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Consent for Background Checks

Conducting a background check must be done properly.  There are many laws governing how one proceeds with an investigation.  These laws vary from state to state.  It is important that they be conducted properly.  I advise using an experienced, knowledgeable organization to ensure compliance with both federal and state laws.

There are several areas of liability from Title VII violations to Fair Credit Reporting violations.  It’s important to “know your stuff”.  Most HR Professionals are familiar with the process.  If you do not have an HR Professional in your organization, I would recommend using a third party so that you can be sure you are in compliance.

I’ve included a copy of a consent form in today’s blog for your reference.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding this topic.Background & Credit check consent form – standard

The Importance of Pre-employment Screening?

How honest are applicants on their resume?

What are good pre-employment screening procedures?

Pre-employment screening is more common these days than ever before. It’s estimated that over 40% of resumes can contain false or ‘tweaked’ information.  Employers want to insure that what they are getting in an employee is what they were promised.  The employer may perform a reference check to find out whether an applicant actually graduated from the college they said they did or to confirm that they worked at their previous employer(s) during the time stated on their resume or job application.

Employers need to know who they are hiring and they have a duty to their stakeholders and co-workers to keep everyone as safe as possible.  Background checks typically include both a criminal and credit check on the potential employee.  Finding out the truth about someone using a background check is quick, inexpensive and allows an employer to take the guess work out of hiring.

Do you know who you just hired?  Do you REALLY know who you just hired?

Looking for a Way to Save Money?

Why not look in to a Health Savings Account (HSA)? HSA’s are designed to help employees manage their medical expenses and reduce health care expenses. Money saved in an HSA, if not used for medical expenses, remains with the employee for future medical expenses or as part of their retirement account. It is a way for employees to save money tax free and unlike an IRA there are no penalties if used at any time for qualified health care expenses.

HSA’s are tied to high deductible health insurance which means that employees will have to pay for medical care using their HSA until they spend their deductible. This provides both the employee and the employer added savings in premiums as high deductible plans are usually less expensive.

Here’s an example of how an HSA would work:

• John has elected to have a high deductible health insurance plan and will be saving $100 a month in premiums.

• John’s deductible with the new policy is $1200 which means that John will have to pay the first $1200 in medical bills before his insurance will make any payments towards his health care.

• John has calculated that he will need to deposit $100 per month into his HSA to cover the deductible.

• In order for John to get $100 in his HSA on a monthly basis, he only needs to have $80 come out of his paycheck because of the pre-tax status.

• John’s employer has received the same savings on the portion of the premium they have saved because of the high deductible plan.

• John’s employer has agreed to contribute $100 per month into John’s HSA.

• Between John’s contribution and his employer’s contribution, John will have $2400 in his HSA by the end of the year. With a $1200 deductible, John should have $1200 in his account at the end of the year that can be used for future medical expenses or for his retirement when he reaches age 65.

HSA’s are a great way to save on current health care expenses and at the same time, offer individuals a way to save for the future. It’s a no brainer.

Are You in Compliance With Federal and State Wage and Hour Laws?

Do all of your employees receive a salary? Are you certain that they all should be paid a salary? Why are you paying employees salaries instead of a per hour wage? The US Department of Labor sets specific guidelines on when to pay employees a salary and when to pay them by the hour. Are you familiar with these guidelines?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was enacted in 1938. It established a federal minimum wage, time and one half overtime and prohibited employment of minors. Unless an employee is exempt from this act, they must receive at least minimum wage for hours worked and received time and one half for hours worked over 40 in a week (168 consecutive hours). The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Each state also sets a minimum wage. Employers must pay the higher of the two wages. Currently in the state of Florida, the minimum wage is $7.31 per hour. January 1, 2012 the Florida minimum wage increases to $7.67 per hour.

Who is exempt from overtime? Again, this is not determined by employers, the FLSA sets specific guidelines for these exemptions. The categories for exemptions are executive, administrative, professional, computer and outside sales.

Executive Exemption:
1. Employee is paid at least $455 per week
2. Primary duty is to manage the business or a recognized department
3. Customarily directs the work of two or more employees; includes the authority to     hire, fire, make recommendations that carry particular weight regarding employment status.

