Are You Compliant When Conducting Background Checks on Applicants?

July 1, 2017
By: Joanna C. Walters, Ed.D., Founder and President

Background checks are an important part of the recruitment process for employers. A background check usually includes past employment verification, credit history, and criminal history. These checks are often used by employers as a means of considering an applicant's experience, character, and fitness, and to identify potential hiring risks for safety and security reasons.

Every organization has the right to conduct background checks; however, it matters that employers understand the different federal, state and local regulations that protect applicants from discrimination. The government has created laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA), which regulates employment background reports.

Some of the most important points in these regulations include:
A background check must be conducted consistently, and not be geared towards a group based on their race, sex, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information, or age (40 or older). For example, you cannot request proof of criminal records to a certain minority group, and not others.

The background check must be related to the job the applicant is seeking. The EEOC in a report presented in 2012, recognized that background checks have an unintended impact on certain minority groups, which could in turn constitute discrimination. Thus, when checking the criminal record of an applicant, employers must ensure that the criminal history that is being considered, along with how long the criminal history was documented and whether this criminal history has anything to do with the nature of the job that the applicant is seeking.

An employer cannot conduct a background check without the permission of the applicant. The FCRA requires that employers inform applicants that they will be conducting a background check on them. Employers must identify themselves; explain the purpose for which the information is being sought; and certify that the information will be used for no other purpose. The applicants must also sign a consent form, authorizing the company to conduct the background check.

Background check companies may not report arrests older than seven years. They must also have procedures to ensure accuracy of the information provided to employers.

If an applicant is not hired based on information gathered from the background check, the applicant must be notified before any action is taken. The employer must give the applicant a notice that includes a copy of the consumer report you used to make the decision, and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”

The applicant has the right to dispute the accuracy of the report. The applicant can get an additional free report from the reporting company within 60 days of the decision.

Most employers must keep employment records, including all application forms (regardless of whether the applicant was hired, and other records related to hiring) for one year after the records were created, or after the personnel action was taken, whichever comes later. Once all record keeping requirements have been met, all background check reports may be disposed of securely.

*This is not an exhaustive list of regulations. For a complete list, please visit the EEOC and FRCA websites at: www.eeoc.gov, and www.ftc.gov.

Need to set up a pre-employment background check process at your company, and you're not sure where to start? myHRhelp can show you how. Contact us at joanna@myhrprohelp.com or at 832-384-8600. Let us focus on your HR needs, so you can focus on growing your business.

It is That Time of the Year to Post OSHA Form 300A

March 1, 2017
By: Joanna C. Walters, Ed.D., Founder and President

Employers are reminded it is time to post OSHA's Form 300A. The form summarizes the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during 2016 and were logged on OSHA's Form 300, the log of work-related injuries and illnesses. Starting this year, many employers will be required to electronically submit the summary of illnesses to OSHA.

Throughout the year, covered employers are required to log job-related injury and illness incidents on OSHA Form 300 if it results in death, loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, or medical treatment beyond first aid. At the end of the year, when the Form 300 log is completed, employers can use the information to fill out the “Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses” (OSHA form 300A).

Employers must still post the annual summary 300A, even if there were no work-related injuries during the year. They simply must enter zeros for the column totals. A company executive must review the 300A summary form and sign the certification.

Am I (as an employer) required to complete and post Form 300A?
Employers with 11 or more employees, whose businesses are subject to OSHA recordkeeping requirements, must post annual injury/illness summaries for the preceding year. Employers with 10 or less employees are generally exempt from this requirement. Additionally, some industries exempted from the recordkeeping portion of the OSHA regulations include banks, doctors' offices, social services, museums, art galleries, car dealerships, and apparel stores, among others.

Industries that are exempt from the recordkeeping portion of OSHA regulations must still comply with OSHA's overall safety requirements. The safety regulations apply to any organization with one or more employees.

