Employment Background Checks

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

To the relief of a number of California employers, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill passed by the California Legislature– AB 482 – that would have limited the use of credit reports by employers during employment background checks.

Assembly Bill (AB) 482 would have prohibited employers from using credit checks for employment purposes, except in limited circumstances.  In his “veto message” to the members of the California state assembly, the Governor stated that he vetoed the bill because existing law already provided protections for employees from improper use of credit reports and that the bill would “significantly increase the exposure for potential litigation over the use of credit checks.”

The Governor’s veto message is available on a Legislative Update press release at http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/16065/:

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 482 without my signature.

This bill would prohibit an employer from using a consumer credit report for employment purposes with certain exceptions.

This bill is similar to legislation I have vetoed for the last two years on the basis that California’s employers and businesses have inherent needs to obtain information about applicants for employment and existing law already provides protections for employees from improper use of credit reports. As with the last two bills, this measure would also significantly increase the exposure for potential litigation over the use of credit checks.

For these reasons, I am unable to sign this bill.

Sincerely,

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The use of credit reports by employers during employment background checks has become a very controversial subject. Several states have limited the use of credit reports for employment purposes and a federal bill seeks to ban credit report checks for most employment screening.

The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Blog has posted several articles on the use of credit repots during employment background checks:

However, ESR has also written about how ‘Credit Reports of Job Applicants May Not Always Be So Important To Employers’ to address concerns of applicants who are concerned how their damaged credit would affect their job searches. Employment credit checks are not as common as most people think.

According to a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), while 60% of organizations performed some type of credit report checks on job candidates, only 13% conducted credit report checks on all job candidates and 47% of organizations performed credit report checks on selected job candidates, mostly for executive positions or positions with financial responsibility or access to confidential or proprietary information.

For more information on background checks and credit reports, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/16065/
http://dl5.activatedirect.com/fs/distribution:letterFile/yvcee9xanplikz_files/z5mlul9x4a1k16?&_c=d%7Cyvcee9xanplikz%7Cz5msx9bcq0v1fm&_ce=1285692164.e3bbe42d582391f05909ff900f2c86a6
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/asm/ab_0451-0500/ab_482_bill_20100923_history.html

Error in Criminal Database Search during Background Check Falsely Labels Candidate a Crook

By  Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

A story from south Florida demonstrates how criminal results found in database searches during background checks may be incorrect and the problems and embarrassment that can result from such mistakes.

According to a report on NBCMiami.com, a candidate running for Cooper City, FL commission named David Nall was falsely labeled a criminal after a required background check database search erroneously stated that he had been arrested for credit card fraud in 1987.

Due to a recently passed ordinance, a background check on all nine candidates was conducted by City Hall, NBCMiami.com reports, and although City Hall never published the results of the background checks, they were released to five parties – including the Mayor’s Office – who requested them.

By the time Nall – who had no criminal record in a subsequent Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) check – was made aware of the mistake on his background check, supporters of his opponent’s campaign had already gone door-to-door with the false report and spread news of his supposedly crooked past through the small town, according to NBCMiami.com. Nall even told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that that his ten-year-old daughter even asked him if he was a criminal.

NBCMiami.com also reports Cooper City blamed the incident on a defect in the database of the background check vendor,   and posted a note on the City Hall website saying Nall had a clean record and apologized for releasing false information about him:

PUBLIC NOTICE CITY OF COOPER CITY CORRECTION AND RETRACTION OF INACCURATE REPORT ON CANDIDATE BACKGROUND

Please be advised that pursuant City Commission Resolution 10-8-4, as adopted on August 17, 2010, the City attempted to access a criminal history record check for all City Commission candidates for the November 2, 2010 City election. However, because of a defect in a portion of the criminal history record search data base, inaccurate information was received by the City (and made available for public inspection) mistakenly suggesting that District 2 Commission candidate David A. Nall had a criminal record from a 1987 matter. As a result of a prompt objection from Candidate Nall, the City immediately examined the matter further and has determined that the criminal history report received by the City was inaccurate and that there is no verification that any criminal violation ever occurred. Accordingly, please be advised that based upon reliable FDLE data, Candidate Nall has a clean (no criminal record) criminal history background check under the terms of Resolution 10-8-4. The City respectfully apologizes for this incident.

