Reminder to California employers about requirements when taking adverse action based on a criminal record

With the enactment of an updated ban-the-box statute (the Fair Chance Act) on January 1, 2018, employers in California may need a refresher on how to take adverse action based on the criminal record of an applicant.

For those businesses located in Los Angeles, the requirements take on an additional level of complication due to slight differences in the city’s ordinance.

Pursuant to California law, employers with five or more employees must wait until after a conditional offer of employment has been made to ask any questions about a criminal history. This means inquiries about convictions, running a background check or other efforts to find out about an applicant’s criminal past.

As an aside, several types of criminal records are not allowed to be used by employers in the hiring process (including juvenile records, diversions and deferrals, non-felony marijuana convictions that are more than two years old and arrests that did not lead to a conviction).If the employer decides not to hire the applicant, it must conduct an individualized assessment of the conviction at issue to evaluate whether it has a “direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job that justify denying the applicant the position.”

The applicant needs to be notified of the potential for adverse action based on the conviction. Such notice must identify the conviction at issue and include a copy of any background check report; the employer must also provide a deadline for the applicant to submit additional information with regard to the conviction (such as rehabilitation efforts or other mitigating circumstances).

Federal law also kicks in. For those employers that intend to rely in whole or in part on a background check report to take adverse action such as rescinding a conditional job offer, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) mandates that applicants be given a pre-adverse action notice, a copy of the report and a notice of rights.

Once the applicant has provided any information and the employer makes a final decision, a second notice is required. This time, the notice should inform the applicant of the final adverse action, explain any procedure in place for the applicant to challenge the decision or request reconsideration and describe the applicant’s right to file a complaint with the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). If the FCRA has been triggered by the use of a background check report, the employer must also provide the applicant with an adverse action notice that contains FCRA-required text.

While this process may seem onerous, employers that hire workers in Los Angeles face additional requirements under the city’s Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring Ordinance (FCIHO). The law, which took effect on January 22, 2017, applies to employers with 10 or more workers (defined to include individuals who perform at least two hours of work on average in Los Angeles and are covered by the state’s minimum wage law).

The FCIHO has a narrower definition of a “conditional offer of employment” than that under state law – here, an offer of employment to an applicant “is conditioned only on an assessment of the applicant’s criminal history, if any, and the duties and responsibilities of the employment position.”

Regardless of the source of criminal history, if an employer elects not to hire an applicant, a written assessment that “effectively links the specific aspects of the applicant’s criminal history with risks inherent in the duties of the employment position sought by the applicant” must be performed.

This assessment needs to be provided to the applicant as part of the “fair chance process,” along with any other documentation or information used by the employer as well as a pre-adverse action notice. Again, if a background check report was used, the FCRA requirements apply. The applicant also receives an opportunity to share information the employer should consider before making a final decision, such as evidence of rehabilitation.

After at least five business days, the employer may make a final decision. If the applicant provided additional documentation or information, the employer is obligated to consider it and conduct a written reassessment. If the employer decides to take adverse action against the applicant anyway, the employer must notify the applicant and provide a copy of the reassessment along with the adverse action notice.

June 21st, 2018|Employment Decisions, Legislation|

Reminder to New York City employers about requirements when taking adverse action based on a criminal record

Let’s say you are an employer in New York City with a position to fill. During the hiring process, you learn that an applicant has a criminal conviction. What should you do if you elect not to hire her and want to avoid breaking the law?

The answer is not simple.

In New York State, it is unlawful to deny employment or take an adverse action against an applicant because of a criminal conviction unless a direct relationship exists between the criminal offense(s) and the specific position sought, or the employment of the individual would involve an “unreasonable risk” to property or to the safety and welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

Before an adverse employment decision may be based on a conviction record, Article 23-A of the New York State Correction law provides a list of factors that employers must consider:

  • New York’s stated public policy “to encourage the licensure and employment of those with previous criminal convictions.”
  • The specific duties and responsibilities related to the employment sought or held.
  • The bearing, if any, the criminal offense(s) for which the individual was convicted will have on her fitness or ability to perform one or more of the position’s duties or responsibilities.
  • The time elapsed since the occurrence of the criminal offense(s).
  • The age of the individual at the time of the occurrence of the criminal offense(s).
  • The seriousness of the criminal offense(s).
  • Any information produced by the individual (or on her behalf) addressing rehabilitation and good conduct. Any certificate of relief from disabilities or certificate of good conduct creates a presumption of rehabilitation with regard to the offense specified in the certificate.
  • The legitimate interest of the employer in protecting property and the safety and welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

An employer must apply each of these factors on a case-by-case basis before making an adverse employment decision. If all the factors are properly weighed and an employer makes a reasonable, good faith decision that the criminal offense bears a direct relationship to the job duties or that the applicant’s employment would involve an unreasonable risk to safety and welfare, it is not illegal to deny employment.

