Screening News Weekly Wrap: October 18th, 2019

Screening News Weekly Wrap: October 18th, 2019

By Tricia O'Connor

As more Americans gain access to legal marijuana, the trucking industry is trying not to get lost in the weeds. Plus, landlords grapple with tighter tenant screening policies and the federal government inches closer to continuous background checks. Today’s EBI Screening News Weekly Wrap presented by Jennifer Gladstone showcases the push and pull people face in the evolving world of background checks.

Hair Raising Results Stall Federal Drug Testing

Representatives from the American Trucking Associations say the legalization of marijuana is steering the industry into new challenges. The ATA’s Board of Directors recently developed a set of recommendations on marijuana-related policies, including lifting weed-related research roadblocks at the federal level.

Speaking at the ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition, the co-chair of the Controlled Substances, Health and Wellness Subcommittee, says research shows six-in-ten Americans support marijuana legalization and the industry needs to be prepared as more people have access to legal pot.

“An employee in certain states can use marijuana on the weekend and come to work and take a random drug test and lose his employment and a way to make a living,” says Harold Sumerford, CEO of J&M Tank Lines. “Whether that’s right or wrong in people’s minds, it’s got to be addressed because the problem is coming our way.”

The ATA wants the federal government more involved in creating a uniform impairment law because they say that kind of law will better protect employer’s rights to provide a drug-free workplace. The challenge is that one of the drug-testing methods the trucking industry uses to test its workers – hair testing – has already been delayed nearly three years at the federal level.

The transportation industry likes hair testing for drivers because it provides a much longer window of detection. But the Department of Health and Human Services along with its sub-agency Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration recently told Congress it can’t approve hair testing as a sanctioned method because of “unresolved scientific issues” with the testing.

The agency’s report shows both natural hair color and hair treatments can affect how much of certain drugs get into the hair. Bleaching, straightening, and vigorous washing or brushing could decrease the concentration of drugs present in hair samples. There are also questions if a person’s race plays a role in what hair holds onto, or even absorbs, from the environment.

The U.S. Department of Transportation currently only sanctions urine-testing for safety-sensitive jobs like truck drivers.

Congress wanted the new rule in place by December 2016, but the proposal is still under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The rule will be published as soon as the OMB approves it, and the DOT must formally adopt the changes for all safety-sensitive employees.

EBI is committed to helping you build a safe and compliant drug-free workplace and we understand the particular needs of keeping your trucking fleet safe and DOT compliant. As rules and regulations continue to evolve, EBI is ready to assist you with a full suite of Transportation DOT Background Screening Services.

Pulling your hair out trying to understand this and other background check topics? We’re here to help. Send your questions to “Ask an Expert” and we might feature it in an upcoming segment!


Ordinance Opens the Door to More Tenants with Criminal and Credit Histories

Tensions between housing advocates and landlords over access to affordable housing in Minneapolis have been running high for months, but a new ordinance has opened the door to more tenants with criminal and credit histories.

The Minneapolis City Council recently passed a rule restricting the types of background checks landlords can run on potential tenants. The law states landlords cannot turn away an applicant if they have a misdemeanor conviction or an eviction judgment more than three years old, or a felony more than seven years old. Landlords can, however, reject applicants convicted of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, or first-degree sexual conduct within 10 years.

The ordinance also bans landlords from denying renting to someone because of insufficient credit history, and caps security deposits at one month’s rent.

Advocacy groups pushed for the changes in hopes of curbing discrimination and racial disparities linked to housing access. Small property owners fought the rules saying they can be hurt much more by a single bad tenant than large rental companies.

The Minneapolis ordinance is similar to a fair housing law in Seattle, often referred to as the most progressive law of its kind in the country. The Seattle law prevents landlords from running criminal background checks on tenant applications. And Screening News Network recently reported about Chicago’s efforts to introduce a policy preventing landlords from asking about a person’s criminal history until after the person is deemed qualified to rent the property. However, the proposed Chicago law is stalled in talks between the two sides and landlords are challenging Seattle’s law because they say they can’t vet tenants by using all the information publicly available to them.

The new Minneapolis rules go into effect on June 1st of next year for landlords with more than 15 rental units. Smaller owners get an extra six months and don’t have to comply until December 1st, 2020. Neighboring city St. Paul has also scheduled public forums to discuss tenant screening policies.

Count on the Screening News Weekly Wrap to continue following these stories.

Background Check Backlog Dogs Defense Department

The Defense Department is now in charge of more than 302,000 backlogged security clearances. The newly branded Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) recently completed taking over the National Background Investigations Bureau to fix long-running problems that led to a massive backlog. DCSA is now responsible for conducting about 95% of background checks on federal workforce personnel, and is the largest security organization in the federal government.

At the time of the NBIB’s creation in 2015, it was the largest security-focused agency in the U.S. government. The NBIB was established following a massive security breach of the Office of Personnel Management that exposed the information of more than 21-million federal employees and job applicants.

Defense Department officials say the merger of NBIB with DCSA enhances overall security and critical technology measures.

The all-time high of backlogged security clearances hit 700,000 in 2018, but people are still waiting for more than 100 days for top secret clearance.

DOD officials say they also want to perform “continuous evaluations” on more government employees. These ongoing background checks would be routinely performed post-hire and would allow officials to red flag a potential issue with an employee. Almost 1.4 million employees are already involved with the continuous evaluation program.

EBI can ensure your employees uphold your company’s high standards with our ongoing employee screening programs. Out post-hire monitoring solutions simplify ongoing record checks for enterprise-caliber employers. Request a demo here.

ICYMI: Ho! Ho! Ho! The holly jolly hiring season is almost here. Did you know a bad seasonal worker can cost a company about $15,000? The #EBIScreeningNews Weekly Wrap has some tips to ensure you don’t get a grinch. Subscribe here.

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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