Based upon this news story, it appears the false accusation stemmed from a database search as part of a background check. As noted in numerous articles from Employment Screening Resources (ESR), such database searches can easily result in a “false positive,” meaning a person is incorrectly labeled a criminal when they are not. ESR has a policy of always checking the results of any database “hit” at the country courthouse level.

For more information on databases searches, read “Criminal Databases & Pre-Employment Screening: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” which investigates all aspects of criminal database searches.

  • The Good: Criminal records database searches are valuable because they cover a much larger geographical area than traditional searches, which are run at the county level. Since there are more than 3,200 jurisdictions in America, not all courts can be checked on-site.
  • The Bad: Despite their value, criminal records databases have serious flaws, including incomplete records, name variations, and untimely information. Also keep in mind that database checks by private screening firms are NOT FBI records. 
  • The Ugly: Inaccuracy is only one pitfall of national criminal database searches. They also make employers vulnerable to a number of legal landmines, especially when it comes to confirming if the record is current and accurate and even belongs to the applicant. 

The article can be found at http://www.esrcheck.com/articles/Criminal_Databases.php. For more information on background checks and database searches, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source:
http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local-beat/City-Says-Sorry-For-Erroneous-Report-Calling-Candidate-a-Crook-103786279.html 
http://www.coopercityfl.org/vertical/Sites/%7B6B555694-E6ED-4811-95F9-68AA3BD0A2FF%7D/uploads/%7B4E7AD956-8E5F-48B9-AEC6-21A35A52DE23%7D.PDF
http://www.esrcheck.com/articles/Criminal_Databases.php

FedEx Named In Lawsuit That Includes Claim of Negligent Hiring and Retention of Truck Driver

By Lester Rosen, ESR President & Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

According to a report from KECI NBC 13 in Missoula, Montana, the family of a volunteer firefighter killed in a 2008 crash has filed a lawsuit claiming that FedEx, the world’s largest express transportation company, and the owner of the semi truck that killed the victim were negligent in hiring the driver of the semi truck and should have known that the driver was “incompetent and unfit to perform the job that he was hired to perform based on his horrendous driving record.”

The volunteer firefighter had stopped to help another motorist and was sitting in his truck on the shoulder of an Interstate highway with his emergency lights on to create a safety zone for a one-vehicle rollover when the driver of the semi truck – who was later accused of driving too fast for conditions – slammed into the firefighter’s truck, KECI reports. The driver of the semi is facing a negligent homicide charge and pleaded not guilty. The matter is still pending in court.

The lawsuit filed by the family of the deceased volunteer firefighter includes a claim of “Negligent Hiring and Retention” against both FedEx and the owner of the semi truck claiming that the Defendants:

  • Knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that driver of the semi truck was incompetent and unfit to perform the job that he was hired to perform based on his horrendous driving record.
  • Had a duty of reasonable care owed to Plaintiffs to hire and retain competent, qualified, and safe employees.
  • Breached their duty of reasonable care by hiring and retaining the driver who was incompetent, unfit, and dangerous.
  • Failed to exercise reasonable care, which was the proximate cause of injuries and death and damages suffered by Plaintiff.

To read the full text of the lawsuit, click here. The matter is still pending in court.

Every employer carries the obligation – the duty – to exercise reasonable care for the safety of others when hiring, according to ‘The Safe Hiring Manual – The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Terrorists, and Imposters Out of Your Workplace,’ a comprehensive guide produced by background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR). The legal description of the duty of care – “due diligence” – means the employer must consider if a potential new employee represents a risk to others in view of the nature of the job.

If an employer fails to exercise due diligence in the hiring process and a person is harmed by an employee, that employer can be sued for damages in a civil lawsuit for failure to perform a legal duty. The name of the legal action is called “negligent hiring,” which is the flip side of “due diligence.” If an employer hires someone who they either knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known was dangerous, unfit, or not qualified for the position, the employer can be sued for negligent hiring if injuries or death occur.

Understanding how due diligence is associated with the liability for negligent hiring is critical for any employer. If a bad hire does something to force an employer to defend in court, then an employer must show how it took appropriate measures of due diligence. Employers that do not perform due diligence are sitting ducks for litigation, including attorneys’ fees and big damage awards.

Employers that implement and follow a Safe Hiring Program (SHP) show due diligence measures that are a powerful legal protection. While the cost of exercising due diligence through a SHP is usually very modest, employers need to measure the risk of hiring blind with the risk of litigation and attorney fees stemming from a single bad hiring decision that may cause injuries and death.