Employers that are subject to OSHA's recordkeeping requirements should post their 2016 summary of injuries and illnesses from February 1, 2017 until April 30, 2017, and must be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted.

Let one of myHRhelp consultants provide you with a basic understanding of OSHA forms 300 and 300A and show you how to complete them. We will focus on your HR needs, so that you can focus on growing your business.

Click here to be redirected to the OSHA website, where you may view and print Form 300A.

Sources: Department of Labor (DOL) and The Texas Personnel Advisor Newsletter

Military Veterans Make Good Employees Too!

February 27, 2017
By: Joanna C. Walters, Ed. D, Founder and President

There are nearly five hundred thousand unemployed military veterans in the United States, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau's 2015 report revealed that the unemployment rates among male veterans decreased by 1.4% to 4.5%, and the rate for female veterans remained unchanged at 5.4%. Despite these low percentages, hiring managers are still reluctant to hire veterans due to misinformed assumptions.

The Center for New American Security conducted interviews with 87 individuals from 69 companies to find out why it is difficult for veterans to find employment in the corporate world. Employers cited five main reasons:

  • Skills translation. Veterans must translate their military skills into civilian terms. Civilians don’t always understand military acronyms or military terminologies, and they aren’t going to take the time to learn.
  • Skills mismatch. Some employers feel that veterans are not necessarily trained to do every job.
  • Negative stereotypes. Some employers see veterans as too rigid or formal.
  • Concern about future deployments. Guardsmen and reservists face challenges associated with having to miss work for deployments. This was a big concern for small business owners.
  • Acclimation. Some employers are concerned that veterans do not completely fit into the corporate culture.

Sean McCoy, my good friend and fellow Vistage team member, is a military veteran who enlisted in the United States Navy from 1992 to 1998. He served four years on the USS Rushmore (LSD-47) as an Electronics Technician. After leaving the Navy, Sean spent the next sixteen years working in the oilfield services unit of an oil and gas company in Houston, TX. Later, with his years of work experience, along with his twelve years of extensive volunteerism in the non-profit sector, Sean founded Charity Corps in 2016.

I was interested in getting Sean's take on these assumptions - from an employer and veteran's perspective- since he was once a military (Navy) man who transitioned into civilian world, and is now a business owner. Below are Sean's comments on the five assumptions.

Skills translation 
"It is and has been a difficult aspect to adequately transfer from a military skill set to a civilian one. However, when done properly it can truly represent the best qualities most veterans bring to potential employers. I recommend that veterans reach out to social media groups within LinkedIn and Facebook and discuss with others about their experiences. I would also locate servicemen and service women who performed the exact or similar jobs, to find out the “language” they used. Furthermore, it is always important to match the resume and application to the job being sought."

Skills Mismatch
"It is imperative that the veteran qualifies his or her battery of skills and experiences with the proper perspective. Most veterans have worked in multiple capacities during active duty and this distinction has served them well. Possessing additional experiences as soft/secondary skills should be strong indicators (to employers) of a veteran's ability to take on tasks outside his or her core responsibilities. Veterans must properly understand the applicability of each of their skill sets and determine not only their importance, but also the applicability to each job they pursue."

Negative stereotypes
"There is a difference in the mindset, mantra and attitude when comparing employees who have served to those who have not served in the armed forces. This comparison is directly related to the different worlds the military and civilian worlds operate from within. The rigidity and formality of veterans are a direct relation to the traditions and atmosphere experienced during military service. I think both sides must commit to trying to understand each other. Also, I would ask employers to turn a veteran’s high sense of formality and tradition into a positive advantage for their companies."

"A patient, steady and understanding voice of reason is needed (from employers) to help veterans understand the “new normal.” For veterans, it is crucial that the journey to a true transition from the military to the civilian world is recognized and embraced. It feels and acts different because it is. It will not be easy, comfortable or make sense in the beginning, as the transition begins and continues to take shape. Secondary skills and military experiences will be a tremendous advantage, but it is essential that they are an asset and not a detriment."

