Hawaii Teacher Drug Testing Program In Jeapordy Due to Economy

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hawaii recently mandated that all teachers would have to submit to a drug test to remain working in Hawaii public schools. Early contract talks are stalling out because the teacher's union is so opposed to the mandate.

Governor Linda Lingle is all too aware of the problem, and is facing economic turmoil as well. The Hawaii Council on Revenues predicts a state tax decrease of $75 million. Revenue growth productions are also expected to decline.

Lingle said that the downturn would force adjustments to the state budget and special funds. "I'm anxious for the election to get over and for the Legislature to elect their leadership so we can sit down (and) begin the discussion between us and the community," she said. Executive branch agencies have already been ordered to draft budget cuts of 10 to 20 percent.

Lingle originally pushed for the random drug testing program for the teachers, and hasn't been able to implement it. She did release state funds for a last round of teacher pay raises despite the unresolved drug testing issue.

The Hawaii Labor Relations Board is reviewing the current contract to see if it requires drug testing to begin. Teachers are fighting it, arguing that the drug test should be limited to cause for suspicion.

Where the funds will come from to support the random drug testing program is unannounced.


ALL Government Officials Should Be Checked, Even Those Who Aren't Being Paid

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Phelicia Williams, 26, was interned at the mayor's office in Oakland, CA for 10 months and was blatantly not screened prior to starting.

The mayor's office did not check Williams' criminal record prior to bringing her on as an unpaid intern. Mayor of Oakland, Ron Dellums' spokesperson said in an official statement that the mayor has no plans to change its policy of not running background checks on intern applicants and volunteers.

The citizens of Oakland should be outraged. A simple screen could of alerted Dellums' office of Williams multiple counts of identity fraud before she stole some 100 personal checks from last year's Mayor's Holiday Toy Drive.

Williams was arrested on October 12 for suspicion of charging over $10,000 on the company card of a former employer. She was on probation for forgery at the time of her arrest.

On her job application for the Mayor, Williams claimed to have no prior convictions. The Mayor's office defended their stance, stating the interns go through a vetting process similar to what the candidate's themselves go through.

Hopefully, the elected officials are better behaved than Ms. Phelicia Williams.


Even Top Government Executives Should Be Screened

Monday, October 27, 2008

One of the many roles of the Chief of Staff is to act as the COO of an organization. After it was discovered that his chief of staff did not have a background check, New York Governor David Patterson ordered background checks on all his executive chamber employees.
Chief of Staff David O'Byrne was found to owe $300,000 in taxes. The debt has been repaid with interest and penalties, however the discovery was cause for alarm in Patterson’s eyes.
Patterson said he just learned that “over 60% of executive chamber employees never had completed background checks.”
Background checks are not required by law for these officials, but a policy of checks had been created by Patterson’s predecessor, Eliot Spitzer.
Taking a person’s resume at face value and trusting your instincts when hiring top executives just isn’t feasible in our changing world. It is best to make sure the person you hire has no conflicts of interest for such a high level job, and a thorough background investigation can help ease your mind that you truly are making the best decision possible.


EVerify - Employment Eligibility and Your Obligations

Friday, October 24, 2008

Many states have passed recent laws mandating that employers process all new employees through the EVerify system, which is government mandated and maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

The beurocratic red tape surrounding the new mandates are overwhelming at first glance, however, are quite simply created to protect not only the employer from hiring illegal workers, but for employees themselves to be granted the right to prove they are legal and free to work in the US.

However, many employers are finding it difficult to comply with the rules. A person may be run through the EVerify system after they are hired, but must be terminated immediately if they are found to be in violation. If the employer knowingly retains the employee, legal action and penalties against them can be harsh.

That is not the most confusing part. The "Tentative Non-Confirmation" is where it gets sticky. Some employers are rashly terminating the employee and breaking from protocol by doing so. The non-confirmation is just that, unconfirmed status. Perhaps the applicant used a different spelling of their name than what is on file with the SSA and that is what returned.

Employers obligations in these cases are the continue employing the individual until the matter is resolved. Only at the time the employee receives a "Final Non-Confirmation" is it appropriate to terminate.

