Archive for the ‘BACKGROUND NEWS’ Category

Philadelphia’s Revised “Ban on the Box” Law Takes Freedom from Employers

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

City of Brotherly Love Enacts Sweeping Changes to its Ban-the-Box Law

On December 15, 2015, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed far-reaching amendments to the city’s “Ban the Box” law, the Philadelphia Fair Criminal Records Screening Ordinance (“the Ordinance”). In enacting the amendments, Philadelphia joins New York City and New Jersey in requiring that employers remove any questions on job applications related to criminal convictions as well as revise their entire criminal record screening programs. The amendments became effective on March 14, 2016, and apply to all employers in the city — public and private — with 1 or more employees, as opposed to 10 workers in the original law. Employers hiring for domestic services, such as child or elderly care, however, are exempt from this law.

Here are some highlights.

  • Inquiry into criminal background – post offer of employment.
  • Employer can only consider convictions within the last seven years (or release from confinement).
  • Special disclosure is required before obtaining information.
  • If applicant is rejected he/she must be advised as to why and provided a copy of the record.

 

Ban the Box: Laws Handcuff Employers

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Policies prohibit businesses from inquiring about criminal record during initial applicant stages

All across America, more and more cities and states have begun a legislative push toward removing the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” from job applications. According to an article on openline.com, many of these potential laws will forbid employers from even asking individuals about previous criminal convictions until a conditional offer of employment has been made. The website calls this growing legislative push as the “Ban the Box” movement.

According to NELP.org, nationwide over 100 cities and counties have adopted the “ban the box” type laws forcing employers to consider a job candidate’s qualifications first before looking into the applicants criminal record. These pro-applicant initiatives remove the conviction history question on the job application thereby delaying the background check investigation until later in the hiring process.

In 2012, the federal (EEOC) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission endorsed “Ban the Box” initiatives by stating: Some states require employers to wait until late in the selection process to ask about convictions.

The policy rationale is that an employer is more likely to objectively assess the relevance of an applicant’s conviction if it becomes known when the employer is already knowledgeable about the applicant’s qualifications and experience. As a best practice, and consistent with applicable laws, the Commission recommends that employers not ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquiries, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.

There are currently a total of 19 states that have implemented these policies that handcuff employers by removing the conviction record question on job applications for private employers.

The states are listed in alphabetical order:
California (2010), Colorado (2012), Connecticut (2010), Delaware (2014), Georgia (2015), Hawaii (1998), Illinois (2014, 2013), Maryland (2013), Massachusetts (2010), Minnesota (2013, 2009), Nebraska (2014), New Jersey (2014), New Mexico (2010), New York (2015), Ohio (2015), Oregon (2015), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2015), and Virginia (2015). Seven states—Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode are considering changes to their “Ban the Box” regulations.

Solution that won’t “Box You In” a Corner
In this constantly changing business world, GSN helps you conduct your background investigations in compliance with current laws and regulations.

Registered Sex Offender Hired as Mall Easter Bunny

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Command Center directed us to its attorney, Brendan Simaytis, who provided us with a statement.  In it, he says Sanderson presented himself to the agency as Daniel Elwell, using his middle name as his last name.

And the company says it did not know his last name was Sanderson until his arrest. In the statement, Simaytis writes, “We have determined that a criminal background search was not conducted for Sanderson prior to being placed on this particular assignment.”

Read the full article …

Do you want to prevent this from happening at your company? Find out more about GSN’s Background Investigation Services.

Compliance Corner: Background Screen Myth Busters

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Myth #1: I am doing a thorough background check. My service provider calls it a “national check”, and it’s fast!
The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is the United States’ central database for tracking criminal records. The NCIC is maintained by the FBI and contains arrest records and wants/warrants that are linked with an individual’s fingerprints. The NCIC is not public information; it is available only to law enforcement, government agencies, and organizations given permission to search the records. Note: commercial background check providers cannot search the FBI’s NCIC database. There truly is no such thing as a “national” commercial criminal records search. Since third party background check providers cannot search the NCIC, these providers compile multiple sources of data into databases that are searchable by name. These searches are often referred to as “online database searches,” “name based searches,” “multi-state searches,” “screen scrapes,” and even as “national searches.” The third party provider is the owner of the database, and therefore it could even be called the “ABC Company National Search”. The jurisdictions and courts included in these databases will vary from provider to provider.