Concern about future deployments
"I cannot speak to reserve duty in regards to direct experiences. I would say that, if an employer has an employee who is on Active Reserve Duty, then (s)he should get educated to the highest degree possible in regards to requirements and expectations for the business, the employee and that military branch. As a business owner, I would not want any shock or misunderstanding from either the employee or myself, when any possible scenario occurs. I would encourage an active and inclusive understanding as well as specific contingency plans with all applicable employees. I would not expect any branch of the military to consider the needs of the business over theirs."

Acclimation
"The ability of a veteran to assimilate into, not only the civilian culture, but specifically the employer’s business culture is a valid concern. It is the same concern with any potential employee regardless of his or her background. The military is not the civilian world. Serving in the military does not create exclusions, culturally speaking. It does not mean veterans are not able to adapt either. The professional experiences that helped shape them are not the same as their civilian counterparts; however, veterans had to adapt to an entirely new culture when they joined the military. This proves that veterans have that ability to adapt. With a commitment to mutual understanding and growth, the aspects that made them successful in the military world can be the source of tremendous success in the corporate world." 

We celebrate our soldiers and veterans during national holidays. We give them head-of-the-line privileges in the boarding area and offer them thank you’s for their service and sacrifices whenever we encounter them at airports and restaurants. Yet, we owe them more than that.

As more veterans return from overseas and seek to enter the civilian workforce, we need to get rid of these assumptions. We owe it to our veterans to provide them jobs and meaningful career opportunities. Employers, small or large can benefit from hiring military veterans because veterans make good employees too.

Need coaching on how to hire the right employees? One of myHRhelp bilingual consultants will show you how.

Federal Judge Blocks New Overtime Pay Rule

December 7, 2016
By: Joanna C. Walters, Ed.D., Founder and President

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) new overtime rule that would have extended overtime pay to 4.2 million US workers.

The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas granted the nationwide injunction, agreeing with 21 states and some business groups, that the DOL ruling exceeds the authority given to them by Congress.

The new regulation sought to decrease the leverage employers had when skipping overtime pay for salaried administrative or professional workers who make more than $23,660 per year. Under the new regulation, workers would have been eligible for overtime pay as long as they made less than $47,476 a year.

The ruling dealt a major blow to the Obama administration's effort to update labor laws it said weren't keeping pace with the times. The (DOL) is considering all its legal options.

"We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day's pay for a long day's work for millions of hardworking Americans," the labor department said in a statement. "The department's overtime rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rulemaking process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule."

Business groups claimed the new regulation would cost $12 billion a year over the next decade. The Texas court agreed with plaintiffs that the rule could cause irreparable harm if it wasn't stopped before it was scheduled to take effect December 1.

What’s Next?
The new ruling did not go into effect on December 1. Employers may continue to follow the exiting overtime rules.

The case is Nevada v. U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, No. 16-cv-731.

Sources:
http://www.salon.com/2016/11/23/president-obamas-overtime-rule-blocked-by-federal-judge/
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/nov/22/obama-overtime-pay-rule-blocked-federal-judge/

Stop, Look, and Listen: Coping with Workplace Stress

November 1, 2016
Guest Writer: Rev. Dr. Mark Adams, HR Generalist, Certified Mentor, and Retired Pastor

When I was growing up on north Texas my parents hosted the occasional country drive. On one such daytrip we crossed through a dense forest to find ourselves at an intersection with a lonely railroad track. Its old-time white crossing sign warned with imposing black letters: “Stop, Look, and Listen.” In days past these signs were posted at every railroad crossing to grab crossing motorists’ attention. It certainly hooked me that afternoon…as we passed over the tracks I stopped, looked, and listened.

For better or for worse, stress is an everyday component in American life. Everywhere we see it, hear about it, and feel it. We want to avoid it, try to ignore it, and even sometimes medicate because of it.

