New employment background screening legislation for 2017

“Ban-the-box”

“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 city of Los Angeles, with its new Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring ordinance, is just the latest to join the fast growing list of localities (Austin, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbia – MO, District of Columbia, Montgomery County – MD, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, Prince George’s County – MD, Rochester, San Francisco, and Seattle) and nine states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont (effective July 1, 2017)) that have enacted similar laws  for private employers.

Juvenile criminal record checks   

Effective January 1, 2017, AB 1843 amends Section 432.7 of the Labor Code to prohibit California employers from inquiring about and considering information regarding “an arrest, detention, process, diversion, supervision, adjudication, or court disposition” that occurred while the candidate was subject to the process and jurisdiction of a juvenile court. Certain employment situations are exempted from these requirements, such as a prohibition by law from hiring an applicant who has been convicted of a crime.

Criminal background checks for transportation network companies

Effective January 1, 2017, under California’s AB 1289, a transportation network company (“TNC”) such as Uber, is required to perform criminal background checks on all drivers. The bill also prohibits a TNC from contracting with a driver who is registered on the DOJ’s national sex offender website or has been convicted of specified felonies, or misdemeanor assault or battery, domestic violence, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol within the past seven years.

Credit check restrictions

The District of Columbia is the latest jurisdiction to pass a law that prohibits private employers, with certain exceptions, from conducting credit checks on job applicants. The Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act, which amends the Human Rights Act of 1977 to include credit information as a protected trait will take effect following approval by Mayor Bowser and other enactment actions. Similar to the laws already in effect in ten states for private employers (California – AB 22; Colorado – The Employment Opportunity Act; Connecticut  – SB 361; 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 cities (New York City – Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act and Philadelphia – Bill No. 160072), it restricts checking an applicant’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 include California’s AB 1676, which effective January 1, 2017, prohibits employers from using a candidate’s prior salary as the sole basis to justify a pay disparity. California, however, has decided not to follow the Massachusetts provisions (described below) of banning inquiries regarding a candidate’s wage history.

Massachusetts was the first jurisdiction to pass a law that prevents employers from asking job candidates about their salary history. The commonwealth’s Pay Equity Act goes into effect July 1, 2018, and in addition to equal pay requirements, it makes it illegal, among other things, to: (1) require that an employee refrain from inquiring about, discussing or disclosing information about his or her wages, or any other employee’s wages; (2) screen job applicants based on their wages; (3) request or require a candidate to disclose prior wages or salary history; or (4) seek the salary history from a current or former employer, unless he/she provides express written consent, and an offer of employment, including proposed compensation, has been extended.

Effective May 23, 2017, the city of Philadelphia with its Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination will make it unlawful for employers to inquire about a candidate’s wage history during the hiring process, unless a federal, state, or local law specifically authorizes the disclosure or verification of wage information.

Drug testing – marijuana

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS), 31 states/jurisdictions (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) have public medical marijuana and cannabis programs, while several states (Alaska – Ballot Measure No. 2; California – Proposition 64; Colorado – Amendment 64; District of Columbia – Initiative 71; Maine – Question 1; Massachusetts  – Question 4;  Nevada – Question 2; Oregon – Measure 91; and Washington Initiative 502) have passed laws allowing for the recreational use of marijuana by adults.  Since the legal landscape for marijuana use is changing rapidly, employers should review and update their substance abuse policies, including drug-testing. Notably, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Work authorization verification

California’s SB 1001 is a revival of the 2015  AB 1065, which effective 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) to refuse to accept documents provided by the applicant that reasonably appear to be genuine; 3) to refuse to honor documents or work authorization based on specific status or term that accompanies the authorization to work; or 4) to attempt to reinvestigate or re-verify a candidate’s authorization to work using an unfair immigration-related practice.

Effective January 1, 2017, Tennessee’s SB 1965 requires that companies with 50 or more employees use the federal E-Verify program to confirm new employees’ work authorization.