Myth #2: I use a service that offers me immediate results for my background checks.
Immediate is relative…it depends on what type of records you are checking, and the need to confirm “instant results” at the court level. Criminal records originate at the local courts (city or county) and their court records are updated as the case is processed, and eventually, decided. The local courts then “report up” – by sending their court records to the state – but the frequency of their reports and updates varies widely based on the jurisdiction.

GSN’s recent experience for county level searches of 7,858 components is reflected here:

Compliance Corner

 

Myth #3: I use a database service packaged product that is perfect for every background I need.
There is no “perfect” criminal records search. Criminal records may be inaccurate for a variety of reasons. First, conviction data is entered by humans, thus the margin for human error. Second, the records search may not be comprehensive. i.e.; a jurisdiction may not report into the source being used. Third, offenders may have their records expunged if they comply with the terms of their sentencing. Over-all, inaccurate information may occur due to data entry errors (including spelling errors!), identity theft, name changes, and so on. That’s why the best – and most accurate, is to gather data from local court records.

OCAHO Drastically Reduces ICE Penalties from 2012-2014

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Penalties for I-9 violations sought by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the three year period of 2012-2014 were reduced by an average of more than 40% as a result of decisions issued by the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO). Although ICE sought $1,554,883 in penalties in 2014, OCAHO assessed $1,006,925 for an average reduction of 35.25%. This reduction was lower than the two prior years of 41.5% in 2012 and 46.5% in 2013. However, this lower average reduction of penalties was the result of ICE’s second largest proposed penalty of over $300,000 was not reduced by OCAHO. Without this decision, the percentage is adjusted to 44.74% which is consistent with the percentage in 2013.

REASON FOR REDUCTION OF PENALTIES
OCAHO cited the main reason for reducing penalties in at least 10 cases was the penalties were “excessive” and “unduly harsh”. Furthermore, OCAHO stated “the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act as a significant factor in finding the penalties excessive in seven cases.”

Other factors in lowering the penalties were inability to pay, the “principle of proportionality”, and that company had ceased to exist.

COMMON TYPES OF I-9 FORM ERRORS
According to court records, 13 out of 17 cases in 2014 involved the employer failing to prepare or timely prepare, I-9 forms for the employees. OCAHO stated that this is the most common error committed by employers in cases litigated. In addition, court records show the following common clerical errors that resulted in huge ICE fines:

  • Failure to ensure the status was checked in Section 1
  • Failure to ensure Section 1 was signed
  • Failure to ensure the alien number was provided
  • Failure of the employer to sign Section 2
  • Failure to provide a document number and/or issuing authority in Section 2
  • Failure to list documents from List B and/or C

PROFILE OF EMPLOYERS TARGETED BY ICE
Employers want to know which industries are targeted for inspection by ICE. Although the OCAHO decisions only include cases actually litigated, those cases involve the following industries:

  • Hospitality – 5 cases
  • Food Preparation/Manufacturing – 3 cases
  • Construction – 3 cases
  • Health Care – 2 cases
  • Horse Racing – 2 cases
  • Retail – 1 case
  • Service – 1 case

GLOBAL SAFETY NETWORK SOLUTION
A minor mistake, a careless oversight or a small violation may not seem important, but when it comes to completing the I-9 form, these trivial errors have cost employers millions of dollars in fines, penalties, judgments, lawyer fees, and lost time. As a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), GSN understands, follows and advises our clients on compliance and regulations while establishing a legally defensible process to ensure that even the small errors won’t cost you big bucks. Call GSN (866.792.9808) today to learn more about our Background Screening Solutions customized for your business and industry.

