All posts by Les Rosen

ESR Webinar Shows How to Avoid Legal Landmines If Using Social Media Like Facebook and LinkedIn for Employment Screening

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) President, Author, and Speaker Lester Rosen to Educate Employers, Recruiters, and HR Professionals on Proper Use of Social Networking Sites during Background Checks

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading employment screening firm based in the San Francisco area, will present a webinar featuring ESR’s founder and president, Lester Rosen, to educate employers and recruiters on the proper use of popular social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn during background checks. The webinar – “Avoiding Legal Landmines when Using Facebook, LinkedIn, and Other Social Media Websites for Screening Candidates” – will be presented on Thursday, August 26, 2010 from 2:00pm to 3:30pm ET (11:00am to 12:30pm PT).

“Employers and recruiters have discovered a treasure trove of information on potential job applicants in social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn,” says Rosen, a frequent speaker on employment screening issues and the author of “The Safe Hiring Manual – The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Imposters and Terrorists out of the Workplace,” the first comprehensive guide on employment screening for employers. “However, the use of these social media sites can present legal risks, including privacy and discrimination issues. We show employers how to avoid these legal landmines.”

Participants in this webinar – presented with and worth 1.5 HRCI credits – will learn through case studies and viewing internet sites what the privacy and discrimination concerns are when using social media information, the potential legal landmines involved, and what steps their organizations can take to minimize these risks. For information about the webinar, which targets HR Professionals, Hiring Managers, and Employment attorneys, visit

The questions that will be answered in this informative and educational webinar include:

  • Why do major employers, human resources, and recruiters use search engines and social network sites to screen candidates?
  • What are the risks in using these social network sites?
  • Isn’t everything on the web fair game since privacy is waived once someone places something on the Internet?
  • How do discrimination laws and rules concerning off-duty conduct apply?
  • What are the best practices for employers when using social network sites?

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the firm that literally wrote the book on background checks with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR provides professional employment screening services and drug testing nationally and internationally, acts as a safe hiring partner for clients, and specializes in industry leading technology, service, accuracy, and turnaround. For more information, visit or contact Jared Callahan at 415-898-0044 or

Credit Reports of Job Applicants May Not Always Be So Important To Employers

Employment Screening Resources President Lester Rosen Quoted on

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

Recently, a blog on by Personal Finance Authority Erica Sandberg – Can you get a job with bad credit? The answer may surprise you. – addressed a reader who was concerned how her damaged credit would affect her job search.

In her blog, which contained an excerpt from a column she wrote on, Sandberg indicated there are “many myths surrounding credit reports and employment” and that to “get to the bottom” of how credit reports are really being used she spoke with Lester Rosen, CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a consumer reporting agency (CRA) and human resources consulting firm based in the San Francisco area.

In the blog, Rosen had the following to say about credit reports of job applicants being used for employment purposes:

  • Employers don’t randomly access credit reports from all job applicants. They only do so for those who are solid candidates.
  • If they are pulling a credit report, congratulations! They are doing a background check, and that is good news, as they are seriously considering the applicant for the position. They won’t run it before the applicant is a finalist.
  • Credit reports aren’t checked for all occupations or industries. Most employers are looking at credit reports for people applying for positions that are clearly related to finance or have access to cash or credit. They usually don’t access credit reports for people applying for minimum wage jobs.
  • The only way an employer can pull an applicant’s credit report is with the applicant’s permission. Therefore, if the employer asks, the applicant should head over to the human resources department and explain his or her particular situation.
  • A potential boss does not have access to the same type of reports that lenders do. The credit reports employers can see never include credit scores or list dates of birth. All they can view is an applicant’s credit history.
  • If applicants are concerned about how these credit report pulls may harm their credit report further, they can relax. Unlike when a prospective creditor checks it, no “inquiry” will be listed.

As for the real impact of a job applicant’s credit damage, Rosen recommends in the blog that they should not worry about even that too much.

“Our experience is that employers are very sensitive to the fact that credit reports are not perfect. And everyone in the world knows there is a recession, and employers take that into consideration. It’s a misconception that people are being blacklisted because of their credit reports. However, if the employer does makes an adverse decision based on your report, you have a right to know about it and get a copy of the report they used.”

The gist of the story, according to Sandberg, is that credit reports may not be as powerful and important as job applicants may think, and that chances are some employers will be willing to give applicants with debt problems a break if they really want to hire them.