By “stress” I mean those worrisome conditions brought on by fear, anxiety, foreboding, that create in us severe negative feelings. Such feelings may lead to emotional crisis, physical breakdown, and stop us in our progress. A little bit of stress puts us on edge. Too much stress makes us ill and might even kill us! The railroad warning sign reminds that there are at least three ways that professionals may deal with stress.

In the workplace we must first “stop.” Schedule yourself for the people and relationships that are important. Remove yourself from the mordant routines. Take yourself to lunch. Go out for tea with some friends. Take the occasional daytrip with your family. Diversity is an enemy to stress’ complacency and changing your routines will invigorate your life.

Second, “look” at where stress is aggressive. Identifying daily stressors will help you, and those close to you, to resolve negative feelings. Make friends in the workplace, especially with those who seem “stressed out”. Offer your help. Treat others as you would like to be treated particularly in moments of fear, anxiety, and fore boding. Look and learn how you can resolve stressful issues. Low stress employees are better and more productive.

Finally, “listen” for stressful moments. Stress always presents preliminary signs before it strikes. Listen for those impending opportunities. Carefully hear what others say and how they say it. Preempting on those workplace stressors will make the work environment more open, happy, and productive.

myHRhelp offers many options for managers to “stop, look, and listen.” Their consultants will quickly help you resolve troubling factors in the office and assist in getting your workers efficiency back on track. They can help you avoid the stress train wreck. Stress in the workplace is always a challenge. myHRhelp invites you to stop, look, and listen.

Under the DOL’s New Rule, the Federal Government Will Require its Contractors to Provide Paid Sick Leave

October 03, 2016
By: Joanna C. Walters, Ed.D., Founder and President

Last week, the Obama administration finalized a new ruling requiring federal contractors to provide paid sick leave to employees. The new ruling under the Department of Labor (DOL) will require federal contractors to provide up to seven days of earned sick leave to their workers. The ruling is predicted to affect more than 1.1 million workers and will only apply to contractors solicited by the government.

Workers assigned to federal contracts must receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, for up to 56 hours of leave a year. According to the ruling, workers will be able to use the days to receive medical attention, care for a relative or deal with complications arising from domestic violence or sexual assault.

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor reveal that the percentage of private industry workers that receive paid sick leave has increased from 61 percent to 64 percent from a year ago. Despite this increase, more than a third of private industry workers still do not accrue or receive paid sick leave. Efforts by the current administration to require paid sick leave nationwide have stonewalled in Congress for years.

The new rule takes effect on January 1, 2017.

New Hire Reporting in the State of Texas is Required

September 20, 2016
By: Joanna C. Walters, Ed.D., Founder and President

New hire reporting is not only required by federal law, but also under Texas State law. As a state of Texas employer, you are required to complete the Texas Employer New Hire Reporting Form.

Are you referring to the Form I-9?

No. The Texas Employer New Hire Reporting Form (Form 1856e) is a separate document from the Form I-9. Similar to the Form I-9, this new hire form must be completed for every new hire and rehires. However, unlike the Form I-9, the completed form(s) must be submitted to the Office of the Attorney General, no later than 20 calendar days after the hire date.

Click to View Sample Form 1856e

Penalties for non-compliance

According to the Texas Administrative Code, issued by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), a company can be fined $25 for each occurrence in which an employer fails to report hiring or rehiring an employee. Also, a $500 is assessed if the employer colludes with an employee in an attempt to not file a report, or to file a false or incomplete report.

Want to learn more about Form 1856e, and inquire about how myHRhelp can ensure that you are compliant with this Texas employment regulation? Give us a call.

