Previous Salary Requests: What Can Employers ask Candidates?

Businesswoman interviewing man in office

Salary is a sensitive subject on both sides of the new hire table.  However, a candidate’s past compensation is no longer just an elephant in the room. The simple question: “What was your previous salary?” is becoming illegal in cities and states across the country.

Where is it illegal to ask a candidate about past salary?

Currently, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia have laws in place that ban salary history requests.

New York City and Massachusetts recently passed legislation to take effect later this year and in 2018, respectively.

Similar proposals are presently under review in a number of states: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington.

California law currently states employers cannot use prior salary alone to determine compensation. The state is also undergoing consideration to expand this law.

What does this change mean for hiring managers?

As a hiring manager, it is vital to monitor laws that dictate the interview process. Laws banning previous salary requests have the potential to govern over a fourth of the United States. Therefore, it is critical to check for updates on your state’s labor law website. The US Department of Labor lists each state’s site here.


How to Handle Parental Leave

Simply congratulating employees on their pregnancy or that of their spouses, though thoughtful, is not all that is necessary when handling such situations. Employers should have legally sound, consistent policies set in place to allow employees an adequate amount of time when choosing parental leave.

While offering your staff paid maternity leave is not mandatory, as no federal laws require you to do so, most companies comply with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act in order to avoid any complications when dealing with pregnancies in the workplace. A woman cannot be denied a job or promotion purely due to the fact that she is pregnant, nor can she be forced to go on leave, assuming she is still physically able to perform her job responsibilities. In summary, pregnant employees are to be treated no differently than their coworkers.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act has a number of other provisions for employees who are expecting such as allowing single women who are pregnant the same maternity benefits as those who are married, allowing those on maternity leave to use their vacation days, and disallowing employers to force pregnant employees to purchase family insurance policies.

Employers must all consider the fact that pregnant employees can take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows them 12 weeks of unpaid leave for birth, adoption, or foster care. This includes caring for a child, an ill spouse or parent, or themselves should they be experiencing a serious health condition. Both mothers and fathers are eligible for FMLA leave any time within the first 12 months of a child’s arrival. If both parents of the child work for the same company however, they are entitled to a combined total of 12 weeks leave.

Complications during pregnancy or prenatal care allow those expecting to take FMLA leave. This could be an injury sustained, illness, or physical or mental impairment that requires continued treatment by the healthcare provider. For example, increased dizziness, nausea, or physical pain exacerbated by pregnancy merits that employee for taking time off. Employers should approach this topic delicately, and approve time off if an employee is experiencing any problems due to her pregnancy.

It is up to an employer when deciding how many days of parental leave a new parent is eligible for. When deciding, make sure your policies are in line with federal and state regulations, which may vary. Going over the proposed benefits with an attorney is also highly recommended.

Though not all companies offer paid leave, it’s important to consider the offer. More and more businesses are offering paid maternity leave, as well as paternity leave to their employees; something that should be noted for companies looking to remain competitive in the world of employee retention.

Mistakes to Avoid When Conducting Background Checks

When screening an employee, many businesses may choose to do so on their own, but what many fail to see are the in-depth regulations that come with conducting background checks. Oftentimes, this leads to companies missing standard considerations, thus leading to further complications down the road once an employee is hired or promoted. In order to avoid this, listed below are some common mistakes made throughout the screening process.

Little Research Done

Some employers may feel that researching an employee on a national criminal history database will tell them all they need to know. Not only can this be easily misconstrued, but there are a number of potential pitfalls and legal accountabilities associated with accessing this information. If you as an employer choose to research an applicant or current employee through a national database, it is absolutely vital that you verify this information through primary sources. Should any incident arise, delve into the information and confirm its validity through other primary sources.

Using Social Media

Many people today agree that having damaging information or photos on one’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media profiles will prevent applicants from being hired. While this is true to an extent, employers that rely solely on social media to dictate their hires are bound for legal trouble. More often than not, researching potential employees this way is considered a violation of privacy. Federal and state laws were established for this reason, and employers are no longer allowed to request login credentials, or disregard the terms and conditions of any social media platform in general. If you choose to research an applicant via social media, inform them beforehand, and do not exceed a profile set to private.

