Sunday, February 28, 2016

Expunging Criminal Records ~ What You Need to Know

What You Need to Know about Expunged Records and Hiring!

Having a criminal record, even for a one time offense, can have serious consequences on a person’s future.  It can impact their ability to rent an apartment or own a home, get a student loan, and even to volunteer in their child’s school.

The Biggest Struggle for Ex-Offenders is Finding a Job  “Tweet This”

However, the most serious problem for an ex-offender is finding a job.  There are many employers that steadfastly refuse to even consider hiring someone with a criminal record, despite laws designed to give these offenders a second chance.

Regulations stemming from the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and set as guidelines by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), address this issue of criminal records and employment.  These laws seek to delay the background check and restrict how far back an employer can go when considering a past criminal record.

Some states are looking to go even further.

States seek to Help Ex-Offenders Expunge their Record  “Tweet This”

These states are passing legislation that will expand the ability of ex-offenders to have their record expunged.  

In many cases, it will be is as if their conviction never existed.  A job applicant would be then be able to legally state that they have never been convicted of a crime.

Many believe it is a way to give an ex-offender a second chance.  Others feel it is simply a way for those convicted of a crime to hide their past.   

Many of these laws have even expanded the types of crimes permitted to be expunged.  Most states restrict it to those who have committed non-violent felonies and misdemeanors.  This includes such offenses as vandalism and criminal trespass.

All of these states require that the terms of the offender’s sentence must have been completed and, in order for an expungement to be granted, for there to have been no additional offenses for a determined number of years.

Proponents believe expungements are a way to prevent a minor criminal from continuing to be plagued by their past.  The goal is to get them back to work and decrease the chance that they will re-offend. 

Despite these good intentions, expanding the ability to expunge past crimes is also cause for concern

Questions arise as to what some state legislation considers a non-violent offense.  In Kentucky, for example, cases of reckless homicide, stalking, torturing animals, or even assaulting a police officer can be categorized as non-violent.

Another worry is that the nature of the crime, or any possible special circumstances surrounding that crime, has no bearing on whether an expungement is granted.  Many states give judges no discretion to consider anything other than whether the ex-offender meets their state’s expungement criteria.

Also at issue is the lack of communication among states and localities.  It is conceivable that a person who has been granted an expungement in one state, can then go on to commit a crime in another state.  Then, upon meeting that second state’s criteria, can be given another expungement.  Because of the original expungement, there would be little chance of a link existing that shows this person has re-offended.

Even legally obtained expungements do not always keep past criminal records from surfacing.  It is not practical or realistic to believe that these records will automatically be removed from all databases in which they exist. 

As a background check provider, I am expected to avoid reporting any record that has been expunged.  Because I use direct court records to generate my report, this requirement is a little easier.

However, screening services that either maintain their own database or use another online database to research criminal records can fun afoul of this law. When the expunged record has not been removed from the database and it is included, these companies are not assuring the maximum possibly accuracy in their report, as required by the FCRA of all background screening services. 

Opponents also worry about keeping a criminal record from employers.  They believe that a employer should know their applicant’s criminal history in order to make an informed hire.

My take….

I believe in second chances.  Making a mistake, especially a one time mistake, should not keep you from having a future.  And there is no better way of helping someone earn a future than by giving them a job.

Read more about this in, “Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal ~ Why I Believe in Second Chances”!

However, I also believe that employers should have all the information possible to make an informed hiring decision. Expunged records will only make the hiring process more problematic.

Current laws already limit how, when, and why a criminal record can be used to determine employment. 

The EEOC requires you, as an employer, to differentiate between arrests and convictions, wait to run a background check until a conditional offer of employment and, if a record is found, examine that record on a case by case basis to see if it should prohibit you from hiring them.

And in many cases, a criminal history cannot be used to deny employment unless it is relevant to the job.  In addition, guidelines limit the records that can even be considered to the past 7 to 10 years. 

In effect, these existing EEOC and FCRA guidelines already make a long ago record, arrests, or minor offenses irrelevant to hiring.

Find out more about these laws here!

It is also important that you know your applicant’s criminal history so you can determine if they are safely able to do the job.  And that means knowing if their criminal past could pose a threat to you or your company. 

There is also the question of employer liability when hiring someone with a criminal record, whether you know about it or not. Lawsuits where the employee is held liable for the behavior of their employees are not unheard of.

Using expungement as a way to act as if a person’s criminal record NEVER existed is not the answer.