Employees have rights and EVerify works to help protect both sides of the coin. Used properly, it is the most effective tool available to verify the eligibility of your employees.

Liberty Screening is partnered with Form I9 to provide the service to our customers.


Drug Testing: Adulterated Specimens on the Rise

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A provider of drug testing supplies recently tested 1500 employees from select industries regarding the top drug test cheating methods.

A single Google search of "how to pass a drug test" will pull millions of pages from companies to message boards giving advice, products, and tips on how to successfully pass a drug test.

The findings are becoming more and more prevalent as technology struggles to keep up. Drug testing companies are constantly researching new techniques to catch adulterated substances.

The three most popular cheating methods are:

1. Specimen Dilution: whereby candidates saturate the body with fluids or substances that dilute the metabolites that are tested.

2. Chemical Screen: using chemicals to mask the appearance of drugs in urine.

3. Urine Substitution: using a urine sample which does not belong to the donor.

Of the individuals polled, 55% responded that they attempted to cheat on the drug test. 45% of those attempted to dilute the substance, 23% used a chemical screen, 13% admitted to using other methods, such as urine substitution to try to cheat.

With statistics like this, employers do have cause to worry. But using a random testing program can significantly increase the likelihood of positives, as wells using hair follicle testing which is air-tight against all the methods listed above.


Screening Delays Citizenship

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The bureaucratic immigration system has been bogged down since tightening its scrutiny levels after 9/11. With a surge of petitions for citizenship since that time, and the increased depth at which the applicants are screened, it takes years for a petition to make it through the process.

Long time legal, permanent residents of the United States may see some relief soon. A class action lawsuit filed by Muslim immigrants against immigration authorities claims discrimination based on ethnicity and religion. Authorities responded by saying they are doubling efforts to clear out the backlog and should be completed by November of this year. Once the backlog is cleared, new applications for citizenship should be processed in a more timely manner.

In May, 2008, there were over 82,000 petitions for citizenship. That number has been reduced to 10,000 as of October.

The US Department of Homeland Security edicts that the FBI check backgrounds and names of all immigrant petitions, including green card applications. After September 11, the number of checks jumped from about 2.7 million to over 4 million a year. The understaffed department used a paper system that was out of date and impeded the process.

"The background checks and severe scrutiny is on every single application since 9/11," said the USCIS' Cabrera. "We do not choose one religion, nationality over another. I understand that it can be frustrating at times because there aren't always answers."

However, many class action lawsuits across the nation are being brought by Muslim and Arab citizens. They claim they are facing fiercer scrutiny because of their race. The lawsuits have spurred organization and the FBI is now pushing the applications through in a more timely manner.


The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act (S. 1577), passed by a unanimous senate vote last month, creates a comprehensive, nationwide system of background checks. The bill prevents those with criminal backgrounds from working with the sick and elderly in long-term care.

The bill was introduced by Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), "We are one step closer to passing a bill to give vulnerable seniors and their families the protection and peace of mind they deserve," said Kohl.

The bill describes a statewide coordinated system of abuse and neglect registries. It also requires that candidates undergo statewide criminal checks as well as FBI criminal records check.


Norwich, CT Gives Convicts a Chance

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

City Council members of Norwich, Connecticut are hearing from advocates wanting change in the application process for city employees. The group: Think Outside the Box, advocates delaying a criminal background check until the applicants qualifications have been determined. They want ex-criminals to have a fair judgement of their skills before having to check the box that states they have been convicted of a crime.

Employment is one of the the biggest limitations facing convicted criminals after they are released from prison. The advocates stress that it is not about trying to put sex offenders where they don't belong, but about trying to help people get back on their feet after being released from their punishment. Cities in New England are considering the change, and Boston has begun implementation of the new policy.

Once the applicant passes through the job qualification procedure, they will have to admit to their crimes, and are expected to speak frankly on the matter. It will be up to the hiring manager to make the final decision and they are granted full prudence on the decision-making process.