Proceeding Without Permission

Giving a job candidate full disclosure and obtaining his or her consent before conducting a background check is a legal obligation, clearly stated in the federal and state laws previously mentioned. Discuss your screening process with applicants, attorneys, and any third-party background check company (like S2Verify) that you choose to work with to ensure all members are aware of what is involved. Additionally, practice transparency when explaining whether or not the results of the background check played a role in the hiring or promoting of an employee.

Taking Shortcuts
It is not uncommon for businesses or nonprofits to avoid background checks entirely depending on the duration of an employee or volunteer’s time with them. Temporary workers, contractors, and vendors are often the most neglected when it comes to screening. What employers should consider is that any and all employees that have access to their buildings or grounds at all should be screened. Regardless of a worker’s time alongside you and your fellow employees, failing to run a background check on them can lead to mistakes, failures, and even danger.

The Effect of Transparency in the Workplace

Positive workplace culture is contingent upon a flow of information that is known among all team members. A company or human resources department that does not disclose all information legally allowed to be distributed to its employees is one that is bound for failure in the long run.

Transparency is a key ingredient in a successful business, as all employees are better informed, thus having the information necessary to make smarter decisions. Additionally, those who are given details of their company’s future, its goals, and the specifics of its operations are more inclined to voice their opinions and possibly bring forth innovative ideas. A level of trust also comes with being transparent with one’s staff members.

For larger companies, it may be difficult to simply decide to start being transparent with their employees once they’ve realized there is room for improvement. Internal communication can be tricky if certain pieces of information should remain private, but there are options. Messaging platforms for example, are extremely beneficial in providing an instant connection between colleagues. They are also great for promoting collaboration and education among all team members. Managers that are readily available for all questions or concerns not only spark trustworthiness among their employees, but are also in the loop with any potential issues that may arise within their team.

Holding face-to-face meetings that include all members of the company, regardless of size, is another effective strategy of promoting transparency in the workplace. Company wide emails can get the point across, but have little to no personal connection. When all team members are present, the possibility of misunderstanding the information given decreases tremendously. Employees are there to ask questions or voice their concerns, whereas sending important notifications via email leaves room for error and misjudgment.

Continuing with the subject of meetings, managers should always leave time for questions, concerns, or suggestions from their employees, and should take any of each seriously. A business that acts on its employees’ suggestions or concerns has the potential to greatly increase its employee retention rate, as well as improve the business as a whole.
When managers and business owners are transparent with everyone within the company, better solutions are offered, staff members are much more likely to engage in the company’s goals and objectives, and the relationship between manager and employee is improved. According to a 2014 survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 37% of those interviewed said they would willingly change their jobs because of a poor opinion of their current bosses’ performances; something that can be easily mended by a transparent leader.

Background Checks in the Security Industry

Perhaps one of the most important positions to guarantee competency in, security guards of all types are given the responsibilities of ensuring the safety of their coworkers, the staffs of buildings in which they work, and any visitors. Conducting background checks on security guards is crucial for your entire workforce, as they will need to effectively protect people under their care, and come without liabilities that may prove troublesome down the road.

Those in the security field are trusted to perform an array of duties depending on the nature of the job. The two most important however, are to observe and report. Security guards are given the task of screening and receiving visitors upon entry, and evaluating any messages or packages delivered. Additionally, scanning specific areas around buildings or lots to look for any potential hazards while on patrol are just as vital. Some findings may include unauthorized visitors on the premises, hazardous terrain that could pose as dangerous to anyone nearby, or broken or damaged systems within or outside the building.

Any unusual activity, or no activity at all should be reported at the end of the day by the guard on duty. Relaying information clearly and promptly is another very important responsibility of security guards. Because they are the first line of defense, members of this staff will need to be alert, emotionally sound, and physically able to perform all of the necessary duties, all of which can be verified through a background check. Any issues an applicant may have had in the past involving mental health or self control may not be suitable to handle a security guard position.