Judge Finds Staffing Company Liable for Near Maximum I-9 Fines for Wrong Verification

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Employer Solutions Staffing Group II, LLC (ESSG), a Minnesota-based professional employment organization, had its appeal to overturn more than $200,000 in civil penalties for I-9 paperwork violations rejected by a federal administrative law judge (ALJ). ESSG contested liability for over 240 I-9 paperwork violations found during an I-9 audit conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Earlier this year, Judge Ellen Thomas, an ALJ with the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), a division of the Executive Office of Immigration Review within the U.S. Department of Justice, issued a decision to uphold the $227,251.71 in civil penalties assessed by ICE.

Judge Thomas ruled ESSG violated I-9 regulations by directing its representative to complete 242 employer verifications based on the inspection of photocopies of identity and other employment eligibility documents relating to employees that she had never seen, based on contract partner representations that the documents were authentic and related to the subject employees.

According to Judge Thomas, nothing in law or regulation authorizes an employer to delegate the obligation to conduct an in-person inspection of employee verification documents unless the employer intends to rely upon the third party to complete and execute the attestation in Section 2 as its agent.

ESSG provides payroll and human resource services to clients for workers recruited, screened, hired and on-boarded for ESSG by temporary staffing companies such as Flexicorps, a temporary staffing company located in Larsen, Texas.

According to LegalAlerts’ website, “Under the parties’ outsourcing contract, Flexicorps oversaw new-hire completion of Section 1 of the I-9 forms, reviewed the originals of the verification documents each new hire provided and certified to ESSG that the documents appeared to be genuine and to relate to the subject employees. Flexicorps sent the partially completed I-9 forms along with photocopies of the employees’ verification documents to ESSG.”

Section 2 of the I-9 forms was completed by ESSG’s payroll manger based on her inspection of the photocopies of the employees’ documents. Photocopies of the documents were also used to complete the E-Verify process. The on-boarding process was deemed complete when E-Verify confirmed work eligibility.

Screening Companies Pay $16.5 million in Fines, Penalties, and Restitution for Multiple Violations

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

TeleCheck Agrees to pay $3.5 million to settle FCRA Violations

TeleCheck Services, Inc., a Houston based consumer reporting agency (CRA), along with its associated debt-collection entity, TRS Recovery Services, Inc., have agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This settlement matches the second largest fine paid by Certegy Check Services, Inc. earlier this year for similar violations.

TeleCheck compiles consumers’ personal information and uses it to help retail merchants throughout the United States determine whether to accept consumers’ checks. Under the FCRA, consumers whose checks are denied based on information TeleCheck provided to the merchant have the right to dispute that information and have TeleCheck investigate and correct any inaccuracies.

The FTC’s complaint alleges, among other things, that TeleCheck did not follow proper dispute procedure, including refusing to investigate disputes. The complaint also alleges that TeleCheck failed to follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the information it provided to its merchant clients as required by the FCRA, and failed to promptly correct errors on consumers’ reports.

In addition, the complaint alleges that TRS, which handles consumer debt taken on by TeleCheck and furnishes information about consumers to TeleCheck, violated the requirements of the FTC’s Furnisher Rule, which requires entities furnishing information to CRAs to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the information provided. The order settling the FTC’s charges requires TeleCheck and TRS to alter their business practices to comply with the requirements of the FCRA and the Furnisher Rule in the future. This case is part of a broader initiative to target the practices of data brokers, which often compile, maintain, and sell sensitive consumer information. Consumer reporting agencies like TeleCheck are data brokers that sell information to companies making important decisions about consumers, such as their ability to get credit or pay for goods and services by check.

Screening Companies Pay $13 million in Restitution and Civil Penalties

General Information Services and its affiliate, e-Background-checks.com Inc., agreed to pay $13 million in restitution and fines to settle charges by CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) that they violated FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) by failing to ensure their reports had accurate information about job applicants. According to the CFPB, the two companies did not have policies to ensure the accuracy of the information obtained by them for criminal history and civil records checks for people with common names since there was no middle name requirement and no audit process.