The procedure change is good, in a way, because criminals who have served their time are considered to be "rehabilitated." However, most people arrested for criminal offenses have prior arrest records and records in more than one state. (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Taking a chance on criminals by providing them a job might give them enough reason to stay off the streets and out of the life of crime. The fall-out from this program could be impressive, or it could work. I know I'll be waiting to see how it pans out.


Want to Own a Dog? You'll Need to be Screened.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Would-be dog owners in Summer, WA may face criminal background checks in order to be licensed to own a pet. The ordinance is directed specifically at those who wish to own “dangerous dogs.” City Councilman Matt Richardson presented the ordinance and urged “no loopholes” in allowing dangerous dogs to enter the city.

The background check would cost about $10 and there is some fear that the cost would discourage people from obtaining the license. There were other concerns as well, regarding the size and threat of the pet being licensed and whether or not a check should be done prior to licensing or only after a complaint had been lodged. The background checks would likely be triggered by the breed of dog, with some known breeds considered more dangerous than others, such as pit bulls.

If a person has a history of owning or breeding aggressive animals that bite humans or other animals, is it appropriate to dig up that history to limit the number of licenses that person might obtain? Football player Michael Vick is brought to mind and it seems if there is a way to deter the abuse of animals and limit the danger they represent to humans, it is for a good cause. However, it certainly should be recognized that a license should be legally required, because if it isn’t, then why would a criminal submit to background investigation they knew they would fail?


Background Screens Only Protect You at the Front Door

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pre-employment background screening is an excellent way to determine of the applicant in front of you is the right fit for the position you are offering. You can determine all sorts of facts of their life down to what their credit report looks like and rest assured that you have made a good hiring decision. But really, background screening is only the first line of defense against criminal behavior in the work place. Background screening only detects known criminals, it cannot reveal the intentions of a criminal mind that has yet to reveal itself.

It is imperative for any size company to keep a watchful eye on their employees and on their bottom lines, especially with today's financial woes, one can not be too careful. Running random drug testing programs is an excellent way to ensure the new hires are taking their jobs seriously and aren't trying to dupe the system, as are post- employment criminal background searches that can check up on your what your new employees have been up to - and if they've gotten into any trouble - since you put them on payroll.

But a company can go further, and keep itself ahead of the technology curve by creating tough company policies about legal, ethical, security, and productivity uses of the technology available to their employees. Companies are encouraged to develop policies regarding privacy, appropriate use, intellectual property protection, and they are encouraged to issue statements detailing the practices behind said technologies. The policies and statements should be reviewed once a year, at minimum, to keep up with the every changing plane of technology.

Today, it's almost a given that there needs to be policy regarding email and instant messaging. Less well thought-out arenas for policy include blogs and social networking sites. Both are wildly popular and useful knowledge sharing platforms, however, there are hundreds of blogs about companies with employees, workers and former employees hashing it out in a community centered environment that is prone to leaking confidential information that the company would not want released. As well with information, however inadvertently it may be, that is posted on Myspace.com.

Employers need to realize that with the great leaps forward we have taken, the holes of vulnerability have gotten larger and harder to maintain. One may not be able to stop someone from posting private information, but it would be nice to feel comfortable taking action against that person.


Bogus Diplomas, Fake Institutions

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Diploma mills have popped up all over the internet and their prevalence is becoming more widely known. But just like loopholes in drug testing, diploma mills have become better and better at going undetected to even the most astute eye.

Alan Contreras of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization estimates there are nearly 700 diploma mill companies or organizations that operate in the US and nearly 3,000 worldwide. "All these degree mills issue thousands of bogus degrees every year...so there are tens of thousands of people out there who are using bogus degrees." (HR Magazine, Sept, 08).

It is important for employers to understand that even the most polished looking credentials can be fraudulent, and that there are tools available to detect them. Liberty uses clues to help spot questionable credentials on resume or application, including spotting out-of-sequence degrees, degrees earned in a short period of time, and the sneaky trick of institutions that sound like the real deal using a similar name the well-known variety.

Hiring the wrong person with the wrong credentials for a job can be very costly and time consuming so it's important not to gloss over the steps needed to take a candidate seriously, and that includes verifying their education claims with a tooth-comb and ensuring the institution is legitimate.


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