In addition to looking into the effectiveness of applicants, background checks can verify one’s credentials. To become a security guard, the first steps of eligibility include being at least 18 years of age, have no criminal history, and complete the required training which varies from state to state. Online training is an option for those who may have difficulty finding a training facility nearby, which entails 8 hours of online videos and explanations, and an exam to follow. Upon completion, a security guard’s credentials will be verified by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, which a background check should further authenticate.
Companies and business owners should put the safety of their employees first, and conducting background checks before hiring members of their security staff is the first step. Depending on the size and nature of your company, licensed security guards may suffice, or further training may be necessary. For example, guards required to handle firearms or protected deliveries should be thoroughly analyzed for effectiveness and trustworthiness. Before making the decision to hire those in charge of keeping you and your employees safe, be sure to run background checks and verify their capabilities in order to avoid putting anyone in danger.

Background Checks on Volunteers

Volunteering for a nonprofit organization, charity, or local community can involve interaction with all types of people. Donating countless hours to a variety of good causes, volunteers selflessly contribute to the betterment of youth programs, retirement communities, education, and environmental protection, just to name a few. With this work comes the importance of verifying each volunteers’ credibility. Seeing as they work with children, senior citizens, and the disabled, allowing an individual to take control in these situations without confirming his or her integrity can be dangerous.

All sharing the common goal of wanting to help others, it may seem senseless to conduct a background check on those who generously donate their time and efforts. However, it is never a guarantee that volunteers are capable of handling these tasks. Though many nonprofit organizations operate on a shoestring budget, this is not an aspect of business to disregard. These are important for reasons like potentially undisclosed criminal histories, severe lack of experience in positions that require a fair amount, or potential health problems that may arise.

For charities like the Boys & Girls Club of America, an organization dedicated to providing programs and out-of-school safety for children, verifying the reliability of volunteers is an absolute must. Luckily, many crimes committed against children are public knowledge for the prevention of these ever happening again through a number of websites. However, depending on the thoroughness of the screening done, those who have committed such crimes may be able to avoid being made known. Volunteers in these positions should have background checks run by state and federal criminal records repositories, or by commercial background screening companies.

Meals on Wheels is another program that gives care and attention to the elderly who may be unable to care for themselves after a decline in health. Delivering meals door-to-door to communities all across the country, compassion and empathy is vital for volunteers. Unfortunately, many senior citizens are taken advantage of due to their decreased mobility or mental sharpness. Allowing an individual access to their homes who has committed such crimes would be careless. Another consideration is the volunteer’s ability to drive. Those convicted of DUI’s or reckless driving for example, should not be given the opportunity to get behind the wheel in situations that call for extreme care; another reason why verifying these individuals is extremely important.

Volunteer firefighters are assigned the task of responding to residential, business, or other structural fires, while also providing emergency medical service should the circumstances call for it. EMT certification is required, as well being certified in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This is an area that calls for a great deal of experience. While the certification requirements alone hinder those unqualified, volunteers who meet these requirements may still possess a negative background. Screening these individuals for criminal history, past mental health issues, and more is crucial, as they are relied upon for the care and treatment of those in distress.

For nonprofit organizations and charities, running background checks on volunteers is just as important as doing so for corporate employees. Confirming the trustworthiness of these charitable people should be done before allowing them to take part in the organization’s goal in order to provide a guarantee of safety for those in need.

Why Background Checks Should Be Conducted Annually

An obvious consideration for most employers seeking to expand their teams is verifying the pasts of those that could soon become members. Conducting background checks on interviewees before choosing to hire is a practice that should be implemented by all companies. However, assuming the candidate passes this screening, many businesses fail to follow up with post-hire background checks; a strategy that could greatly benefit employers that wish to maintain an effective, safe workplace.

To begin, post-hire background checks are required by law in a number of states. Certain fields like public transportation and medical industries must conduct annual background checks on all employees. This not only helps those in managerial positions to ensure their employees are efficient, but it also aids in the safety of patients and clients. For example, an Emergency Medical Technician who holds the responsibilities of driving an ambulance would not get away with receiving a DUI outside of work. Those who hold the lives of others in their hands on a regular basis should be verified of their skill in order to avoid putting anyone in danger.

A damaging claim for any business is that of “negligent retention.” This occurs when a company allows an employee to continue working despite that employee having committed a crime, or exuded dangerous characteristics in any way. If your business is not required to run post-hire background checks, this is something worth considering. In order to avoid being labeled as directly liable for a careless, inattentive employee, conduct annual screenings to stay up to speed with your team’s happenings.

