Criminal Record No Barrier to State Jobs in Georgia

Georgia Governor’s Executive Order “Bans the Box” for State Jobs.

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Georgia Governor Nathan Deal issued an Executive Order that prohibits state agencies from eliminating candidates from hiring consideration based solely on criminal background. Georgia state agencies will adjust hiring practices so that the application and interview process encourages full participation of qualified persons, regardless of their criminal history.

U.S. States that Ban the Box

Although Georgia’s “ban the box” effort doesn’t extend to private workplaces, the move signals a nationwide effort to adjust hiring practices to consider applicants who may have criminal backgrounds. In the U.S., 100 cities and counties have adopted “ban the box” legislation to provide applicants a fair chance by removing the conviction history question on the job application and delaying the background check inquiry until later in the hiring. Georgia joins thirteen other States “ban the box”, including:

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  • California (2013, 2010)
  • Colorado (2012)
  • Connecticut (2010)
  • Delaware (2014)
  • Georgia (2015)
  • Hawaii (1998)
  • Illinois (2014, 2013)
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  • Maryland (2013)
  • Massachusetts (2010)
  • Minnesota (2013, 2009)
  • Nebraska (2014)
  • New Jersey (2014)
  • New Mexico (2010)
  • Rhode Island (2013)
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The Georgia “Ban the Box” Executive Order would be good news for Georgia-born Prettyboy Floyd (Charles Floyd) if he were: a). alive, and b). in the market for a job in Georgia state government. Prettyboy who was born in Adairsville, Georgia. After Johnny Law plugged John Dillinger in 1934, Prettyboy Floyd became Public Enemy No. 1. He was skilled in payroll and transportation, but he wasn’t much of a bookkeeper.

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EEOC Fines Company for not Accommodating Religious Belief

Mims Distributing Company, Inc. has been ordered to pay $50,000 in order to resolve a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Christopher Alston, a practicing Rastafarian, applied for a job as a delivery driver with Mims. Alston was told that he could have the job if he cut his hair. Alston informed Mims that as a Rastafarian he could not cut his hair. Ultimately Alston did not get the job and the EEOC alleges it was because he would not agree to their request.

Disregarding a person’s deeply held religious belief is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs as long as it would not pose an undue hardship to the company. The EEOC attempted to reach settlement through its conciliation process first, but when that failed they filed suit.

Mims has agreed to a two-year consent decree in order to resolve the issue. The consent decree requires Mims to create an official religious accommodation policy, to conduct annual training programs on the requirements of Title VII and its ban against religious discrimination, as well as post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy in its facility.

What is a Rastafarian?

Rastafarianism began in 1930s Jamaica. Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican who led a “Back to Africa” movement, predicted there would be a black messiah in Africa. When Ras Tafari, a prince, became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930 (as Emperor he was called Halie Selassie) the people believed he was the black messiah Marcus Garvey prophesied about. Rastafarians believe that they are one of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel and that God took human form first as Christ the messiah then as Ras Tafari, the black messiah.

Where Do Dreadlocks Come into Play?

People who follow the Rastafarian religion wear dreadlocks because it is a part of the Nazarite Vow. They believe a man’s strength comes from the length of his hair. There is Biblical justification for the style (Leviticus 21:5 “They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard nor make any cuttings in their flesh”) and it is the way some ancient African priests and Israelites wore their hair.

What is a Consent Decree?

A consent decree is defined as ‘an agreement or settlement to resolve a dispute between two parties without admission of guilt.’

What is Undue Hardship?

An undue hardship is an action that places significant difficulty or expense on the employer.

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodation as defined by the U.S. Department of Justice is “any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.”

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Employee Theft – How Do You Stop the Bleeding?

Employee theft is on the rise. How can employers protect their businesses from employee theft?

Employee or occupational theft isn’t limited to stealing the occasional stapler anymore. Businesses are suffering from payroll & billing schemes, embezzlement, data thefts, wage/hour fraud – and it’s costing them big.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that American businesses are losing $40 billion annually. A recent study estimates that a typical organization loses 5 percent of its revenue to employee theft/fraud each year with the median loss caused by a single case of occupational fraud being $145,000.

Big Corporations Take Big Hits

Smaller organizations are usually hit the hardest as they tend to have fewer security measures in place. Organizations with fewer than 100 employees experience a 28 percent higher median fraud loss than their giant corporate counterparts, but when fraudster employees hit large companies, the price tag of employee theft can be dramatic.

Take for example the case of a disgruntled former worker at Morgan Stanley who opened the company up to significant financial damages as a result of data theft for profit. A financial advisor fired for allegedly stealing the account information of approximately 350,000 of its wealth management clients may have posted some of the stolen information online with the hopes of selling it. The company discovered the data breach during a routine Internet sweep conducted in December. Morgan Stanley shares fell 3.1 percent after the news of the breach broke.

Identifying the ‘Usual Suspects’ for Employee Theft

This latest incident at Morgan Stanley is likely to influence more companies to monitor their employees with software that tracks behavioral patterns in employees that might indicate the feeling of financial pressure that might occur well after initial background checks done before hiring.