New York law does require that if employment is denied because of a conviction record, a statement setting forth the reasons for the denial must be provided upon request of the applicant, in writing and within 30 days.

Another wrinkle for employers who use a third-party to perform a background check: the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If an employer elects not to hire an employee based in whole or in part on the background check, the statute requires the applicant receive a copy of the background check report, a notice of intent to take adverse action and a notice of rights.

Employers in New York City, however, have additional legislation to contend with. The Fair Chance Act (FCA), enacted in 2015, applies to employers with at least four employees. Covered employers are prohibited from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment has been extended.

Assuming the offer has been made and an employer has learned of a conviction that proves troubling, the FCA sets forth several requirements for an employer to rescind the offer without running afoul of the statute.

After the factors of Article 23-A have been applied, an employer must follow a “fair chance process.” This involves providing applicants with a copy of their background check report – and if a third party was used to perform the check, the FCRA notice of rights and a notice of intent to take adverse action, per the FCRA – and any other information relied upon in connection with the employment decision, such as Internet searches or written summaries of oral conversations.

In addition, employers must provide an analysis of the Article 23-A factors (the New York City Commission for Human Rights (NYCCHR) provides a Fair Chance Act Notice Form for employers to use)) and the opportunity for the applicant to address the criminal history at issue and present any mitigating information or material prior to the employment offer being revoked.

The prospective position must be held open for at least three business days from the applicant’s receipt of the necessary documentation to allow time for a response. Further, if the employer used a third-party background check company, the FCRA also mandates that applicants receive a reasonable period of time to respond (the Federal Trade Commission has suggested that five business days would be sufficient in most circumstances).

The Notice Form requires employers to evaluate each Article 23-A factor and select which exception – direct relationship or unreasonable risk – it is relying upon, with the burden on the employer (and space provided on the Notice Form) to articulate its conclusion. In addition to the Notice Form, employers that made use of a background check report must provide an applicant with an adverse action notice required by the FCRA.

If an employer rescinds a conditional offer after receiving information about the applicant’s criminal history, the FCA established a rebuttable presumption that the withdrawal was due to criminal history.

To rebut the presumption, an employer must demonstrate that the revocation was due to a permitted reason, such as the results of a medical examination (where an exam is otherwise permitted), material information the employer could not have known before the conditional offer was made and would have kept the employer from making the offer in the first place or evidence that the employer did not have knowledge of the applicant’s criminal history prior to revoking the conditional offer.

Some employers are exempt from the FCA when hiring for certain positions if federal, state or local laws require a criminal background check or prohibit employment based on certain criminal convictions. Companies in the financial services industry or employers hiring police and peace officers, for example, may not be subject to the law’s requirements. Those employers who believe they are exempt must inform an individual upon application and keep a record of their use of the exemption.

June 21st, 2018|Employment Decisions, Legislation|

NOTICE OF UPDATES TO OUR TERMS AND CONDITIONS AGREEMENT, PRIVACY POLICY AND NEW GDPR NOTICE OF RIGHTS

Data privacy is our top priority at Scherzer International (“SI”).  SI has undertaken diligent efforts to ensure our compliance with the GDPR which became effective May 25, 2018.  Here are some of the things that we’ve done:

  • We added a clause about GDPR* compliance setting forth our respective obligations under this regulation to our Terms and Conditions Agreement (the “Agreement”), which now – unless superseded by another agreement – governs SI’s provision of background screening reports (“Reports”). The Agreement can be accessed here and is applicable to all Reports ordered from SI on or after May 25, 2018 (“Effective Date”).
  • We revised our Privacy Policy by adding information about our compliance with the GDPR requirements regarding the processing of personal data of individuals located in the European Economic Area (EEA) covered by the GDPR and made some wording changes for clarity.  Please note that as before, our website does not use cookies or otherwise track any personal data.
  • We posted a “GDPR Notice” on our website, which informs EEA individuals of their rights in connection with their personal data.

There is no need for you to take any action. By continuing to interact with SI and using our services after the Effective Date, you agree to these terms.

Of course, you can opt out at any time, by contacting Joann Gold, Executive Vice President/Chief Compliance Officer, at jgold@scherzer.com.