When considering promotions within the workplace, background checks should be refreshed, as this is essentially a change in responsibility for the employee who receives the higher position. Assuming more than one candidate is being considered for a promotion, being updated on all of their histories could mitigate potential risk, and help in choosing the right person for the job. Allowing an employee to take the reigns on larger projects who may be experiencing a troubling personal life can be irresponsible, and detrimental to your business.

Perhaps the most important reason for conducting annual background checks is to ensure the safety and security of you and your employees. For companies within the public service industry, this is even more crucial. Employees in this field are scrutinized for every decision made, and how they or the company chooses to handle it directly reflects on their professionalism and level of care. With that said, both periodic and random checks on all employees can help guarantee your staff’s efficiency, as well as show the public that you care, enhancing your business’s reputation regardless of the service you provide.
In conclusion, conducting post-hire background checks regularly on all employees is a great way of ensuring those who work for you are maintaining their capabilities, and providing your customers the best possible goods or services. Though your company may not be required to do so, consider adapting this practice to avoid any complications whatsoever.

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The Topic of Retirement

Bringing up retirement with older employees can be a difficult responsibility. It’s important to broach the subject with delicateness and respect in order to best avoid any possible accusations of age discrimination, and doing so can involve a variety of strategies.

First, it’s best to refresh your knowledge of age discrimination laws if you haven’t already done so. Work with an attorney who may be able to provide further insight into this subject. Pressuring an older employee to retire can fall under the category of harassment based on age, and simply telling him or her that you’d prefer them to retire is ill-advised. Rather, bring up the topic by asking if they have any retirement plans including their hobbies and interest, which may eventually lead to their desired timelines.

If their effectiveness as an employee is still intact, the aforementioned strategy in delicately approaching the subject can be useful. However, if said older employee is beginning to show signs of regression in his or her work, urgency may be a little more necessary. In this case, sitting them down in a private meeting to discuss the matter is highly suggested. Again, pressuring any employee to retire is unwise, but discussing their developmental needs is within your right as an employer. Instead, offer opportunities to improve.

Some employees may ask for a phased retirement. This is when the employee retiring requests his or her work hours to slowly start reducing over a period of time. This option is typically for those who have built a substantial amount of financial resources in preparation for their retirement. If this is the case for an employee of yours who is soon to leave, be sure that it is a mutually beneficial decision. The amount of work that would then be left to do should be feasible for another employee to cover, or for a new hire to pick up with ease.

No methods in bringing up the subject of retirement are guaranteed to work, but going about them blindly would almost ensure a negative outcome. Be transparent as to why you wish to have an employee retire, or why you’d suggest them doing so, but remember to be kind. Consider offering severance packages or early retirement to encourage employees to accept your proposal, rather than attempting to persuade them.
It’s vital to understand that retirement can be a frightening thing for people. Not knowing what they will do once they’ve left the workforce and having a large amount of free time can intimidate employees, so approach the subject lightly, and with the utmost respect, as they’ve given years of their life to work, thus helping you and your business. It is your responsibility as a professional to help them with their retirement plans, which can be translated as a “thank you” for all of their hard work and efforts.

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4 Tips for Hiring Seasonal Employees

With the upcoming holidays right around the corner, business can become quite hectic, and may demand more hands on deck. In order avoid succumbing to the seasonal rush and failing to deliver, adding new members to your team during this time of need is imperative. Here are three guidelines that could aid in the hiring of workers who you feel best represent your business.

Hire for Attitude and Aptitude

While efficiency is extremely important in an employee during busier times, their ability to maintain a positive, friendly manner is perhaps just as crucial. During the holidays, tempers may run high among customers. To able to offer a welcoming environment to those who may be experiencing a great deal of stress will only improve your business’s image.

Seasonal employees must be able to adapt quickly and offer flexibility as well. Most companies training programs are fairly extensive, taking weeks, or even months to complete. When hiring for the holidays, this is obviously less than ideal. Seek workers who embody efficiency and customer service who do not need more than a week of being brought up to speed.

Maintain HR Processes

With the need of hiring employees quickly comes a rushed interview process, and increased potential for problems. As discussed in a previous blog, problem employees can create a great deal of difficulty within the workplace. Rushing through the hiring process can lead to mistakenly hiring said workers, and can cost you time, and money. Allow your human resources department to step in despite the need for a larger workforce in a shorter period of time.