For more information on the use of credit reports in background checks of job applicants, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at

FTC Proposes Revisions to Notices Consumer Reporting Agencies Provide to Consumers, and Users and Furnishers of Credit Report Information

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

According to a news release on its website, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is proposing revisions to the notices that consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) provide to consumers, and also to users and furnishers of credit report information under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The proposed changes are designed to reflect new rules that the FTC has enacted under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act or FACTA) of 2003, and to make the notices more useful and easier to understand.

In addition to revising the general Summary of FCRA Rights notice (“A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act”) which informs consumers how to obtain a free credit report and dispute inaccurate information in credit reports, the FTC also is proposing improvements to the notices that credit reporting agencies provide to users and furnishers of credit report information.

The User Notice (“Notice to Users of Consumer Reports: Obligations of Users Under the FCRA”) and Furnisher Notice (“Notice to Furnishers of Information to Consumer Reporting Agencies: Your Obligations Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act”) inform users and furnishers of their obligation to provide certain protections to consumers.

The text of the Federal Register Notice is at: A brief summary of some proposed revisions for each of the three notices includes the following:

  • A. Summary of Rights: The FCRA requires the Summary of Rights to include an explanation of (1) the consumer’s right to obtain his or her consumer report; (2) the frequency and circumstances under which a consumer may receive free consumer reports under the FCRA; (3) the right of a consumer to dispute incorrect or outdated information in his or her consumer report; and (4) the right of a consumer to obtain a credit score. With respect to a consumer’s right to dispute information in his or her consumer report, on July 1, 2009, the Commission and other federal regulatory agencies issued the Furnisher Direct Dispute Rule, which took effect on July 1, 2010. Prior to the effective date of this Rule, under the FCRA, consumers had a right to dispute the accuracy of information in their consumer reports only by filing a dispute with a CRA. Under the Furnisher Direct Dispute Rule, consumers may dispute the accuracy of information in their consumer report directly with the furnisher of that information as well as the CRA. The proposed revised Summary of Rights reflects this additional dispute right.
  • B. Furnisher Notice: The proposed revised Furnisher Notice reflects the new duties of furnishers set forth in the Furnisher Direct Dispute Rule described above. It also reflects new duties contained in the Furnisher Accuracy Rule, which became effective on July 1, 2010. The Rule requires furnishers to establish policies and procedures to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the consumer report information they furnish to CRAs, and to consider the guidelines prescribed by the agencies in establishing these policies and procedures.
  • C. User Notice: The proposed revised User Notice reflects the new duties of users set forth in several of the rules finalized pursuant to the FACT Act. 1.) First, effective January 1, 2011, the Risk-Based Pricing Rule will require users of consumer reports to provide risk-based pricing notices in certain circumstances if they extend credit to a particular consumer on less favorable terms than those they offer to others. As an alternative to providing risk-based pricing notices, the Rule permits such users to provide consumers who apply for credit with a free credit score and information about their credit score. 2.) Second, if a CRA notifies a user of consumer reports that the address the user provided about a consumer is different from the address in the consumer report, the Address Discrepancy Rule, which became effective on January 1, 2008, requires the user to implement reasonable procedures to verify that the consumer report relates to the correct consumer. Users of consumer reports that verify the address is accurate, and that regularly furnish information to the CRA, have additional responsibilities under the Rule. 3.) Finally, the Medical Information Rules, which became effective on April 1, 2006, prescribe the circumstances under which creditors may obtain, use, and share medical information.

In addition, the revisions will improve the clarity, readability, and usefulness of the documents for consumers, furnishers, and users. These notices – originally issued in 1997 and revised in 2004 – are further examples of how the FTC works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices. 

The FTC is accepting public comments on the proposed changes until September 21, 2010 at the following link:

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) will keep its clients advised of any new language and will adjust reports and forms accordingly. For more information, visit


More Cities Ban The Box Asking about Criminal Records on Job Applications

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer 

According to a recent report from the National League of Cities (NLC) and National Employment Law Project (NELP), an increasing number of cities have decided to “ban the box” and remove questions on job applications asking about criminal records.

The July 2010 report – “Cities Pave the Way: Promising Reentry Policies that Promote Local Hiring of People with Criminal Records” – features 23 cities and counties that have chosen to “ban the box” on their job applications that asks about an applicant’s criminal record, and defer the criminal background check to the final stages of the hiring process.

