HR Leaders: Avoid feeling stupid at your next performance review

Feeling stupid at work: A strong sense of embarrassment and regret, triggered when a colleague or supervisor discovers your foolish decision or moronic act that has (or could have) harmed your company and/or jeopardized its reputation.

Sometimes we make such decisions. If we have a forgiving boss, we will learn a very tough lesson and avoid making that same mistake twice. Of course, it would have been so much better if we had full knowledge up front to prevent the mistake and avoid feeling stupid in the first place.

And just when you think time has healed the wound, you get to replay the entire scenario all over again when it matters most – during your performance review.

When it comes to using pre employment background checks, there are many decisions that can be made, which can lead to feeling stupid, both before and during a performance review. Below, we list four key examples and offer some recommendations on how to make “the right call.”

1. Making a hiring decision based on a criminal record from a Nationwide or Statewide public database.

These public databases are good pre-screening tools because they might contain valid information about past criminal conduct. However, because these databases are notoriously incomplete and/or inaccurate, any information discovered from a criminal database should be verified with the original criminal record from the courthouse.

Consider the example of Kathleen Casey, who applied for a job in the pharmacy of a Boston drugstore. She was offered $11 an hour. All she had to do was pass a background check. It turned up a 14-count criminal indictment. Kathleen Casey had been charged with larceny in a scam against an elderly man and woman that involved forged checks and fake credit cards.

Turns out, the rap sheet belonged to Kathleen A. Casey, who lived in another town nearby and was 18 years younger.

Kathleen Ann Casey, the aspiring pharmacy technician, was clean.

These mix-ups can start with a mistake entered into the logs of a law enforcement agency or a court file. The biggest culprits, though, are companies that compile databases using public information.  In some instances, their automated formulas misinterpret the information provided them. Other times, as Casey discovered, records wind up assigned to the wrong people with a common name.

Another common problem: When a government agency erases a criminal conviction after a designated period of good behavior, many of the commercial databases don’t perform the updates required to purge the offenses.

Even the FBI criminal records database has problems. The FBI database has information on dispositions and other case results for only half its arrest records. Many people in the database have been cleared of charges. The Justice Department says the records are incomplete because states are inconsistent in reporting the conclusions of their cases.

The bottom line: if you make a hiring decision based on a database record, without verifying its accuracy, you could be placing your company at risk of litigation, which can result in negative media coverage, reputation problems and recruiting challenges.

2. Rejecting people for crimes unrelated to the job.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) is on the warpath. Last year, this employment watchdog agency updated its guidance on the use of criminal records for hiring decisions and they are now suing would-be violators left and right.

Just two days ago, they reached a settlement with transportation company JB Hunt for violating their policy. They have also reached a major settlement with Pepsi and are currently suing BMW, Dollar General and others.

Of course, you want to protect your company from negligent hiring liability, and you want to protect your workforce, customers and vendors from being victimized. But you also want to avoid an EEOC investigation with its negative media coverage, enormous legal bills, high-dollar settlements and reputation fallout.

Make a point to obtain good legal advice from an experienced employment attorney so that you can adopt a hiring policy that protects your company from dangerous criminals while avoiding government intervention.

3. Don’t misuse credit reports.

There is a movement underway to ban or severely limit the use of credit reports for hiring decisions. The total number of states that limit employers’ use of credit information is now 10: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Know the laws in your state and follow them closely or you could be placing your company at risk for litigation, fines and negative media coverage.

4. Improperly using social media as a screening tool.

Employers that wish to vet potential employees using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter must be very careful not to violate anti-discrimination laws.

The compliance risk is that by viewing a candidate’s social media page, any protected classes the candidate belongs to become immediatley known, including sexual orientation, religion, race, age, and pregnancy status. Other problems exist because social media content may be exaggerated or completely untruthful. If a hiring manager makes a decision based on such content, they are legally exposed.

If you will be using social media in your screening process, be sure to first obtain legal counsel so you fully understand how to proceed without violating any laws and harming your company in the process.

file-219116453Topics: Background Screening

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