Pay Attention to an Employee’s Worth

Most businesses hire seasonal employees with the expectation of releasing them once the holidays have passed. Seeing as most of these short term positions do not require more than one or two tasks by that employee, it’s understandable to assume that a full workload would be overwhelming for them. However, note the efforts and adaptability of all seasonal workers. Some may display skills that could translate to a full time position. Those that practice the “Same time next year!” mindset are employees that show pride and care in their work, and are worth considering. Keep tabs on these potential assets, and evaluate their fitness at the end of the season to join your company for a much longer career.

Offer Detailed Job Descriptions

As mentioned, when businesses have a need for hiring a large amount of employees in a short period of time, certain considerations may fall by the wayside. Short, vague job descriptions for seasonal workers will only lead to confusion and miscommunication down the road. Be sure all responsibilities are laid out in detail for those joining the team, regardless of the length of their employment. Customers will not forgive poor service just because it was carried out by a part time worker.
In the midst of the holiday season, business will most likely be at a much higher demand, primarily for those in retail and sales. In order to effectively combat this surge of customers, company’s must hire a larger workforce. In doing so, not only will they be able to properly handle the increase in work, but with the considerations mentioned above, their seasonal staff may provide better customer service, thus a higher return in business.

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Rising Complications of Background Checks

A prominent aspect in companies’ hiring processes has always been checking the criminal history of a potential employee, the standards of which having recently become fairly complicated.

Criminal background checks have become a custom for many businesses, as the goal to hire hardworking, trustworthy employees is everlasting. However, the degree of acceptance varies from company to company. Some may excuse misdemeanors as nothing more than a simple mistake in a person’s criminal history, while others may view that as a hindrance to their work ethic; the former beginning to outweigh the latter, as more and more states are adopting “ban the box” laws, opting to remove the section of employment applications that require the applicant to state whether he or she has ever been convicted of a crime entirely.

While this may seem like a step in the right direction for job seekers limited by their criminal backgrounds, new research finds that these laws are actually worsening racial discrimination in the hiring process. Some companies are now attempting to compensate for this change by simply relying on the applicant’s name when deciding whether or not to follow through with hiring him or her, thus overriding the delay in checking said applicant’s background. This flawed, and arguably immoral strategy has led to skewed numbers, in that African-Americans have seen a decrease in employment since “ban the box” laws, yet white people are receiving higher callback rates.

Because of this increased pressure on employers, the potential for lawsuits is on the rise. Aside from discrimination laws, if a company fails to properly adhere by the Fair Credit Reporting Act when obtaining criminal records, they could be at risk of being sued by the applicant. It is highly recommended that HR departments regularly review their hiring practices with employment attorneys in order to avoid possible legal punishment.

A new trend finds employers straying away from fixed rules that state which convictions bar people from certain jobs in order to fairly assess those with criminal backgrounds, while avoiding discrimination. This is done by having the Human Resources department individually evaluate otherwise-qualified applicants who have criminal backgrounds. Another safe strategy being used by employers is having outside vendors search an applicant’s criminal background. Allowing a company that specializes in vetting to conduct background checks can provide employers with much more thorough and accurate results.

It’s also very important to look at this history of background checks when considering the recent increase in complexity, and how quickly laws have changed throughout the years. Up until 1975, companies routinely turned away applicants with any criminal record. This brought forth “Green factors,” named after the case of Green v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. in 1975, which required companies to weigh three factors when assessing those with criminal backgrounds: The nature of the crime, the time that had passed since the crime was committed, and the nature of the job. These changes in background checks paved the way for stricter, yet fairer requirements in an employer’s decision to hire or deny its applicants.

The challenges that come with looking into the criminal history of an applicant continue to grow. While attempting to remain fair in the hiring process, many companies are still accused of being discriminatory in what many argue is a moral decision with the rise of “ban the box” laws. There is never any guarantee that hiring an applicant with a criminal background will work out in the company’s favor or not. As laws begin to crack down on the manner in which companies access this information and who they choose to hire versus who they turn away, it is becoming much more difficult for employers to set definite standards to abide by when conducting criminal background checks.

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