Administrative Exemption:
1. Employee is paid at least $455 per week
2. Primary activities are performing non-manual office work on matters of significance to the management or business operations of the firm or its customers which requires the exercise of discretion and independent judgment

Professional/Creative Exemption:
1. Employee is paid at least $455 per week.
2. Employee who primarily performs work requiring advanced knowledge/education and which includes consistent exercise of discretion and independent judgment.
3. The advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning acquired in a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. Creative professionals perform work requiring invention, imagination, originality and/or talent in a field of artistic endeavor.

Computer Professional:
1. Employee is paid at least $455 per week or $27.63 per hour
2. Employee who primarily performs work as a computer systems analyst, programmer, software engineer or similarly skilled work in the computer field performing a) application of systems analysis techniques and procedures; b) design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs; or c) design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs based on and related to user or system design specifications.

Outside Sales:
1. Does not have to make at least $455 per week
2. Employee performs sales work off the company’s premises and whose primary duties include making sales or obtaining order or contracts for services or for the use of facilities for which the client or customer pays.
3. The employee is customarily and regularly away from the company’s place of business while performing such duties.

If you are paying your employees a salary and they do not meet the criteria in one of the exemptions, then you do not meet the guidelines set forth by the FLSA and could be subject to fines and penalties. I strongly encourage you to audit your payroll to ensure that you meet these requirements. The Department of Labor is cracking down on small businesses in this area, please don’t be caught.

Has an Employee Ever Asked to See Their Personnel File?

Have you have been asked by an employee to review their personnel file? How did you answer them?
Here’s the general rule. Employers should treat all personnel files as they would treat any other sensitive company documents. They should be kept locked in a cabinet/room where only those authorized access to the information should have it. For various reasons, you may not want to allow employees access.
You may ask, why not allow employees access to their files? There can be very sensitive information that is retained on an employee that may not necessarily be for their eyes. For example, reference and/or background checks, incident investigations, to name a few.
There are eighteen states that have laws regarding employee access to their personnel files. If your business is in one of these states, you have no choice but to allow them access. The important thing is to know the law in your state and have your own policy that is compliant with your state law. You can have a policy on what documents get stored where, keeping all sensitive information separate.
I’ve always recommended employers maintain five separate files where employee information is stored. They are:
1) Records pertaining to an employee’s performance
2) Medical and benefit information
3) I-9 Information
4) Payroll Information
5) Worker’s Compensation records if applicable

Taking a hard-working employee for granted.

This morning I had a conversation with a friend who is someone I greatly admire. She is married, mother of three, has a professional career, is active in her church, is involved in several professional organizations, is working on her graduate degree and manages to be a good friend at the same time. It got me thinking, how is it some people keep many balls in the air at one tine while others cannot even manage one simple task?

Now here’s the clincher. She told me today that her employer feels she is not giving the company her all. They have said that her days with them are numbered. They would not be disappointed if she were to leave the company.

In looking at her accomplishments she has created a department that did not exist prior to her joining the organization. She has managed to save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential penalties and fines by bringing them in compliance. She has implemented several cost savings programs and has maintained existing programs, keeping the company competitive. In essence she has done what normally would have taken a huge staff to do all by herself. Why are they not happy with her?

You see she gets more done in a half a day than most people get done in a day and a half. Because she gets more done in a short amount of time the expectation is for her to do more. I understand this philosophy. We all have the expectation that no mater what you accomplish if there is time at a the end of the day, then you should do more. On the other hand, how many times have we heard “I am getting paid to do a job, not to work by the hour”. What is correct?

There needs to be a happy medium. When someone has a gift of getting way more done than others, it should be recognized. People should not be punished for excelling in what they do. I know I have been blessed with that gift. Although not necessary, it is nice to be recognized for it once in a while. A thank you, a kind word goes a long way. It makes you want to give more when you are shown appreciation. So I ask you, today, recognize someone who has that special gift. Let them know you appreciate them. Don’t make the same mistake my friend’s employer did. They are losing one heck of a great person.