I think that instead promoting expungement, the best option is to fully enforce existing FCRA and EEOC requirements concerning criminal backgrounds and employment.

The current screening laws need to be more vigorously monitored and, if infractions occur, employees should be held accountable. This includes laws concerning banning the box, individual assessments, and applicant rights in employment background checks.

This would help ensure that ex-offenders are being given the chance to become productive and successful.  And there is no doubt that having a job goes a long way towards accomplishing that goal.

Instead of expanding expungements, there is also a better way to address employer liability.  It starts with giving employers immunity from prosecution for hiring someone with a criminal record.  Knowing that you will not be held accountable goes a long way towards giving you the peace of mind to take a chance on hiring an ex-offender.

Increasing the number of programs that teach convicted criminals needed job skills are equally as important.  It is also crucial to form partnerships with companies willing to hire these trained ex-offenders. 

These ideas only work, however, if you are able to hire with the full knowledge of your applicant’s criminal past.  Then you can be more careful where you place these employees and that you monitor them more closely.

This gives ex-offenders a second chance to prove themselves without putting your company in jeopardy.

Whether or not expungement rights exist in your state, as an employer, you should consider periodically re-screening your existing employees.  This can help protect you in case your employee either re-offends or offends for the first time.

Discover more about re-screening your existing employees here!

If the ability to expunge records is available, it shouldn’t be done with the “one size fits all” approach.  Using the idea of individual assessments instead makes sense.  This would allow judges to look at each request on a case by case basis.  

It would be wise to look at what the ex-offender has done since committing their crime.  Have they taken any steps to try and better themselves?

It is also crucial to be vigilant about checking for any other instances of criminal behavior, and not just in the court where the last offense occurred.  

These steps can work beyond the arena of employment and into the areas of student loans, voting rights, home ownership, and many others where having a past criminal history impedes future rights.

Taking the time to look at each case individually, instead of making blanket assumptions, makes sense.  

People need to be held accountable for their actions, but we also need to recognize and reward efforts of rehabilitation.  

We, as people, will be better for it! 

Please Share this article and Leave a Comment.  I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

No Longer Banned ~ New Law Allows Ex-Offenders to Work with Elderly. What this Means to You!

Elder Care Hiring, Background Checks, & Criminal Records

According to current legislation, anyone convicted of a violent offense or certain non-violent offenses, forgery and theft-related offenses for example, is banned for life from working with the elderly.  This includes anyone seeking work in a nursing home, an adult day care facility, or as a home health care worker.

At least in Pennsylvania, this is about to change.

Ex-Offenders No Longer Automatically Banned from Working with Our Elderly “Tweet This”

A Pennsylvania court has recently ruled that the lifetime ban is both unconstitutional and unenforceable.  

The resulting legislation overturns the Older Adult Protective Services Act that prohibited ex-offenders guilty of any one of a long list of crimes from ever working with the elderly.  This ban was in force no matter how long ago the offense occurred and whether or not it directly related to the job.  

Instead, the court’s decision now follows the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) recommendations concerning criminal history and employment.   Employers hiring for any kind of elderly care services will no longer be able to immediately exclude an applicant based on their criminal history.

In the court’s view, the lifetime ban was in direct conflict with EEOC guidelines.  They also believed that the ban continued to perpetuate disparate impact in hiring when criminal history is used as a way to deny employment.

As a basis for their decision, the court also cited examples of individuals unfairly impacted by the lifetime ban.  Stories included people convicted of a single offense, some as far back as the age of 18, who are continuing to be penalized, despite having committed no further criminal offenses.

Despite this change, protecting our elderly still needs to be our ultimate goal ~ and the court agreed.  However, they believe that this can be accomplished without the lifetime employment ban.

This is where Individualized Assessments come in.

These assessments will help employers evaluate the risk of hiring an ex-offender and help them make an informed decision.  As an employer in the elderly care field, you will now need to take into consideration the nature of the offense, the time that has passed since the offense, and whether the offense directly relates to the job being filled.

Individualized Assessments “keep a strong balance between the rights of Your Company to hire safe and qualified employees, and the chance for ex-offenders to gain employment”.

You can find out more about Individual Assessments (what they are and how you can use them) here!

My take…….

With caveats, I believe removing the lifetime ban for those working with our elderly is a good idea.  In many cases, especially where the applicant is a one-time offender, hiring them in these fields will not put our elderly at increased risk.   

