Background Checks, Tool to Safer Workforce

Background Checks, Tool to Safer Workforce

Do you support the use of criminal background checks?  If so, speak up today! You might just be saving a life or a negligent hiring lawsuit.  Please take a few minutes to submit your comments today, the deadline in Monday, January 21, 2013.     publiccomments@usccr.gov

Recently the EEOC updated their policy discouraging employers on their use of criminal backgrounds checks .  The Guidance singles out criminal background checks as the leading cause of why ex-offender fail to find a job, ignoring other difficulties such as drug or alcohol addictions, lack of education or vocational training and lack of family structure and (2) ignored the beneficial side of screening.  Rather, than take steps to encourage employers to rely on criminal background checks, their actions will cause employers to conduct less, not more, screening.  This could put employers, co-workers, consumers, children and the vulnerable population in danger!
In Dec I had the privilege to appear before the United States Commission on Civil Rights in honor and in memory of my sister, Sue Weaver, and, for other innocent victims whose tragic deaths could well have been prevented had an employer done a criminal background check before hiring an individual.  Following the hearing “Assessing the Impact of Criminal Background Checks and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Conviction Records Policy on the Employment of Black and Hispanic Workers.” the Commission will spend the next  6-8 months preparing their report to be submitted to Congress.

In the last week the Commission has received over 100 comments on “why background checks keep individuals from getting a job”!  Really!?!  What happened to “natural and logical consequences”?  Common sense tells us you wouldn’t employ a thief to work in a bank, a drug dealer in a pharmacy or a pedophilia in our schools with our children.  Without the use of criminal background checks, how would an employer know?  Can you image the risk to you, your family, employer and co-workers if the ability to use this information was taken away because the EEOC believes it is a barrier for ex-offender to find employment?  Let me say loud and clear….Everyone has the right to work—but not every job is right for everyone.  Criminal background investigations provide employers an invaluable tool to help them place employees in job appropriate positions, better protecting coworkers and clients.  Background checks prevent tragedies.

The Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E. promotes the importance of proper annual criminal background checks on anyone working in our homes or with vulnerable populations.  We educate you, the consumer, on the importance of knowing whom you hire to work in or near your home and your family.

At one time or another, we all need to invite a stranger into our home for maintenance or delivery.  Did you know that your safety or the safety of your family might be endangered the next time you need service work done?  Many people believe hiring a company that is “bonded and insured” protects them. In truth, it is only an insurance policy and it does not mean the employer has done criminal background checks on the workers.  Regardless, most of us trust the company we hire to send safe workers into our homes. But how do we know if that trust is well-placed?  My sister, Sue Weaver, thought it was.  She was wrong.

My sister hired a reputable Florida department store, Burdine’s, to have her air ducts cleaned. No criminal background checks were done on the workers they sent into their clients’ homes.  The work was subcontracted out and two convicted felons were sent into Sue’s home to do the service work.  A single woman, home alone, two convicted felons. … Six months later one of the workers, Jeffrey Hefling, a twice-convicted sex offender on parole, returned to rape and murder Sue.  He then set her body and her home on fire in an attempt to destroy the DNA evidence.  Had Burdine’s done a criminal background check they would have found both men were not suitable to be working in their clients’ homes and my sister might still be alive today!  A criminal background check would have saved Sue’s life.

Since Sue’s death, I have campaigned tirelessly to educate and bring awareness to the importance of proper background investigations and the importance of knowing whom you hire.  We need federal legislation requiring nationwide background checks on individuals entering consumers’ homes or working with vulnerable populations.  This type of consumer safety legislation would better protect unsuspecting individuals like Sue. Not only do background checks make good business sense, they save lives. It is absurd that a person with multiple convictions for violent sexual assaults would be engaged as a home repairman, yet it happens over and over again.

Although we still have a long way to go, legislators do understand the importance of criminal background checks and the need to mandate appropriate guidelines for certain positions. In the last decade, we have witnessed a dramatic upsurge in federal, state and local laws mandating background checks in many areas, often to better screen those working with children or other vulnerable populations. Unfortunately, we must ask ourselves if the EEOC gets it at all!