The report states that since San Francisco chose to “ban the box” from job applications in 2004, 22 other cities and counties have enacted similar ordinances or policies. The report notes that five cities – Bridgeport, CT; Hartford, CT; Kalamazoo, MI; Memphis, TN; and Worcester, MA – have joined the “ban the box” movement in the past year. As of the July 2010 report, the “ban the box” policy has now been adopted by 23 cities and counties across the country. These cities and counties include (in alphabetical order):

  • Alameda County, CA
  • Austin, TX
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Boston, MA
  • Bridgeport, CT
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Hartford, CT
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Kalamazoo, MI
  • Memphis, TN
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Multnomah County, OR
  • New Haven, CT
  • Norwich, CT
  • Oakland, CA
  • Providence, RI
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • St. Paul, MN
  • Travis County, TX
  • Worcester, MA

In addition, the report also notes the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has concluded that “an absolute bar to employment based on the mere fact that an individual has a conviction record is unlawful under Title VII.” Any examination of applicant criminal records by employers must be job-related and consider the following:

  • Is the applicant’s offense substantially related to the job in question?
  • Has the employer has considered the nature and gravity of the applicant’s offense?
  • Is the time that has passed since the conviction or the completion of the applicant’s sentence sufficient?

With more cities, counties, and even states considering the adoption of the “ban the box” policy that removes questions regarding criminal records of job applicants from initial job applications, employers should revisit their policies on using criminal records during employment background checks to remain compliant with federal, state, and local laws.

For more information on the use of criminal records during employment background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


CNN and WSJ News Stories Show Background Checks Occur at Intersection of Security and Privacy

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

Recently, two news stories about background checks from very different angles appeared in two major media outlets – CNN and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) – on the same day.

The CNN story – “Investigation: Could background check have prevented alleged rape?” – investigated why British Petroleum (BP) and a company used to hire cleanup workers for the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico did not perform basic background checks.

According to the CNN story, this lack of background checks for oil cleanup workers led to a sex offender landing a job and then allegedly raping a co-worker. A CNN investigation into the incident revealed that basic background checks were not performed on those hired to remove oil from the beaches in Mississippi.

A County Sheriff in Mississippi told CNN he learned from the head of BP security that no background checks were conducted on the cleanup workers and that he warned the BP official that BP risked the criminal element looking for jobs and they would not know who they were dealing with if they did not do background checks. The Sherriff also said that, if asked, his department would have performed the background checks for free.

The 41-year-old suspect – who faces charges of sexual battery and failure to register as a sex offender – has a criminal history dating back to 1991. He was put on the national sex offender registry for a 1996 conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was also on probation after being convicted in 2003 for cruelty to children, CNN reports.

While the CNN story shows the need for background checks for security reasons, a WSJ law blog – “Background Checks in Hiring: Discrimination or Due Diligence?” – asks if employers can disqualify job applicants simply for having a criminal past and finds the answer may not be so clear cut, at least according to a story by the Associated Press (AP).

The AP reports the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is arguing that the practice of employers disqualifying applicants with criminal records or bad credit history may be discrimination since those applicants are “disproportionately black or Latino.” The WSJ law blog also quotes the AP story to show that employers using a blanket refusal to hire applicants with criminal records could risk going against federal employment law:

If criminal histories are taken into account, the EEOC says employers must also consider the nature of the job, the seriousness of the offense and how long ago it occurred. For example, it may make sense to disqualify a bank employee with a past conviction for embezzlement, but not necessarily for a DUI.

The AP also reported that the EEOC filed a class-action discrimination lawsuit against a Dallas-based events planning firm in 2009, alleging that the firm “used credit history and criminal records to discriminate against blacks, Hispanics, and males.”

The two news stories read back to back – one in which the failure to do a background check possibly led to a preventable crime, the other questioning if background checks using credit histories and criminal records are discriminatory – could leave employers wondering how much background checking is too much and how much is too little.

These two stories – appearing on the same day from major news organizations but with vastly different angles – underscore the point that background checks occur at the intersection of security and privacy. On the one hand, background checks can promote safety, security, and honesty while lessening the chance for workplace violence or the hiring of unqualified workers with fake credentials. On the other hand, employers using background checks should be concerned with issues of fairness and privacy while combating discrimination.