As a result, the CFPB stated that nearly 70 percent of complaints filed by job applicants about the criminal history in their background checks resulted in a change or correction. Job applicants reported that the errors included inaccurate criminal records, crimes that had been expunged or dismissed, and misdemeanors reported as felonies, according to the CFPB.

Although the South Carolina-based companies did not admit to wrongdoing, they did signed a consent order with the CFPB to pay $10.5 million or $1,000 per person to affected job applicants and a $2.5 million civil penalty. The companies, which generate more than 10 million job applicant reports annually, also agreed to establish a written process to ensure information obtained during their background checks were accurate.

THE GSN SOLUTION 
A minor mistake, a careless oversight or a small violation may not seem important, but when it comes to the background screening process these trivial errors have cost employers millions of dollars in fines, penalties, judgments, lawyer fees and lost time. As a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), Global Safety Network (GSN) understands, follows and advises our clients on compliance and regulations while establishing a legally defensible process to ensure that even the small errors won’t cost you big bucks. Call GSN today to learn more about our Background Screening Solutions customized for your business and industry.

 

ICE Levees Hefty Fines to Small Companies for Paperwork Errors

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

“Employers need to understand that the integrity of their employment records are as important to the federal government as the integrity of their tax files or banking records. Much like the IRS uses audits as a deterrent strategy to prevent people from falsifying tax records, part of our strategy in conducting audits is to encourage businesses to comply with the law.” – Danielle Bennett, ICE Spokesperson

Subway, Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurants and Infosys Limited are just a few of the large companies that have been fined huge amounts due to violations discovered by ICE (U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement) audits. Although, these fines made the headlines, it does not reflect the hundreds of small companies that received hefty fines. These fines were delivered mostly for paperwork errors and not for hiring illegal immigrants. If fact, when comparing the size of the companies, the fines for the smaller business owners were a greater percentage of annual receipts than the fines levied on Fortune 500 companies.

An analysis conducted by the Houston Chronicle of nearly 800 ICE audit cases – a majority were small companies – showed that “roughly half of the 117 companies fined were not specifically penalized for hiring illegal immigrants, but for problems with the employment verification paperwork they are required to fill out for new hires.”

In fact, of the $1.8 million fines reviewed in this study, the audits determined that one third of the companies fined had no workers with suspect documentation. Thus, the fines were for clerical errors. Furthermore, ICE also sought criminal charges or debarment from future government contracts in a handful of cases included in the records.

“The fines for poor bookkeeping are part of an overall “deterrent strategy” to keep employers from hiring illegal immigrants,” ICE officials said.

The GSN Solution

A minor mistake, a careless oversight or a small violation may not seem important, but when it comes to the Form I-9 and its verification process these trivial errors have cost employers millions of dollars in fines, penalties, lawyer fees and lost time. As a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), Global Safety Network (GSN) understands, follows and advises our clients on compliance and regulations while establishing a legally defensible process to ensure that even the small errors won’t cost you big bucks. Call GSN today to learn more about our I-9 and eVerify Solutions customized for your business and industry.

Whole Foods Background Check Policy May Get “Canned” by Class Action

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

A proposed class action lawsuit accuses Whole Foods Market Group Inc. of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act with its employee background check notification methods, ruling the suit alleged Whole Foods’ liability release was included in a disclosure documentation. A Florida federal judged recently refused to dismiss the proposed class action.

The plaintiff claims the supermarket violates the FCRA with its practice of including a waiver and release of liability form along with a FRCA statute required document that notifies the job applicant a consumer report may be obtained for employment purposes. “Employers seeking to run background checks must disclose their intentions to their prospective or current employees in a document that consists solely of the disclosure under the FCRA statute,” according to the plaintiff.

Whole Foods sought to dismiss the suit, arguing the plaintiff’s exhibits show that the supermarket gives its workers two separate forms, one with the disclosure and another with the liability release.

The U.S. District judge did not dismiss the proposed class action lawsuit stating he was bound by the facts alleged in the complaint, which claimed the forms should be considered one document because they were read and signed at the same time. The lawsuit argues “the current process isn’t clear and conspicuous.”