Eliminating the ban will also open up the applicant pool for employers in these industries.  Many of these jobs can be low paying, and attracting the number of workers needed to keep up with the demand is difficult.  Having access to more potential employees can help alleviate this strain.

However, that does not mean that all applicants with a criminal past should be hired.  Those guilty of certain offenses should continue to be excluded.  For example, anyone convicted of elderly or child abuse, violent felonies, or drug trafficking should be hired with great caution, or not at all.  But banning anyone guilty of the lesser crimes that currently keep them from this type of job is unnecessary.

What You Need to Do Now….

Make sure Your Hiring Practices are EEOC/FCRA Compliant
~ Obtain a Signed Release from All Your Applicants.
~ Inform your Applicants of their Rights - copy of report
~ Notify Your Applicants in Writing of any Adverse Action
~ Give Your Applicants a Chance to Mitigate Your Findings

Use Individualized Assessments Wisely
~ Do Not Automatically Disqualify an Applicant with a Criminal History
~ Consider any Applicant with a Criminal History on a Case by Case basis

Be Aware of the Risks for not Following these Guidelines
~ Open Yourself to Charges of Discrimination and Disparate Impact
~ Recognize the Costs of Litigation 

Discover how to Keep Your Business out of the EEOC Radar here!

Implementing these steps will help you continue to hire safely and with compliance.

Knowledge Equals Power.  

Remember, as an employer, you are entitled to know the criminal past of your employees.  This knowledge helps you determine whether it is safe to hire them and also help you assess your employee’s work. 

But having a criminal record shouldn’t immediately mean an automatic lifetime ban from this type of job.  Taking the time to look at your applicants as individuals, and not only as the product of their criminal past, is key.

Something to think about……

This court decision may be only the beginning.  Reassessing the ban to exclude any ex-offenders from working with other vulnerable members of our society, mainly children and the mentally or physically disabled, may get notice.

Once again, it is in your best interest for You and Your Small Business to be Proactive.

Let me know what you think!  Leave a comment below.  Thanks!

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

#OscarsSoWhite & What it Means to Your Small Business

#OscarsSoWhite & #SmallBusiness

The 88th Academy Awards are set to air on Sunday, February 28th. This is the time the Academy focuses on excellence in film.  
Categories ranging from Best Picture, Best Actor and Actress, and even contributions on costume design, cinematography, and music are honored.

This should be a night to celebrate the truly stellar achievements in the film industry.

But once again, controversy abounds.

For the second straight year, every one of the 20 acting nominees is white.  This means that, according to Academy voting members, not one role filled by anyone other than a Caucasian actor was considered Oscar worthy.

Despite the strong performances in the movies Selma (a biopic on the late Martin Luther King, Jr.) and in Straight Outta Compton, the only nominations they received were for Best Picture (Selma) and for Best Original Screenplay (Compton ~ and the writers are White).  Also snubbed were the actors in Creed and Beasts of No Nation, both centering on African-American characters.

Not surprisingly, when this year’s nominations were released, there was an immediate uproar.  People of all races joined in calling out the Academy for their apparent discrimination.  Some even going as far as promising to boycott this year’s award show.

Even the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which circulated after last year’s nominations, is once again being used.  A veritable social media storm has since commenced.


Blame is being placed squarely on the Academy.  Their lack of action after the controversy hit in 2015 has many frustrated and calling for action.  

Academy President, Cheryl Isaacs, who herself is African-American, has vowed changes.  She plans to implement updated membership / voting rules and other measures designed to add more diversity to the Academy by increasing women and diverse voting members.

Her stated goal is to lead the Academy forward and make an difference in the film industry.

Small Business can learn a lot from this.

Small Business can learn from the #OscarsSoWhite Controversy “Tweet This”

As a Small Business, you must learn to be Proactive instead of Reactive, especially when it comes to disparate treatment and hiring.

If there is the smallest sign that your company may discriminate in its employment practices, then it is crucial you act.    

Hiring policies that show or even suggest employment discrimination against protected groups can result in consequences for your Small Business.

Much like the uproar over the Oscar nominations, the mere perception of bias or disparate impact is cause for alarm.  Any small business whose ongoing hiring policies are similarly discriminatory should take note.   

Charges of disparate treatment and disparate impact are being filed by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and by individuals.  And fighting these lawsuits will cost you time and money.  

It always makes sound business sense to do what you can before getting noticed by the EEOC or being the subject of a lawsuit.  That means being proactive.  

Find out more in “Tips to Help Your Small Business Fly Under the EEOC Radar”!

So What Should You Do?  Act Now!