The solution for employers is reaching the right balance in their background check program.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


Is JetBlue Flight Attendant Who Took Off Symbol of U.S. Worker at Breaking Point?

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

Are many employees in America overworked, underappreciated, and at a breaking point?

Recently, a Jet Blue Flight Attendant “took off” from his job in a very memorable way. According to conflicting reports, after an alleged confrontation with an uncooperative passenger as the plane taxied to a gate at JFK Airport in New York, the flight attendant allegedly cursed on the plane’s PA system, grabbed some beer from a service cart, then activated the emergency-evacuation chute and slid off the plane into instant folklore.

The flight attendant – Steven Slater, who reportedly suffered an injury to the head during the incident – was suspended by JetBlue pending an investigation. The event put Slater and JetBlue in the media spotlight and made the flight attendant a working class hero to some. Even JetBlue responded to the event on their blog “BlueTales” with the following:

“It wouldn’t be fair for us to point out absurdities in other corners of the industry without acknowledging when it’s about us….Perhaps you heard a little story about one of our flight attendants? While we can’t discuss the details of what is an ongoing investigation, plenty of others have already formed opinions on the matter. Like, the entire Internet.”

Many on the Internet have voiced an opinion, some of it in favor of the flight attendant. They see the 38-year-old Slater, who according to reports has been with JetBlue since January 2008 and a flight attendant since 1990, as a symbol of the overstressed worker.

There are good reasons for the stress. According to government reports, nearly 8 million jobs have been lost since the Great Recession began in December of 2007. It is becoming more likely that many of those jobs will never return. While there is still work to be done, it is being done by fewer workers, and they are working longer and harder to keep up.
However, the latest Productivity and Costs Report for the Second Quarter 2010 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows these workers may need help. The BLS reported that business sector labor productivity decreased at a 0.9 percent annual rate during the second quarter of 2010, with output (2.6 percent) and hours (3.6 percent) both rising.

Productivity rose by large amounts during the Great Recession, 3.5 percent in 2009 alone. This decline in output per hour follows five quarters of strong productivity growth, and some economists believe the drop in productivity this spring for the first time in more than a year could be a sign that companies may need to hire more workers in the near future.

For more information on using a Safe Hiring Program (SHP) when adding new workers, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading provider of employment screening services including background checks – at


New Massachusetts Law Prohibits Employers from Inquiring About Criminal Convictions on Initial Job Applications

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 after Governor Deval Patrick signed into law new legislation prohibiting 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 news alert from 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 news 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 for effective dates for the CORI reform law, the initial application 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, according to the news alert. 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, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


July Jobs Report Shows Private Sector Gained More Than 70,000 Jobs

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

The jobs report for the month of July shows gains in private sector employment opportunities, but offers mixed results overall.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that while private-sector payroll employment edged up by 71,000 in July, the total nonfarm payroll employment declined by 131,000 during the same month, and Federal government employment fell due to 143,000 temporary workers hired for the 2010 census completing their work.

In addition, according to “THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — JULY 2010” report, both the number of unemployed persons (14.6 million) and the unemployment rate (9.5 percent) were unchanged in July.

The good news is that total private sector employment continued to grow, gaining 71,000 jobs, and that private sector employment has increased by 630,000 so far in 2010. With regards to employment in particular industries, the BLS reports that:

  • Manufacturing employment increased by 36,000 in July, and the industry had added 32,000 jobs in the first 6 months of 2010 and has expanded by 183,000 jobs since December 2009.
  • Health care added 27,000 jobs in July, and health care employment has risen by 231,000 jobs over the past 12 months.
  • Transportation and warehousing employment rose by 12,000, and has added 56,000 jobs since February.
  • Mining employment rose by 7,000 in July, and has added 63,000 jobs since October 2009.

The not-so-good news is that employment in professional and business services, temporary help services, wholesale trade, retail trade, information, construction, and leisure and hospitality showed little change over the month. Employment in financial activities continued to trend down in July with a decline of 17,000 jobs that added to monthly job losses in the industry averaging 12,000 job losses per month.

Lastly, government employment fell by more than 200,000 jobs in July, reflecting the loss of 143,000 temporary workers hired for the once-in-a-decade 2010 U.S. Census.

For more information about employment screening for jobs, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


Credit Checks More Common During Employment Background Checks But Are They Always Necessary?