WE APPRECIATE YOUR BUSINESS!

*“GDPR” means Regulation 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission of April 27, 2016, on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of Personal Data and on the free movement of such data, known as the General Data Protection Regulation.

May 25th, 2018|European Union, International, Legislation, Privacy|

The challenges of employment applications for multi-state employers

One of the hottest trends in employment in recent years has been the passage of “ban-the-box” and salary inquiry prohibitions in states and cities across the country.

Limitations on salary inquiry have popped up in recent years as part of the legislative fight against wage discrimination and the gender pay gap. Proponents of such prohibitions argue that salary history questions feed into the discrepancy between what male and female employees are paid by continuously repeating history.

Currently, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon and Puerto Rico have banned inquiries about prior salary, as have cities including New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia, with dozens of other states and local governments considering such measures.

The colloquial term “ban-the-box” refers to a box that applicants check to indicate they have a criminal record on standardized application forms. About 20 states and more than 150 local entities have already enacted legislation addressing inquiries into criminal history. The trend even went federal in 2015 with the Fair Chance Act introduced in Congress. Although the measure did not pass, it demonstrated the popularity of the movement.

The proposed federal legislation also shined a light on the situation facing multistate employers, with different laws in different states and in some situations, different laws in different cities or municipalities within the same state. One law may contain an outright ban on inquiries into salary or criminal history while another may place restrictions on the timing of the questions. Some laws define covered employers to include businesses with five or more, employees; another may not apply its limitations to employers with less than 50 workers.

As an example, although the state already limited employers’ ability to ask job applicants about any juvenile court matters, the California legislature broadened its ban-the-box protections for employees with a new law in 2017. Employers in the state are restricted from making hiring decisions based on an applicant’s convictions records and forbidden from considering conviction history until a conditional offer of employment has been extended.

If an employer elects not to hire an applicant because of a prior conviction, the employer is required to conduct an individualized assessment to determine whether the history has a “direct and adverse relationship” with the job duties that justifies denial of the position. Written notice must be provided to an applicant that his/her conviction history has disqualified the applicant from employment, along with five days to respond and dispute the decision. A second notice must be provided with the final decision not to hire.

In contrast, Vermont’s ban-the-box measure takes a different approach, allowing employers to question applicants about their criminal records during the job interview, albeit providing an applicant with the opportunity to explain their record. And under New York City’s law, an employer commits a per se violation of the statute by using recruiting materials of any kind (including advertisements, solicitations or applications) that express, directly or indirectly, any limitation or specification regarding criminal history.

While the overarching principle remains consistent, the details of the laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For multi-state employers, coping with such a patchwork of legal requirements poses a serious challenge.

As the number of state and local jurisdictions with laws addressing salary inquiries or criminal history continues to expand, multi-state employers should brace themselves for a giant compliance puzzle – and consider getting help from an expert.

May 4th, 2018|Employment Decisions, Legislation|

All judgments and tax liens to be removed from consumer credit reports

As reported last year, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion (the “NCRAs”) implemented enhanced standards for the collection and timely updating of public record data as part of the requirements of the National Consumer Assistance Plan (the “NCAP”) and accordingly, effective July 1, 2017, removed all civil judgments and the majority of tax liens from their databases.

The NCRAs are now going a step further to comply with the NCAP’s standards and to resolve pending litigation by removing all tax liens from consumer credit reports effective April 16, 2018. Bankruptcy records will continue to be reported.

March 22nd, 2018|Judgment, Legislation|

Mid-Year Update on Employment Background Screening Legislation

BAN-THE-BOX

List of jurisdictions is growing

“Ban-the-box” measures, which generally prohibit employers from inquiring about a candidate’s criminal history (including performing background checks) until later in the hiring process, and impose significant compliance requirements, will soon be the norm rather than an exception. The list of localities that have enacted such legislation is growing fast and now includes Austin, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbia – MOLos Angeles (enforcement started July 1, 2017), Montgomery County – MD, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, Prince George’s County – MD, Rochester, San Francisco, and Seattle, and ten states (Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont (effective July 1, 2017)).

Although not labeled as “ban-the-box,” California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing regulations (the “Regs”) that went into effect July 1, 2017 impose certain similar requirements when employers consider criminal history information in employment decisions. As reported in our previous blog, the Regs are substantially based on the enforcement guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2012, and prohibit employers from using a candidate’s criminal history in personnel decisions if such information will have an adverse impact on individuals that are in a legally protected class.

