Drug Screening Policies: How to keep your company out of trouble

Can a drug screening policy keep a company out of legal hot water? What should be included in such a policy in order to ensure a company – and its employees – are protected from lawsuits or harm?

All human resource policies are created to protect employees and companies from unsafe and discriminatory actions, and to keep the workplace fair. Let’s face it: having something in writing to refer to when an employee misbehaves or steps out of line helps HR managers and employers hold the employee accountable. Having a written guideline for employees regarding rules, regulations, and ethical or compliance standards provides a framework for enforcement, and inherently can be the most basic foundation for protecting a company should a lawsuit arise. (more…)

Hire Image Guide to Getting Your Drug Testing Program Off to the Right Start

If you’ve been contemplating whether a drug screening program is the right choice for your company, the results of a recent study by Quest Diagnostics may help in your decision making process.

Analysis of the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI) revealed that the percentage of American workers testing positive for drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine has increased for the second consecutive year. The positivity rate for nearly 6.6 million urine drug tests increased overall by 9.3% from 2013 to 2014. In states such as Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana use was legalized in 2012, positivity rates for marijuana between 2012 and 2013 increased 20% and 23% respectively.

It might be easy to focus solely on positive marijuana results given its place atop the list of most commonly abused illicit drugs and constant presence in the news with more states looking to legalize or decriminalize it, but the Quest study shows that positivity rates for other drugs are increasing as well. For example, last year urine test positivity rose by 9.1% for cocaine, 7.2% for amphetamines, and 21.4% for methamphetamines. In oral fluid tests, the methamphetamine positivity rate rose 37.5%.

Given these disturbing upward trends of illegal drug use, you’re probably ready to start drug testing today! Here are a few questions to answer in order to get your program off to the right start: (more…)

What Constitutes a Thorough Criminal Background Check?

Contrary to popular belief, there are no foolproof background searches or “national database” searches that cover the entire country. As a matter of fact, many states don’t submit criminal records to national databases, and many that do submit information only provide incarceration records. With the absence of a true national criminal database, the best option available is hands-on research at the primary source: local county courthouses. However, with over 3,000 counties throughout the U.S. and over 10,000 courthouses storing criminal records, it would be an onerous and costly task to search a person’s criminal history in every courthouse. (more…)

Staying Ahead of the Law: Four Ways to Maintain FCRA Compliance in 2015

Last year saw a dramatic rise in the number of Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) class action lawsuits brought against employers.  [See our 2014 blog posts from March and October.]  With those numbers expected to rise even more in 2015, the importance of compliance cannot be overstated.  Employers must pay close attention to the rules and regulations that pertain to background screenings and hiring policies.  From disclosures to adverse action procedures, complying with employment laws will spare businesses the hassle and expense of lawsuits that could break the bank.

Compliance can seem onerous.  The rules are often imprecise and difficult to follow to the letter, even if an employer is quite familiar with the FCRA. To add to this uncertainty, different courts may not always agree on the interpretation of the laws, so the outcome of a lawsuit is never guaranteed.  Plaintiffs’ attorneys are taking this opportunity to cash in on the ambiguity of the law, putting employers in the hot seat.

Simply put, there are four basic compliance requirements employers must follow when screening applicants and employees: (more…)

FCRA Compliance Reminder

In the past year, we have seen a large increase in the number of FCRA-based class-action lawsuits. A number of widely known companies such as Domino’s, K-Mart, ClosetMaid, Disney, CVS, and Whole Foods have been hit with lawsuits claiming they did not meet their requirements under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The three main areas of FCRA being placed under scrutiny are the employers’ neglect in properly providing the proper FCRA Summary of Rights, utilizing a compliant Disclosure and Authorization forms, and the use (or neglected use) of Pre-Adverse and Adverse Action letters. Here is information on how to stay in compliance with FCRA requirements, and some highlights of cases where non-compliance is alleged. (more…)

Protecting yourself from unscrupulous in-home workers

January 23, 2014

Whether you own a house or rent a living space, it’s inevitable that you will have an installation, handyman, or repair contractor come into your home. From cable TV, computer wiring, and phone installation to heating or plumbing service personnel, these people need access to the interior of your home in order to get the job done. Most consumers do not fear for their personal safety, and don’t give this situation a second thought. Allowing strangers into your home should, however, be cause for concern, for good reason.

People have been robbed, assaulted, even murdered at the hands of in-home workers. In February 2001, Sue Weaver hired a well-known department store service to clean the air ducts in her Florida home. Two men were subcontracted by the store to perform the cleaning; both were ex-cons with known criminal backgrounds. One of the men returned six months later to rape and murder her, and then set fire to the home to destroy the evidence. Despite having admitted during the job application process that he served 14 years in prison, a background check was never done.

In September 2010, a 49 year-old Las Vegas man was arrested on child molestation charges for an incident that occurred while he was in the child’s home to repair an air conditioner- he was the owner of the business! In July of 2013, a 22 year-old Missouri cable repairman was sentenced to 75 years in prison for burglary, forcible sodomy, felonious restraint, and armed criminal action for terrorizing, tying up, and sexually assaulting a 24 year-old victim at her apartment where he had been assigned to connect her television.

What can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones?

Sue Weaver’s sister, Lucia Bone, founded the Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E., a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Consumer Awareness of Unsafe Service Employment to require proper annual criminal background checks on all workers sent to peoples’ homes. Here are five helpful safety suggestions:

1. Ask the company if they do pre-hiring criminal background checks. If not, don’t use them and tell them why.

2. Perform your own due diligence to research the company and the person coming into your home.

3. Have another adult in the house when any kind of service is being done in or around the home. Invite a friend over for coffee, and remember that your children are not protection. You are more vulnerable if alone with small children because an attacker may threaten you with the life of your child if you don’t do what he wants.

4. Don’t hesitate to say “no” if you don’t feel safe when the worker arrives. Trust your instincts and turn them away or don’t open the door.

5. Beware of leading questions from the service worker who may actually be accumulating intelligence, such as, “You look like you work out at a gym, where do you go?” or “My wife and I have small children and are always looking for new parks to go to. Do you have a favorite?”

Unfortunately, stories about in-home workers committing crimes are not uncommon. A local homeowner read a recent news story about an attic insulation subcontractor in Massachusetts who had brutally murdered a retired schoolteacher in her home. “Influenced by the story, I told the owner of a heating repair company that I was worried I’d be killed by the person he was sending over” states Betty Galligan, who needed emergency repair work done to her heating system. “I needed the work done fast because we had no heat, yet found out they don’t do background checks on their employees. The owner gave me a lot of information about the person who was assigned to come to my home, including his full name and that he was not a subcontractor and had worked for him for 20 years. That set me at ease, but I didn’t hesitate to tell the owner that if I were harmed in any way, he’d have to live with that on his conscience. I was desperate for the service and accepted his explanation. In the future, I will only use service companies who perform background checks. How can companies today NOT want to do background checks on people they’re sending into homes?”

It’s important not to judge a person by their “official-looking” truck, uniform, or paperwork. Don’t rely on whether a company is bonded and insured, since that only protects the company from the behavior of their workers.

The best advice is to find out what you can about whom you are allowing into your home for any reason. A little knowledge can go a long way and just may keep you and those you live with safe.