As a reminder, starting January 22, 2017, all employers must use the new Form I-9, which is dated November 14, 2016 (the edition date is on the bottom of the form).  Employers that fail to use the new form may be subject to civil penalties.

March 2nd, 2017|Employment Decisions, FCRA, Legislation, 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 (the “Department”), 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. (A link to the form is provided below.)
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, including, but not limited to, the application and interview procedure, assessment of criminal history, the “Fair Chance” process, notice and posting, recordkeeping, enforcement and exceptions. See below for links regarding this new guidance:

Read the Regs here.

Access the notice to applicants/employees regarding the LAFCIH here.

Access the LAFCIH’s “individualized assessment and reassessment” form here.

Access the Department’s sample letter to rescind a job offer here.

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

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|

City of Los Angeles’ “Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring” goes into effect January 22, 2017

The City of Los Angeles passed the “Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring (LAFCIH),” a new “ban-the-box” legislation that goes into effect January 22, 2017, with monetary fines for non-compliance starting July 1, 2017. The LAFCIH applies to most private sector employers that (1) are located in or doing business in the City of Los Angeles; and (2) employ 10 or more people. The law covers both applicants and incumbent employees in virtually any type of employment situation.

The ordinance prohibits covered private employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer of employment has been extended, and imposes significant compliance obligations, including a requirement that before making an adverse decision based on a criminal record, the employer “performs 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.” At a minimum, the employer must consider factors identified by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its 2012 Enforcement Guidance and any other factors that may be required by rules or guidelines promulgated by the city’s Department of Public Works, Bureau of Contract Administration [Department] which will be administering the LAFCIH.

The employer must then engage in a “fair chance process,” allowing the candidate to provide information or documentation regarding the accuracy of the criminal record or other information that the employer should consider, such as evidence of rehabilitation or other mitigating factors. The proposed position must be held open for at least five business days after the candidate has received the employer’s notification and assessment. If the candidate provides additional information or documentation, the employer is required to consider the new information and perform a written re-assessment.

Additionally, the LAFCIH provides that all covered employers include the following language in any advertisement or solicitation seeking applicants: “The employer will consider for employment qualified applicants with criminal histories in a manner consistent with [the Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring].” There is also a notice posting requirement, which must be in a conspicuous place at every workplace, job site, or other location in the City of Los Angeles under the employer’s control that is visited by applicants. Copies of the notice must be sent to each labor union or representative of workers that has a collective bargaining agreement or other agreement applicable to employees in Los Angeles.

Employers are required to maintain all records and documents related to an individual’s application for employment, including any written assessments and re-assessments for a period of three years after the receipt of the job application.

As with other “ban-the-box” legislation, the LAFCIH makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate or otherwise take adverse action against an individual who has complained about the employer’s non-compliance or anticipated non-compliance; opposed any practice made unlawful by the ordinance; participated in any proceedings related to enforcement of the law, or otherwise sought to enforce or assert his/her rights under the LAFCIH.

The LAFCIH does not apply in the following circumstances: (1) when the employer is required by law to obtain information regarding an applicant’s criminal convictions; (2) when the applicant will be required to possess or use a firearm in the course of his/her employment; (3) when the applicant is prohibited by law from holding the position sought due to a conviction, regardless of whether the conviction has been expunged, sealed, eradicated, or dismissed; or (4) when the employer is prohibited by law from hiring an applicant who has been convicted of a crime.

With this new ordinance, Los Angeles joins the fast-growing list of localities (Austin, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbia (MO), the District of Columbia, Montgomery County (MD), New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, Prince George’s County (MD), Rochester, San Francisco, and Seattle) and nine states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont) that have enacted similar laws for private employers.

Companies covered by the LAFCIH should immediately review and revise, if applicable, their applications, offer letters, background check forms, and notices, and ensure that their employment screening policies incorporate the ordinance’s pre-adverse and adverse action procedures and documentation, and record keeping requirements.

