Articles Posted in Background Checks

Criminal histories and credit scores will soon be an off-limit topic for job applications in Delaware’s public sector.  HB 167 passed the Delaware Senate on May 1, 2014, and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Markell soon. criminal_background

As we previously reported, the bill would prohibit public employers and contractors with State agencies from:

inquiring into or considering the criminal record, criminal history, or credit history or score of an applicant before it makes a conditional offer to the applicant.

So-called “ban-the-box” initiatives, which limit employers’ inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history, have been adopted by several cities and municipalities.  Philadelphia adopted such a law in the Spring of 2011.  The City of Wilmington joined the ban-the-box bandwagon in Fall 2012, when then-Mayor Baker signed an executive order that removed a question about criminal convictions from job applications.  But that executive order applied only to applicants seeking work with the City of Wilmington.  Other Delaware employers have not been subject to these restrictions.

A bill is pending in the Delaware legislature, though, would change that and more if passed.

H.B. 167 proposes to limit when public employers and government contractors may inquire about or consider the criminal background or credit history.   The employer would not be permitted to ask about this information until “after it has determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified and has conditionally offered the applicant the position.”  Thus, a covered employer would be prohibited from asking about criminal or credit history until at least the first interview-no more checkboxes on job application.

“Give Me Some Credit!” Maybe that’s how the EEOC feels these days, after its high-profile suit against Kaplan Higher Education Corp. was dismissed on January 28, 2013. As readers may remember, the EEOC sued Kaplan in 2010, alleging that its pre-employment credit check policies had a disparate impact upon Black job applicants.

In a 23-page opinion, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio dismissed the suit on Kaplan’s Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court first excluded the expert witness testimony offered by the EEOC, holding that it was scientifically unsound. Expert witness testimony is key in disparate impact cases, because they rise and fall on the percentage of job applicants from a given classification as compared to the percentage of hires in the same classification. Among the key problems for the EEOC was that Kaplan, like many employers, does not collect demographic information on the race of job applicants. As a result, EEOC struggled to identify the races of those applicants that were rejected due to credit problems. In an effort to remedy the problem, the EEOC subpoenaed records from state DMVs, and used a team of “race raters” to review the DMV photos and assign races to the job applicants. The Court, not surprisingly, rejected this approach and the resulting expert witness analysis.

Next the Court addressed Kaplan’s Motion for Summary Judgment. In the absence of any statistical evidence demonstrating an adverse impact caused by the use of credit checks, the Court held that the EEOC’s case had to be dismissed.

Employers’ Ban-the-Box initiatives are taking hold in many states and municipalities. The City of Wilmington has joined the ranks of employers no longer requiring information on an applicant’s criminal history at the time of job application. Mayor Baker signed an executive order on Monday that removes a question about criminal convictions from city job applications.

criminal background.jpgAccording to Mayor Baker, the city will now conduct criminal background checks only on applicants who have received a conditional job offer. Public safety jobs in the police and fire departments are the only positions excluded from the order.

Mayor Baker’s initiative is a good idea for many reasons. According to the article, nearly one in four job applicants has some kind of criminal past. That is a significant portion of the population who could be automatically denied employment, and deprived of the opportunity to be a productive member of society, by employers taking an inflexible position on criminal background. Moreover, the practice of not hiring applicants with a criminal record disproportionately affects certain segments of the population: predominantly Hispanics and blacks. Because of this adverse impact, the EEOC has taken a particular interest in this practice.

Delaware employers in the long-term- and community-care industries are subject to new background-check requirements.  The Delaware Code as amended by S.B. 216 to establish an electronic web-based “background check center” for employment in long-term care or community settings.  S.B. 216 was signed by Gov. Markell on July 5, 2012. 

Creation of a Background Check Center

The biggest change is the creation of a new “Background Check Center.”  The stated purpose of the Center is to “consolidate various data streams” from inside and outside the State of Delaware, as necessary to conduct a proper background search. 

Employers’ use of social media as part of the hiring process continues to make the news. Although much has been made of the nuances of the idea, cyber-screening can be performed lawfully and with positive results–when it’s done properly. When it’s not, though, there can be lots of significant consequences.

To avoid the risks associated with cyber-screening (or to combat a fear of the unknown, perhaps), some employers have turned the task to outside vendors. Instead of performing a Google search on a candidate as part of the in-house screening process, some employers are paying a third party to conduct the search as part of the background check.

I recognize that many companies feel that this reduces the risk that they’ll be sued for failure to hire. But the idea of outsourcing this process seems to significantly reduce the benefits. Employers like cyber-screening, in part, anyway, because it’s free and gives immediate results. Outsourced screenings cost money and take time.

Employers who request an employee’s or job applicant’s Facebook password continue to face pushback in legislatures across the country. As I posted last week, several states have introduced bills that would prohibit this type of coerced Facebook access. These states are following Maryland’s example–Maryland was the first (and only, at the moment), to pass this type of law.

Two U.S. Senators were the first on the bandwagon, though, but their bill was unsuccessful. But a new version of the bill made its way back to the House of Representatives on Friday, courtesy of New York congressman Eliot Engel (D).

The bill, Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA), which is cosponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), would restrict current or potential employers “from requiring a username, password or other access to online content,” reports Specifically, the bill would prevent employers from seeking access to social networking sites “to discipline, discriminate or deny employment to individuals, nor punish them for refusing to volunteer the information.”

The EEOC released Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (PDF)

This guidance, issued on April 25, 2012has been much anticipated since the EEOC held a public hearing on this topic last summer. If you were not already aware of the issue, the crux is this: arrest and incarceration rates are significantly higher in certain ethnic groups than others. African Americans and Hispanics are arrested at a rate that is 2 to 3 times their proportion of the general population. Therefore, if an employer exclude individuals based solely on their criminal records, that decision is likely to disproportionately affect certain ethnic groups, thereby violating Title VII.

The Guidance discusses the difference between arrest and conviction records, and explains what factors must be considered in determining whether or not consideration of criminal history will be determined to be “job related and consistent with business necessity.”

Maryland was the first state to pass legislation prohibiting employers from requiring an employee or applicant to turn over his or her Facebook password or log-in information for other social-networking sites.

On April 19, 2012, a similar law moved forward in the California state legislature.

And there are others. Here’s a quick run-down of other states that are considering similar legislation:

Maryland was the first state in the country to pass legislation that would prohibit employers from requesting or requiring an applicant or employee to turn over his or her password to a social-networking account, such as Facebook. As I mentioned in the end of my post about the Maryland bill, California and Illinois had similar pieces of legislation in the works.

Yesterday, California inched closer to become the second state to adopt this new type of privacy law, reports the Sacramento Bee.

Senate Bill 1349 bans employers and educational institutions from requiring or formally requesting in writing that prospective or current employees and students to hand over their user names and passwords or provide access to the account. The bill, introduced by Sen. Leland Yee (D), was approved by the Senate Education Committee 7-0 and now heads to the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee for consideration.

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