You need to start by reviewing all your hiring policies.  Make sure there is nothing in your procedures that would impact your hiring of someone in a protected class (race, sex, religion, etc.).

Take a look at your existing workforce.  Have you fairly hired, retained, and promoted the most qualified?

If you see any inconsistencies during your review, then it is time to revamp your procedures and make the necessary changes.  And the key is to do this long before you are faced with any serious issues.  

Take note of the backlash against the Academy and don’t find your Small Business noticed for all the wrong reasons.  Being proactive long before the first sign of a disparate impact problem is simply good business.

Please leave a comment.  I would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks!

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for a Consultation on how your Small Business can Hire Safely!

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

What Storm Jonas can Teach You about Cooperation, Good People, and Small Business!

Why You need a Small Business Community

Winter Storm Jonas recently hit our East coast.  The snow started Friday, January 22, and continued throughout the weekend.  This blizzard not only dumped massive amounts of snow, many areas seeing as much as three feet, but it was often accompanied by hurricane force winds.

For many of us, Jonas was record setting.  In some especially hard hit areas, up to 42 inches of snow were reported.  In all, 14 states saw more than a foot of snow fall, while 6 reported more than 2 feet! 

No doubt Jonas brought many of these states to a stand still. Roads and stores were closed. Travelers were stranded in airports and some even in their cars on major highways.

Others were hunkered down in their own homes or with friends. 

But no matter where we were, we all felt Jonas’s impact.  

Photo by Kim Kline

And its effects continued well into the following week.  Many were plagued with icy and snow covered roads.  Train and Metro tracks were buried.  Most modes of public transportation were shut down. 

Even when the epic snowfall was over, life was a long way from being back to normal.

Cities, many of them unfamiliar with major snow removal, were dealing with a massive clean up.

I was stuck in Maryland, about a half hour West of Washington DC.  My husband and I had been in San Antonio for the week prior, enjoying the sunshine.

We were traveling back on Friday, finding ourselves heading right into the onset of Jonas. Our hope was to be able to get out of Dallas and on our flight to DC before it hit.  (We later found out that ours was one of the last flights Reagan National let land that day).

As soon as we got back to our condo, we changed and headed out to try and get some food and supplies.  

No such luck.  Our walkable grocery stores were closed, all of them wanting to get their own workers home safely.  We were able to buy a few provisions at a drug store and get a quick sandwich (thank you CVS and Jimmy John’s!).

By this time, the snow had begun in force…and it continued all night and well into the next day.  Snow piled up on our patio and reached beyond our window sills (see a shot of our window below!).  I had never seen anything like it!

Photo by Kim Kline

But despite the obvious frustration that we, and many around us were certainly feeling, I was also encouraged.

I witnessed many genuine examples of people helping people.  

Many were helping each other shovel out parking spots and walkways.  Others were checking on elderly neighbors to make sure they were okay or to see if they needed anything.  These were most definitely real acts of Community.

Photo by Kim Kline

Personally, my husband and I had the chance to connect with neighbors we had never even met before.  We chatted, sharing our stories of where we were when the snow started and what we were anticipating for the days ahead.

And despite these trying circumstances, everyone we met kept their sense of humor and optimism. 

This got me thinking. 

These are the exact same traits that can serve us well as Small Business Owners.

There is no doubt that we will all be faced with unexpected or unwelcome circumstances.  There will be times when we feel the heavy weight of the work load that comes with running our own business.  

But we can overcome these obstacles by practicing the same acts of "Community" I witnessed among my neighbors.  

It is time we recognize that coming together as a community of Small Business Owners helps us all.  Any time you have someone to lean on or to share experiences with, it makes us all stronger!

I also think it can go a long way towards helping us all succeed!

Creating a Small Business Community Helps Us all Succeed!  “Tweet This”

We should work hard to build our own Small Business Team...

In “Why Small Businesses Need to Help Small Businesses”, I explained that;

“By joining with other small businesses, we can pool our resources, our knowledge, and our experiences to create a powerful community.  We need to see ourselves as partners working toward a common goal.”

You can discover more about how Small Businesses can help each other HERE!

Photo by Kim Kline

Much like what I witnessed among my neighbors during Storm Jonas, cooperation will help us as Small Business Owners not only survive, but thrive.  And if we also remember to keep our sense of humor through it all, then we will be well ahead of the game.

Please Share this article and Leave a Comment! I would love to hear about your own experiences with Storm Jonas and Your Small Business!

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