EBI Legislative Alert – Convicts, Miners, Food Stamps & Typos

EBI Legislative Alert – Convicts, Miners, Food Stamps & Typos

By Jennifer Gladstone

legislative_alert_minersEBI has compiled the following recent legislative alerts that may impact your hiring selection and screening processes. Don’t hesitate to contact us about how these might affect your current background screening or drug testing programs. 

Helping the Convicted Find Work

Ex-cons in Tennessee might soon find it easier to get a job.  The new Tennessee Negligent Hiring and Retention law went into effect on July 1.  Under the law, ex-offenders will be able to petition a judge for a “certificate of employability,” which says they are rehabilitated and ready to return to the workforce.   In return, employers who hire those with the certificates will be protected from liability suits if one of the formerly incarcerated employees assaults a co-worker.

Tennessee State Senator Brian Kelsey says, “This bill will help prevent future crimes by ensuring these individuals have access to good paying jobs and are not tempted to return to a life of crime.”

That protection for employers only lasts as long as the ex-offender’s good behavior.  If there are signs of danger or violence and the company doesn’t terminate their employment, the company would be liable if that person commits a felony.

Miners Go to the Supreme Court

The embattled EEOC continues trying to defend what some are calling its strategy of “sue first and negotiate later.”  Now, the US Supreme court has agreed to look at a dispute between the agency and Mach Mining out of Illinois.

The EEOC sued the mining company for failing to hire qualified female job applicants.  The government claims the company received plenty of applications from qualified women, and Federal law requires the EEOC to make a “sincere and reasonable” effort to settle cases out of court.  The mining company says the lawsuit should be thrown out because the EEOC didn’t try hard enough to negotiate settlements before taking them to court.

Appellate courts disagreed on whether “ineffective settlement efforts” can be used as a defense against the EEOC. The Court will hear the case when it reconvenes in the fall.

Georgia Backs Off Drug Testing for Food Stamps

Earlier this year, the Georgia legislature passed a law requiring drug testing if food stamp recipients give authorities “reasonable suspicion” that they were using drugs.  A positive drug test would cause a temporary loss of food stamp benefits.

The law was supposed to take effect on July 1, but civil liberties advocates argue that this drug testing plan violates the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches.

Some of the bill’s sponsors planned to fight for the law, but have since backed away.  Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens says the state could lose federal funding for food stamps if it goes forward with the testing. It could also face a Federal challenge like Florida did over a bill requiring drug testing for welfare benefits.

Governor Nathan Deal, who signed the legislation in to law, says he will follow the attorney general’s guidance.

Typo Trashes Bill

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) vetoed a bill that would have required job applicants to have background checks before being hired as healthcare navigators for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The bill barred anyone with past convictions for fraud or dishonesty from being hired and getting the state license they need to be an enrollment aide.

Federal law does not require background checks for navigators, but states can make their own rules.  More than a dozen Republican-led states have already passed measures tightening the requirements.

Governor Nixon says he vetoed the bill because lawmakers cut and pasted a part of the requirements straight from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) website.

ALEC’s model legislation referred to doing fingerprint based background checks in accordance with “Public Law 92-554.”  The Missouri bill cited 92-554 as well… but upon closer inspection there seems to have been a typo. The law that was cited deals with alcohol abuse and prevention.  The correct reference would have been Public Law 92-544 which deals with federal criminal records

Other states omitted or corrected the citation before passing their bills. Governor Nixon said this “glaring defect” and “significant drafting error” deserved the veto.

Indiana Makes Changes Employers Need to Know About

New amendments to Indiana’s criminal background checks are subtle, but are important distinctions for both employers and the Consumer Reporting Agencies they hire to conduct the screening. The amendments went into effect on July 1, 2014.

Language in the Indiana Code § 24-4-18-6 has been strengthened to say CRAs can only report information that relates to a conviction.  They cannot provide details about infractions, arrests or expunged records.

The second change deals with Class D or Level 6 Felony convictions.  These are unreportable if they have been entered as, or converted to, a Class A misdemeanor conviction.

There are exceptions listed.  The provider can legally report this information if the person requesting it is either required to do so by state or federal law, or if the person requesting the report is the state of Indiana (or one of Indiana’s political subdivisions) and the information is used only in connection with the issuance of a public bond.

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About the Author

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

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