New Overtime Rules Effective December 2016

September 6, 2016
By: Joanna C. Walters, E.D. – Founder and President

In May 2016, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) introduced the following new regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act:

1) The new salary threshold will increase from $455 per week to $913 per week, or from $23,660 to $47,476 annually.
2) Mandatory increases in the threshold will occur every 3 years. The first increase will be effective on December 1, 2016. By January 1, 2020, the threshold will be reaching more than $51,000.
3) The Highly Compensated Employee (HCE) exemption will increase from $100,000 to $134,004. Those being paid above $134,004 will be exempted.
4) Non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay, commissions may now be used to meet up to 10% of the standard salary.

An important caveat to the current overtime rules is that employees making more than $23,660 a year and performing managerial duties are exempt from overtime and must pass the salary basis, salary level, and duties tests; also known as the “three duties test.”

The new regulations, however, reduce the three duties test into a single standard duties test. Employees whose salaries are below the new threshold will no longer have to figure out whether they pass the “three duties state.” Simply stated, employees making less than $47,476 will be entitled to overtime pay, regardless of managerial duties.

So what happens now?

  • You may have employees currently classified as “exempt” who are not entitled to receive federal overtime for working more than 40 hours per week.
  • Should their FLSA status change to “non-exempt,” they will be entitled to federal overtime (at 1.5x their hourly rate) when working greater than 40 hours in a week.
  • By December 1, 2016, all employers must comply with this new law.

What are your options as an employer?
According to the DOL, you will have three options:
1) Pay re-classified employees time and a half for each hour they work beyond 40 hours;
2) Scale back employees’ hours to 40 hours; or
3) Raise employees’ pay to the threshold of $47,476

New overtime rules have you confused? No worries. We can help.
A comprehensive audit of your company’s overtime situation is essential. As an employer, you must be aware of whom within your organization may be affected by the new FLSA overtime rules, how to communicate the new rules to affected employees, and lastly, how best to manage compliance today and in the future.

Our experienced and knowledgeable HR experts will:

  • Review your staff hours to determine who will fall under the new salary threshold;
  • Devise a communication strategy to present to affected employees; and
  • Advise you in planning for short-term and long-term changes in pay and employee classification required by the December 1st deadline, and beyond.

December 1, 2016 is right around the corner. Not ready? Let myHRhelp get you up to speed. Give us a call soon.

Employment Lawsuits on the Rise

August 22, 2016
By: Joanna C. Walters, E.D. – Founder and President

Today, employers have a vast array of concerns, the main one which may be turning a profit. However, one area of concern that may shatter any opportunity of making a profit is breaking federal employment laws, which can lead to expensive legal lawsuits.

Recent research from the Department of Labor (DOL) reveals that dejected employees are increasing filing lawsuits against their employers. What prompts this new trend? In an opinion survey, 50% of C-suite executives, human resource professionals, and in-house counsel said present economic conditions are mainly to blame. Other issues include discrimination at work, sexual harassment, and harsh work conditions. Also popular are hour and wage lawsuits as well as wrongful termination claims.

In 2012, the DOL reported that almost 75% of all lawsuits against businesses involved employment disputes; and over 40% of these lawsuits were filed against small businesses (15-100 employees).

Think that your business is exempt from litigation? Think again.
A once thriving small business with twenty employees struggles to make payroll each month due to a sexual harassment lawsuit levied against them. The company has paid out more than a quarter of a million dollars to the plaintiff, court costs, and attorney fees. When the case is settled, the owner foresees paying more than a million dollars.

The company could have avoided this costly lawsuit if they had taken appropriate steps to prevent the harassment, such as establishing an effective complaint or grievance process, providing anti-harassment training to managers and employees, and taking immediate and appropriate action when the employee complained.

If, after reading the above –as a business owner - you are thinking, “this won’t happen to us; we’re like a family here; I know what goes on in my organization,” then think again. These are the same thoughts and assumptions the owner of this once thriving company had.

What can you (as an employer) do to help prevent an employment related lawsuit?
Let one of myHRhelp consultants provide you with a basic understanding of employment law, create clear policies, and advice you on implementing a step-by-step process for documenting interactions with employees. We will focus on your HR needs, so that you can focus on growing your business.