“Based on the allegations, with all inferences drawn in favor of the plaintiff, if both the disclosure and the consent forms combined and read as one document with a waiver and release included simultaneously with the disclosure, the complaint states a claim of release,” U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara wrote.

Furthermore, the plaintiff alleges “Whole Foods acted willfully under the FCRA because it knowingly or recklessly disregarded its statutory duty. The store was aware of the FCRA, but failed to comply with its requirements,” he said.

Again, the judge agreed with the plaintiff finding that “Whole Foods had access to legal advice and guidance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and knew that its actions were inconsistent with that advice.” The plaintiff worked for Whole Foods in its Tampa, FL, location, until he was terminated in June 2013. The plaintiff is seeking to represent a putative (reputed) nationwide class of Whole Foods’ employees, former employees or prospective employees who were the subject of a consumer report procured by Whole Foods in the last five years. The checks were allegedly performed by LexisNexis Group.

The GSN Solution

A minor mistake, a careless oversight or a small violation may not seem important, but when it comes to the background screening process these trivial errors have cost employers millions of dollars in fines, penalties, judgments, lawyer fees and lost time.

As a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), Global Safety Network (GSN) understands, follows and advises our clients on compliance and regulations while establishing a legally defensible process to ensure that even the small errors won’t cost you big bucks. Call GSN today to learn more about our Background Screening Solutions customized for your business and industry.

BMW $1.6 Million Settlement with EEOC Sends Red Flags on Broad Criminal Background Screening Policies

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

BMW Manufacturing Co. LLC reached a $1.6 million settlement with the EEOC over the alleged disparate impact the company’s criminal background screeBMWning process had on African-American job applicants. The settlement, which occurred on September 8 of this year, indicates that employers should avoid overly “broad” or “blanket” screening policies to prevent legal liability.

According to Akin Gump of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners’ (BAPBS’) Government Relation committee, “The BMW settlement stemmed from a two-year-old lawsuit stemming from the company’s background check policy. The key terms of the settlement include BMW agreeing to pay $1.6 million in monetary relief to fifty-six claimants and to offer those claimants who want to return, the opportunity to return to work at the facility. By entering into the consent decree, BMW expressly denies liability and does not admit any wrongdoing.”

The incidents that led to the lawsuits and eventual settlement occurred in 2008 when BMW changed logistic contractors at is Spartanburg, SC, plant. As a result of the switch, BMW required the new contractor to conduct criminal background screenings on all existing logistics workers who reapplied to keep their jobs. A large number of African-American workers were not allowed to keep their jobs because, at the time, BMW’s criminal background screening guidelines barred employment to people with any convictions, a large number of African-American workers were not able to keep their jobs.

According to NAPBS, the consent decree sets forth these key requirements under which:

  • BMW is enjoined from use of the criminal background guidelines that were involved at the time of the incident.
  • BMW and its logistics provider may not decline to hire any job applicant or otherwise disqualify any individual in a logistics position because of “criminal arrests or charges of any type if such arrests or charges did not result in a conviction.”
  • They can, however, postpone an offer of employment if there is a pending charge, pending resolution.
  • BMW and its logistics provider must conduct an individualized assessment if they seek to disqualify any job applicant based on criminal history. Meaning they must provide written notice to the job applicant describing the criminal history which is at issue and an offer to the applicant to explain the conviction and their appropriateness for employment.
  • The above notice must be delivered by “reasonable means” and must afford the job applicant a period of at least 21 days during which time they can contact BMW or the logistics provider before an adverse employment decision is finalized.
  • BMW and its logistics provider must appoint an official to review all final decisions to decline to hire or otherwise disqualify an applicant due to criminal history.

The GSN Solution

A minor mistake, a careless oversight or a small violation may not seem important, but when it comes to the background screening process these trivial errors have cost employers millions of dollars in fines, penalties, judgments, attorney fees and lost time. As a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), Global Safety Network (GSN) understands, follows, and advises our clients on compliance and regulations while establishing a legally defensible process to ensure that even the small errors won’t cost you big bucks. Call GSN today to learn more about our Background Screening Solutions customized for your business and industry.