Amended rules for New York City’s “ban-the-box” take effect August 5, 2017

Nearly two years after the enactment of New York City’s Fair Chance Act (FCA), and without much fanfare, the City’s Commission on Human Rights published its amended rules that  establish certain definitions and procedures, and clarify the comprehensive requirements of the FCA when using criminal history in employment decisions, and considering applicants for licenses, registrations, and permits.

CREDIT CHECK RESTRICTIONS

Eleven states (California – AB 22; Colorado – The Employment Opportunity Act; Connecticut  – SB 361; District of Columbia – Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act, Hawaii – HB 31 SD1; Illinois  – HB 4658; Maryland  HB 87;  Nevada – SB 127; Oregon – SB 1045; Vermont – Act No. 154 (S. 95); Washington – RCW 19.182 and  RCW 19.182.020) and at least two localities  (New York City – Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act, and Philadelphia – Bill No. 160072), have enacted laws that generally prohibit private employers from checking a candidate’s credit history, except in circumstances where a credit screen is justified by the position’s responsibilities or is required by law.

WAGE HISTORY INQUIRIES

Pay equity initiatives, which among their provisions include a ban on inquiries about a candidate’s wages, are gaining momentum nationwide. The following jurisdictions have enacted such laws and many more are considering similar measures: Delaware – HS1 (effective December 14, 2017); Massachusetts – Pay Equity Act (effective July 1, 2018); New York City – Intro 1253 (effective October 31, 2017); Oregon HB 2005 (effective December 1, 2019); Philadelphia – Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination (set to go into effect May 23, 2017 but now facing a legal challenge); Puerto Rico – Equal Pay Act (effective March 8, 2017); and San Francisco – Parity in Pay Ordinance (effective July 1, 2018).

Pending before California’s Senate is AB 168 that would prohibit employers from seeking an applicant’s salary history and impose significant penalties for violations. Notably, California already has a pay equity law, AB 1676, and although the law does not ban salary history inquiries, it does prohibit employers from using a candidate’s prior wages as the sole basis to justify a pay disparity.

WORK AUTHORIZATION VERIFICATIONS

Revised Form I-9

The USCIS released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification on July 17, 2017. Employers can use this revised version or continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of “11/14/16 N” through September 17, 2017. Beginning September 18, 2017, however, employers must use the new form (with the revision date of “07/17/17 N”).

Reminder to California employers

California’s  AB 1065 that went into effect January 1, 2017 makes it unlawful for employers to:

  1. request additional or different documents than those required under federal law to verify that an individual is not an unauthorized immigrant;
  2. refuse to accept documents provided by the applicant that reasonably appear to be genuine;
  3. refuse to honor documents or work authorization based on specific status or term that accompanies the authorization to work; and
  4. attempt to re-investigate or re-verify a candidate’s authorization to work using an unfair immigration-related practice.
August 4th, 2017|Educational Series, Employment Decisions, Legislation, Risk Management|

New Regulations for California Employers Regarding Criminal Background Checks

What this is about:
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (the “DFEH”) recently enacted regulations (“Regs”) for California employers that impose new requirements when considering criminal history information in employment decisions.

Effective date:
July 1, 2017

What this means:
Substantially based on the enforcement guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2012, the Regs prohibit employers from using a candidate’s criminal history in personnel decisions, if such information will have an adverse impact on individuals in a legally protected class. The Regs also expand the types of records that California employers are already prohibited from considering. Namely, any non-felony conviction for possession of marijuana that is older than two years is now off-limits.

Requirements:
If an employer obtains conviction information from a source other than the candidate — consumer report or internally performed search — the employer must first notify the candidate that he/she has been screened out because of a conviction before taking any adverse action. This notice requirement differs from that of the Fair Credit Report Act (the “FCRA”), which mandates notices only if the employer takes adverse action based on information contained in a third-party report. Ban-the-box city ordinances, such as those in Los Angeles and San Francisco, have yet different requirements, providing that a notice may be required if the adverse action is based on criminal history information from any source, including disclosure by the candidate.

The Regs also mandate that the candidate is given a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate that the exclusion should not be applied due to his/her particular circumstances, and consideration whether any additional information provided by the candidate or otherwise obtained by the employer warrants an exception.