For more information on background checks and negligent hiring, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/25122686/detail.html
http://www.nbcmontana.com/download/2010/0922/25122750.pdf

Recent Trend Shows Women Increasingly Becoming Involved in Workplace Violence Incidents

By Lester Rosen, ESR President & Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Some experts believe that an emerging trend of women as workplace killers may be indicated by recent cases including a September 2010 incident in which a woman allegedly killed coworkers at the baking plant in Philadelphia where she worked after being suspended from her job.

A story on The Philadelphia Inquirer website about the incident reveals that  although women commit fewer than 5 percent of homicides and assaults in the workplace – and are much less likely to kill than men as a rule – several high-profile cases of women killing in the workplace have occurred in the past few years.

  • February 2010: A female professor was accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others after being denied tenure at a university in Alabama.
  • March 2010: A female supermarket worker in Florida fired for threatening to kill a coworker returned to work and made good on her threat.
  • January 2006: A female former U.S. Postal Service employee killed six colleagues and then herself at a mail-sorting plant in California.

These past cases, combined with the most recent case in Philadelphia, could indicate a possible trend emerging of women committing more acts of workplace violence, according to some experts on the subject.

A teacher at the FBI Academy and author of books on crisis management and violence is quoted as asking “Is it too early to call it a trend, or is it just an anomaly?” in the Inquirer story, adding that he “cannot recall a one- or two-year period in which we’ve had as many women with multiple victims.”

In addition, a study by the University of Tennessee included in the story found that women – although they make up more than half the U.S. population – committed only 15 percent of homicides,  showing that they are much less likely to kill than men. When women do kill, the same study also found they are more likely to choose more “personal” targets such as spouses, intimate acquaintances, or relatives.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 521 workplace killings in the United States in 2009, 420 of them committed by gunfire. The bureau did not have information on how many were committed by women.

While the term  “workplace violence” is appropriate for a quick definition or diagnosis of a problem, fully defining all aspects of  “workplace violence” can be nebulous at best. Many employers loosely define workplace violence as:

  • Assaults, other violent acts, or threats which occur in or are related to the workplace and entail a substantial risk of physical or emotional harm to individuals, or damage to company resources or capabilities.

While this definition covers a fair degree of actions, a better interpretation should be used in order to create an effective, defensible policy for employers. A better definition of workplace violence should account for the type of offense, circumstance — where and when an incident occurs, and whether it is considered to be “on-the-job” — and party or parties involved. Workplace violence can take place anywhere employees are required to carry out a business-related function.

While many acts of workplace violence are caused by external parties, such as robbery in the workplace by a stranger, recent concerns over workplace violence center on workplace violence carried out by existing employees. These internal incidents of workplace violence leave employers largely liable for any problems that occur in the workplace under the “Negligent Hiring Doctrine” dictating that employers can be held liable for damages if they knowingly employ persons known to pose a potential threat to co-workers or the public.

That said, the question arises — how can an employer identify a potentially problematic employee? The problem is that there is no magic formula that tells an employer in advance who will and will not be violent. Predicting future violence is a matter of considerable controversy. However, experts have found some factors that are present in many cases of workplace violence. One important factor is a history of past violence.  For that reason, pre-employment background checks are widely regarded as an effective screening procedure because the process serves three major functions:

  • First, screening job applicants can bring to light problems in a potential hire’s past such as a history of violence, harassment, or extremely inappropriate behavior.
  • Second, by making it standard policy to screen all job applicants on their way into the company, employers demonstrate due diligence, showing that all reasonable efforts have been made in determining whether or not the applicant poses a threat to the company or to the public.
  • Third, pro-actively communicated background screening practices cause applicants to opt-out by discouraging prospective jobseekers with criminal or problematic backgrounds from applying.

However, there is more to preventing workplace problems than screening at the door. Lives of employees can change. A person who checked out in an initial screen may over time develop the traits or behaviors indicative of a potentially violent employee. It is up to the employer to maintain a constant eye on conditions and events in the workplace — to stay aware of employee attitudes and concerns in order to ensure the safety and security of everyone involved.