Since “ban-the-box” legislation is gaining momentum at a rapid pace, all nationwide employers may want to conduct an assessment of their employment screening practices to ensure their compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

January 10th, 2017|Employment Decisions, Legislation, Risk Management|

Judicial Redress Act of 2015 signed into law

On February 24, 2016, President Obama signed the Judicial Redress Act of 2015 (“the Act”) into law, a major step toward formalizing the recently announced privacy framework, the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which will replace the Safe Harbor program that was declared invalid by the European Court of Justice in October 2015. The Act’s intent, as explained by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is to reestablish the United States’ credibility with the European Union following the highly-publicized leaks of classified information in the recent years.

The Act extends to the citizens of EU countries that permit commercial transfers of personal data [to the United States] similar rights to those enjoyed by US citizens under the Privacy Act of 1974, which established a code of fair information practices that govern the federal government’s collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals. The citizens of these EU countries will now be allowed to sue the United States for unlawful disclosure of their personal information obtained in connection with international law enforcement efforts. Under current law, only US citizens and legal residents can bring such claims against the federal government.

Read the text of the Act here.

February 28th, 2016|European Union, Legislation|

Province of Ontario passes the Police Record Checks Reform Act

On December 1, 2015, Ontario passed the Police Record Checks Reform Act, 2015 (the “Act”) which has significant implications regarding criminal record checks. The Act establishes comprehensive standards governing the type of information that can be disclosed by police in response to record check inquiries, and is intended to remove unnecessary barriers to employment, licensing, holding office, applying to educational programs and participating in volunteer activities. Its main objective is to prevent the inappropriate disclosure of non-conviction and non-criminal records, such as information obtained from street checks or “carding,” as well as mental health information.  

Possibly the most significant requirement under the Act is that the individual must review the requested information and then consent to its disclosure. In the event that potentially inappropriate non-conviction information is included in a record, the Act provides that the individual may request a reconsideration of the disclosure. As a result, employers who conduct employment criminal record checks will now only be able to obtain the results if the applicant/employee has consented to the disclosure. 

December 22nd, 2015|Legislation|

Employers in New Jersey may face tougher restrictions for employment credit checks

Assembly Bill A2298 which prohibits employment discrimination against a current or prospective employee based on information in a credit report advanced to a second reading on December 14, 2015. The proposed legislation prohibits an employer from requiring a credit check on a current or prospective employee, unless the employer is required to do so by law, or reasonably believes that an employee has engaged in a specific activity that is financial in nature and constitutes a violation of law.  The bill does not prevent an employer from performing a credit inquiry or taking action if credit history is a bona fide occupational qualification of a particular position or certain employment classifications. An earlier version of the legislation passed the Senate in May 2012 in a 22-16 vote but was never voted on in the full Assembly.

December 22nd, 2015|Employment Decisions, Legislation|

Portland’s new ban-the-box law goes beyond Oregon’s version

Effective July 1, 2016, covered Portland businesses will be prohibited from asking job applicants about their criminal history or accessing such records until after a conditional offer has been extended. The city’s legislation goes beyond the state’s law, which beginning January 1, 2016, prohibits Oregon businesses, unless exempted, from including criminal history questions during the preliminary hiring stages, but allows the inquiries during the interview process.

Just as with Oregon’s ban-the-box law, businesses within the city of Portland are excluded from coverage when hiring for certain positions, which include law enforcement, criminal justice, and working with children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and other groups considered vulnerable.

December 22nd, 2015|Legislation|

New US-EU Safe Harbor agreement may be around the corner

Various sources report that US and EU representatives met on December 17, 2015 to hash out an agreement that would replace the recently invalidated Safe Harbor privacy framework. The two governments aim to have a replacement framework in place by January, says EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourová. One of the main goals of the new program is to allow EU citizens’ grievances to be filed directly with their national privacy regulator.