According to the Regs, the candidate bears the initial burden of proof for establishing that the employer’s background screening policy has an adverse impact on a protected class. If an adverse impact is demonstrated, the burden shifts to the employer to show that its policy is “job-related and consistent with a business necessity,” and based on an individualized assessment, considering factors such as:

  • the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct
  • the time passed since the offense was committed and/or completion of the sentence
  • the nature of the job sought or held

Recommendations:
Employers in California should review their policies on the use of criminal history information in employment decisions and modify any practices to ensure compliance with the new Regs, the FCRA, analogous state law, and applicable local ban-the-box ordinances.

June 27th, 2017|Criminal Activity, Employment Decisions, Legislation, Risk Management|

Additional Guidance and Forms Issued for City of Los Angeles’ Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring Ordinance

As reported in our previous alert, effective January 22, 2017, the Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring (“LAFCIH”) ordinance prohibits employers (with 10 or more employees) from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional job offer has been extended and imposes significant compliance obligations. The Department of Public Works Bureau of Contract Administration (the “BCA” or the “Department”), which bears administrative responsibilities for the LAFCIH, in addition to its rules and regulations published In February, has now provided forms and further guidance to help covered employers (and city contractors/subcontractors) meet their compliance requirements.

The forms and guidance include the following:

It is recommended that all covered employers and city contractors/subcontractors review the materials provided by the BCA.  Penalties and fines for violations of the LAFCIH will be imposed starting July 1, 2017.

February 10th, 2017|Employment Decisions, FCRA, Legislation, Privacy, Risk Management|

New Guidance Regarding City of Los Angeles’ Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring Ordinance

 

 

What is this about:

As reported in our previous alert, effective January 22, 2017, the Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring (“LAFCIH”) ordinance prohibits employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional job offer has been extended and imposes significant compliance obligations.

The Department of Public Works Bureau of Contract Administration, which bears administrative responsibilities for the LAFCIH, in addition to its rules and regulations (the “Regs”) to guide covered employers (and city contractors/subcontractors) in meeting compliance requirements published last month, has now posted an “individualized assessment and reassessment form.” It is unclear whether the Department expects employers to use this form as provided or whether modifications are permitted. Certain other items in the Regs also remain unclear, and the Department has yet to issue anticipated further guidance.

 

Notable amplifications and clarifications:

  1. “Applicant” means an individual who submits an application or other documentation for employment to an employer regardless of location.
  2. “Employee” means any individual who performs at least two hours of work on average each week within the geographic boundaries of the City for an employer. Average week is determined by the last four complete weeks before the position is advertised
  3. An individual who lives in the City and performs work for an employer from home, including telecommuting, is an employee.
  4. An individual who works from a home that is outside of the City is not an employee even if he/she works for a Los Angeles-based company, unless the individual also works at least two hours on average per week within the geographic boundaries of the City.
  5. The LAFCIH applies to employees regardless of an employer’s designation of an employee as an independent contractor, and labeling a worker as an independent contractor is not conclusive for the purpose of the LAFCIH.
 

Criminal history:

According to the Regs,

“A conviction shall include a plea, verdict, or finding of guilt regardless of whether sentence is imposed by the court. In the State of California, an employer is prohibited from asking about any arrest information, unless it results in a conviction, and otherwise specified.”

Note: the definition above cites California Labor Code §432.7(a)(1). The first sentence is correct; however, the second sentence is not, as that statute expressly allows inquiries about pending cases,stating that “nothing [in this section] shall prevent an employer from asking… about an arrest for which the employee or applicant is out on bail or on his or her own recognizance pending trial.”

Nevertheless, the Regs, in a section titled “Employer Assessment of Criminal History,” go on to state that “arrests cannot be considered in employment decisions.”

 

Other guidance items:

The Regs amplify other definitions and aim to explain the various employer requirements. This includes, but is not limited to: the application and interview procedure, assessment of criminal history, the “Fair Chance” process, notice and posting, record-keeping, enforcement and exceptions.

See above the above post for links regarding this new guidance.

February 9th, 2017|Employment Decisions, FCRA, Legislation, Privacy, Risk Management|

The Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework is approved

The Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework (the “Framework”) made its debut on January 12, 2017 without much fanfare when Swiss federal councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann announced the Framework’s approval as a valid legal mechanism to comply with Swiss requirements for transferring personal data from Switzerland to the United States. The Framework, designed by the U.S. Department of Commerce (the “DOC”) and the Swiss government to align with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, will immediately replace the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor. The DOC will begin accepting self-certifications starting April 12, 2017 to give organizations ample time to review the new Framework’s principles and compliance requirements. For more of Scherzer International’s coverage of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, click here.

February 2nd, 2017|Business Transactions, European Union, International, Legislation, Privacy, Risk Management|