For more information about background checks and workplace violence, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/102713124.html

Using Online Referencing Tools and Background Checks to Optimize Employee Selection – Part 2

Read Part 1

Part 2

By Lester Rosen, ESR President

At the end of Part 1 of this blog, the question arose from some hiring managers as to whether automated reference services like Checkster could replace the type of employment verifications performed by background firms.

The short answer is no. Although services from Checkster and similar firms can be extremely valuable, they are done earlier in the time line of the hiring process. Background checks are done near the end of the time line. Traditional background checks and Checkster type services can compliment each other, but they serve different purposes. They are different tools for different functions.

First, Checkster type services occur in the talent sourcing and selection stages. Background checks, by comparison, occur only AFTER a tentative decision has been reached. In other words, Checkster type services are used to decide who to focus on out of a pool of candidates, while a background check seeks to assist an employer in exercising due diligence by examining if there is any reason NOT to hire someone that an employer has potentially targeted for employment.

Although a Checkster type service will obviously also help to eliminate some candidates from consideration in the early stages based upon the results of the third-party reference and assessment provided to employers, there is a fundamental difference between an email-based reference service and the role of a background firm.

The whole idea behind due diligence as a legal defense is independent factual verification.

For example, background firms do not take the applicant’s word for whether the past employer even existed. A background firm will typically independently verify that the past employer existed as well as verify that the phone number is real, independent of what the applicant contends. Even if past references are contacted for evaluation purposes by email, the task of verifying the truthfulness and accuracy of the employment history still requires a screening firm to independently obtain information from past employers.

Another advantage to an employer utilizing traditional background checking techniques is that the employer has a powerful argument in front of a jury in the event of a lawsuit for negligent hiring that they excised due diligence. The background firm’s efforts to manually verify the existence of a past employer, and then to verify that the applicant in fact worked there, is one of the most important and powerful due diligence tools in the employment process. By knowing where a person had been, an employer is able to eliminate any unexplained gaps in employment, and to also know where to search for potential criminal records. It is a well-known fact among due diligence professionals that verifying where a person has worked is just as important, and in some cases more important, than checking for criminal records. A criminal record can occasionally slip through the cracks, but an unexplained gap in employment creates a red flag that may prompt an employer to do further research.

If an employer is sued for negligent hiring, it is also questionable whether an employer can demonstrate due diligence if they let job seekers pick and choose which references were contacted. There is also the possibility of a fake or set-up reference, or an applicant creating a fake identity, and having the bogus ones “verified.” Checkster certainly takes step to minimize the possibility of fraud. However, in the final analysis, there is no substitute for the hard work of manual checks. By manually verifying the existence of past employers, and verifying dates of employment in order to reveal gaps in employment, an employer is taking the final due diligence steps needed before making a hiring decision final.

Employment verifications by a background firm are typically conducted in a call center environment in high volume by callers who are used to verifying factual information about an applicant’s employment history. Given the highly sophisticated software and databases as well as expertise that screening firms bring to the process of manual verification, a substantial number of such checks are completed within three working days.

The bottom-line is risk management. Although these email assessment tools are an excellent means of providing an in-depth assessment about a candidate during the decision-making stage, the traditional background check complement them for the final candidates and provides the demonstrable due diligence that can be used as a legal defense if there is a negligent hire lawsuit.

Conclusion: In the never ending efforts by employers to identify candidates that are a good fit and qualified, a new internet tool has been developed to allow employers to utilize email to accelerate the process of obtaining references and assessments from past supervisors and others that know the applicant. Questions have arisen as to how such a tool is related to the background screening process that employers utilize in order to exercise due diligence. In fact, the two processes, although related in some ways, are entirely separate workflows that occur at different times in the hiring process and for different reasons.

Internet based references can be utilized by an employer to whittle down the field of candidates and to help an employer decide whom to hire. Background checks occur after an employer has made a tentative decision, and needs to determine whether there is any reason NOT to hire an applicant.

When past employment checks are done as part of the background check process, the purpose is to verify that the employer actually exists and to independently verify the core details of employment, such as job title and dates. In other words, there is a large difference between obtaining references, which are a qualitative measure of an applicant’s fit and abilities, and factual verification of an applicant’s employment history, which is a critical due diligence task. Both processes can be useful in the quest to select the best candidates to hire and to avoid bad choices.

For more information about background checks and employment verifications, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com. 

Read Part 1

Source: http://www.recruitingtrends.com/optimizing-employee-selection-by-using-online-referencing-tools-and-background-checks