MSNBC Article Quotes Employment Screening Resources President Lester Rosen

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

According to a recent article on MSNBC — Job Candidates Undergoing Credit Scrutiny — applicants applying for jobs these days can expect prospective employers to verify resume information, contact references, possibly do a criminal background check, and even be asked by companies to allow credit checks to scrutinize their credit histories.

The article cites a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in which 60 percent of the responding companies claimed they perform credit checks of some or all job candidates. Breaking down the survey results further, only 13 percent of organizations performed credit checks on all job candidates while 47 percent performed them on selected job candidates, usually for positions with fiduciary and financial responsibility such as handling cash, banking, and accounting.

MSNBC also reported that credit checks are required about half the time for senior executive positions and that the SHRM survey also showed that potential candidates with outstanding judgments, accounts in collection, or a bankruptcy in their file may be passed over for a job.

Lester Rosen, President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), was quoted in the MSNBC article as saying employers are “looking at the debt level compared to the potential income from the job”  and added that “if someone is under water financially as shown by the credit report, the thought is perhaps there could be a motive to embezzle or steal.”

However, while Rosen says credit checks are one method employers may use to hire honest and trustworthy employees that also provide some legal cover if that employee turns out to be dishonest, ESR does not encourage routine credit checks on all candidates since credit checks often contain errors and can feel like an invasion of privacy to applicants.

Rosen’s advice in the article for employers is to limit credit checks to relevant positions such as those that involve money. In fact, with many states recently passing laws limiting the use of credit checks for employment purposes, employers need to be careful when, to whom, and how they perform credit checks on prospective job applicants.

For jobseekers, ESR also provides information — at no charge — to job applicants on background checks and credit check reports can help job applicants navigate the background check process and maximize their chance at employment. The information is available on ESR’s ‘Applicant Resources’ page at:

Whether the use of credit checks for employment purposes is discriminatory to certain job applicants — which ESR named Trend Number One in its Third Annual Top Ten Trends in the Pre-Employment Background Screening Industry for 2010 — is a question that will be asked as long as employers run credit checks on applicants with money troubles.

For more information on background checks and credit checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


ESR Releases Free Online Structured Interview Generator Tool Available to Employers, Recruiters and Human Resources

By Lester Rosen, ESR President

(Originally posted on

A new free online tool allows employers to easily create custom interview guides with an interview generator form.

One of the problems that face employers of all sizes is preparing for interviews. Most recruiters, human resources professionals and hiring managers are now familiar with the notion of a structured interview. Using a “structured interview” guide during applicant interviews helps employers ask permissible questions in a consistent fashion for all applicants for a position.

Of course, in addition to standard interview questions, employers need to add job specific questions that stem from the job description and the knowledge, skills and abilities required for a position, as well as the essential functions of the job. That is yet another reason why well written job description is so critical in the hiring process.

In order to assist employers in preparing structured interviews, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) has released the ESR Interview Guide Generator, a free web based interview generator to help employers build printed interview forms for any position. The wizard tool allows employers to select from generic interview questions, or to create their own questions, put the questions in the order they need and then create a printed form that can be saved or modified.

This free tool solves several issues for employers. It helps employers, recruiters and HR professionals produce a printed structured interview guide and focus on developing relevant questions for each position. Printed interview forms also help employers ensure that interviewers are asking the right questions every time, in the right way. Using a “structured interview” guide helps employers ask permissible questions in a consistent fashion for all applicants for a position. An employer should only choose those questions that are valid predictors of job performance for a particular position.

The ESR Interview Guide Generator tool is available at no charge online at:

The tool allows employers to choose from standard interview questions, or to create their own questions. Questions are grouped into sections and are displayed on the completed form within these groups. An employer may customize however they want, including adding custom questions, or changing the sections that the chosen questions are placed.

Once the interview is built online, the Finish tab will display the interview form. When the employer is ready, they can click the print button on the Finish tab. The free tool does not save the form so it should be pasted onto a WORD document for future reference.

The sample questions listed are questions that appear in various public sources suggesting commonly used interview questions. By use of the “Custom Question” section at the end, an employer can create any questions they wish and put them into any section they wish. ESR offers no legal opinion whatsoever if any question is legal or appropriate. An employer should contact its attorney if there are any questions as to the legality of any interview question. This information is provided for educational purposes and general assistance only and is not offered or intended as legal advice.

For more information about employment screening, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at