As reported in our client alert and blogs, in October 2015, judges from the European Court of Justice issued a judgment striking down a 15-year old agreement, known as the Safe Harbor framework, which allowed US and European organizations to freely move personal data between the two regions as long as the US ensured an adequate level of data protection at the company and certified that it would abide by the seven EU data privacy principles regarding notice, choice, onward transfer, security, data integrity, access, and enforcement.  The invalidation ruling impacted nearly 4,000 businesses that relied on the Safe Harbor framework to transfer data between the US and Europe and requires all businesses to revaluate their compliance with European data privacy and security standards.

December 22nd, 2015|European Union, Legislation|

NYC Commission issues legal enforcement guidance on employment credit checks

The New York City Commission recently issued interpretive legal enforcement guidance clarifying some of the exemptions in the City’s Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act (“SCDEA”), as well as recordkeeping requirements and penalties.

As we reported previously, effective September 3, 2015, the SCDEA amends the New York City Human Rights Law (the “NYCHRL”) to make requesting and using consumer credit history for hiring and other employment purposes, with certain exceptions, an unlawful discriminatory practice.

The SCDEA defines “consumer credit history” as an individual’s “credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, or payment history, as indicated by: (a) a consumer credit report; (b) credit score; or (c) information an employer obtains directly from the individual regarding details about (1) credit accounts, including the individual’s number of credit accounts, late or missed payments, charged-off debts, items in collections, credit limit, prior credit report inquiries, or (2) bankruptcies, judgments or liens.”

It remains unclear whether the law bans only inquiries, but not public record searches, for bankruptcies, judgments or liens. Under the SCDEA, a consumer credit report includes “any written or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency that bears on a consumer’s creditworthiness, credit standing, credit capacity or credit history,” and given the broad scope of “any  written or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency” caution should be taken regarding these searches and even for civil litigation, as such public records may reveal credit-related information that New York City employers are prohibited from using.

While the SCDEA generally establishes eight categories of exemptions, such as those of individuals required to be bonded under city, state, or federal law which are self-explanatory, there has been much speculation as to the scope of others. In its FAQs, the guidance specifically provides that the exemptions do not cover most low-level employees including, but not limited to, bank tellers, cashiers, salespeople, clerical workers, administrative staff, restaurant/bar workers, and private security employees.

Interpretation about non-clerical positions having regular access to trade secrets is also included in the guidance. The SCDEA defines “trade secrets” as “information that: (a) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means, by other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; (b) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy; and (c) can reasonably be said to be the end product of significant innovation.”

The SCDEA limits the trade secret definition to exclude “general proprietary company information such as handbooks and policies” and “access to or the use of client, customer, or mailing lists.” Consistent with this definition and the broad scope of the NYCHRL, “trade secrets” do not include information such as recipes, formulas, customer lists, processes, and other information regularly collected in the course of business or regularly used by entry-level and non-salaried employees and supervisors or managers of such employees.

The guidance emphasizes that all exemptions to coverage under the SCDEA’s anti-discrimination provisions are to be construed narrowly. Employers may claim an exemption to defend against liability, but they have the burden of proving the exemption by a preponderance of the evidence. No exemption applies to an entire employer or industry–exemptions apply only to positions or roles, and not to individual applicants or employees. The law does permits employers to request credit information in response to any lawful subpoena, court order, or law enforcement investigation.

An employer claiming an exemption must show that the position or role falls under one of the eight  general position categories referenced previously. Employers availing themselves of the exemptions should inform applicants or employees of the claimed exemption, and should also keep a record of their use of such exemptions for a period of five years from the date an exemption is used. Keeping an exemption log will help the employer respond to the Commission’s requests for information.

The guidance sets forth civil penalties for violations of the law (up to $250,000 for willful, wanton, or malicious violations, and up to $125,000 for other violations) in addition to other remedies available under the NYCHRL.

Read the SCDEA, N.Y.C. Admin. Code §§ 8-102(29), 8-107(9)(d), (24); Local Law No. 37 (2015)

Access the interpretive guidance, FAQs and other information about the credit check law here.

 

September 23rd, 2015|Legislation|