I believe the EEOC focused its recently updated policy on helping minority ex-offenders seek employment, without paying regard to any victims.  Everyone deserves a second chance, but not at the expense of innocents such as my sister.

I am gravely disappointed that no victims were represented at the July 2011 meeting of the EEOC.  The Commission did not consider the victim’s side, but solely focused their attention on the plight of the ex-offenders. Unfortunately, it appears to have erroneously (1) singled out background checks as the leading cause of why ex-offenders fail to find a job, ignoring other difficulties such as drug or alcohol addictions, lack of education or vocational training and lack of family structure and (2) ignored the beneficial side of screening.  Rather, than take steps to encourage employers to rely on criminal background checks, their actions will cause employers to conduct less, not more, screening.

It is my opinion that the EEOC has paid little or no attention to such critical issues as:

Why employers rely on background checks to ensure a safer workforce.

How its new policy would discourage use of background checks.

How victims’ advocacy groups felt about any change in policy.  I personally attended the 2011 hearing and was insulted that the EEOC showed no interested in hearing from any victims.  It was apparent that the hearing was only a formality; their focus was on protecting ex-offenders.

In addition, they made a serious error by failing to allow the public to view and comment on the Guidance before it was issued.  The EEOC needs to suspend implementation of its Guidance and hold the type of transparent, inclusive proceeding that it should have conducted in the first place.  This time they need to listen to victims and their families and victims’ rights organizations and those representing the vulnerable populations and not ignore their comments and letters, as was done in the past.  All views need to be heard and considered before a new policy goes into effect.  When weighing the risk and benefits of the proposed policy guidance, the Guidance must balance the safety of the public and innocent consumers against the employment concerns of ex-offenders!

While sadly it is too late for my sister, it’s not too late for all the others who might become victims because of the EEOC’s misguided Guidance.  Without background checks used to qualify individuals that work or care for our families or do service work in our home, we are knowingly risking the safety of our loved ones and ourselves.

Sue was no different than your sister, your aunt, your daughter, your neighbor or your best friend.  She was my best friend, my inspiration, my ideal and my big sister.

Stranger danger isn’t just for little kids.  At one time or another we all have to invite a stranger into our home for a delivery or service work.  We trust the companies we hire to not send convicted felons into our homes.

Under these guidelines the EEOC is actually forcing employers to make decisions on job applicants without the proper use of the resources that would allow an applicant to be placed in an appropriate positions for their skill and character.  Is that actually encouraging “profiling”?

When the EEOC weighed the risks and benefits of the proposed policy Guidance, it should have balanced the safety of innocent consumers and ex-offenders.  It did not; its Guidance is unacceptable and it should be revoked.

The US Commission of Civil Rights wants to hear your comments.   Please take just a few minutes to show your  SUPPORT  of employers conducing criminal background checks to publiccomments@usccr.gov, the deadline is Monday,  January 21, 2013. It is important they hear from you.

Below are a couple comments repeated that might help get you started.
*    No victims were represented at the July 2011 meeting of the EEOC.  The Commission did not consider the victim’s side, but solely focused their attention on the plight of the ex-offenders.

*     Not only do background checks make good business sense, they save lives. It is absurd that a person with multiple convictions for violent sexual assaults would be engaged as a home repairman, yet it happens over and over again.

*     Everyone has the right to work—but not every job is right for everyone.  Criminal background investigations provide employers an invaluable tool to help them place employees in job appropriate positions, better protecting coworkers and clients.  Background checks prevent tragedies.

*    I believe the EEOC focused its recently updated policy on helping minority ex-offenders seek employment, without paying regard to any victims.  Everyone deserves a second chance, but not at the expense of innocents such as Sue Weaver.

*   As the Commission considers revising its guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records, consider that background checks are beneficial for employers and they should be conducted more often, not less!

*   Is this too much to ask, that employers take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of their consumers from their employees?

THANK YOU, You are making a difference!

  1. Mickey Mixon08-07-2013

    This article is true since background checks for employees will make the working environment free and secure.

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