But employee fraudsters tend to send up “red flags” that savvy managers may use to identify potential theft and fraud early.

The number one indicator for employee theft? Employees who live beyond their means (43.8 percent) are more likely to take to a life of corporate crime, and those who experience genuine financial difficulties (33 percent) may feel more tempted to pocket the petty cash.

Employees in certain departments are more likely to commit company theft or fraud than other departments.

How Employers Can Protect Themselves

The 2014 Global Fraud Study found that the presence of a theft prevention plan at work reduces an employer’s losses as well as shortens the duration of any fraudulent activity. Employers of all sizes should implement a theft prevention plan. For a prevention plan to work, it is imperative for employers to:

  • Establish clear guidelines for the behavior of their employees
  • Require managers to research and verify all information supplied by applicants
  • Implement employee job duty rotations
  • Internal audits and evaluations
  • Establish clear disciplinary actions that will be taken for unethical behavior
  • Train employees on fraud awareness and your prevention plan a regular basis
  • Have a system in place that will allow for employees to report suspected fraud anonymously


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Maryland Law Protects Transgender Persons

Maryland becomes one of 17 other states, D.C. and Puerto Rico that has passed legislation making it illegal for public accommodations, housing, and employment to discriminate against people based on gender identity.

Governor O’Malley signed into law the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 (SB 212), which became effective October 1, 2014.

What Maryland’s Fairness for All Act Means to Employers and Businesses

Treatment of Employees

Basically, employers with transgender employees must not treat them any differently than any other employee on the basis of their gender identity. Maryland employers cannot:

  • Refuse to hire a transgender applicant based on gender identity.
  • Fire an employee on the basis of gender identity.
  • Fail to promote or to provide training and benefits to qualified employees on the basis of their gender identities.

An employer may uphold appearance, grooming, and dress standards as long as transgender employees are allowed to “dress consistent with the employee’s gender identity” (20–605a2).

Treatment of Customers and Tenants

Businesses that provide “public accommodation” (establishments where the public has access and receive goods or services) like hotels, restaurants, bars, gas stations, movie theaters, stadiums, and retail stores cannot treat transgender persons differently than other patrons and guests based on their gender identity.

For example, an establishment cannot refuse service to a transgender person, and landlords cannot refuse to rent to a transgender person on the basis of gender identity.

Maryland Protected Classifications

Gender identity is now one of the ten classifications protected from discrimination by Maryland law.

  • Race
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Creed
  • National origin
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Gender identity
  • Disability

 What is “Gender Identity”?

The Maryland law defines gender identity as a:

“…persistent, bona fide gender-related identity and the consistent, public manifestation of that identity in the gender-related appearance of an individual regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth the gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth, which may be demonstrated by:

(1) Consistent and uniform assertion of the person’s gender identity; or

(2) Any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.”

What Changed on Maryland’s Employment Discrimination is Unlawful Posting?

…And Is the Posting Required? NO.

UPDATE: October 7, 2014. Maryland’s revised posting adds gender identity to the list of protected classifications and also ancestry, but the GovDocs Research Department has confirmed with the Executive Associate of Maryland Commission of Civil Rights that Maryland does not require employers to display the Employment Discrimination is Unlawful posting. Therefore this is not a mandatory change that employers need to action on in terms of updating postings.

Indiana Vets Protected from Workplace Discrimination

The Indiana Civil Rights Commission has added veteran status to the list of classes of workers protected from employment discrimination.

Among other changes, the Indiana General Assembly amended the State’s labor and safety Act (HEA 1242) to prohibit employers from refusing to hire an applicant for employment who has served in the U.S. armed forces or is a member of the Indiana National Guard or member of a reserve component.

Forced Veteran Hire Clause Added

The revised Act also states that the State may force an employer guilty of discrimination against a veteran or member of the Indiana National Guard or reserve component to hire the applicant, among other potential penalties. Section 4(j)

Not Just Hiring: All Workplace Discrimination Against Vets Prohibited

While the revision to the Act focused on discrimination against Indiana veterans in the hiring process, the Act also prohibits discrimination against all covered protected classes in firing, training, discipline, compensation, promotion and other terms or conditions of employment.

Required Indiana Posting Revised

Employers with six or more employees in Indiana are required to display the revised Indiana Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law posting and give notice of the Act to job applicants.

The revised posting is part of the GovDocs Indiana Labor Law Poster Package in electronic and printed formats, along with other workplace postings required for Indiana employers:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Teen Worker Hour Restrictions (Child Labor)
  • Minimum Wage and Overtime
  • Safety & Health Protection on the Job
  • Workforce Development Act
  • No Smoking At Building Entrance
  • Smoking Prohibited by State Law

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The District of Columbia Bans the Box

In a unanimous decision, the Council of the District of Columbia voted to “ban the box.” The Fair Criminal Records Screening Act (Bill 20-642), prohibits employers from asking a job applicant about any criminal convictions until a conditional job offer has been extended. The employer is also prohibited from asking about an applicant’s arrest record.

If an employer decides to withdraw their offer of employment after hearing of the applicant’s criminal record, it must be supported by a “legitimate business reason.” Some factors that an employer can use to determine if they have a legitimate business reason are:

  • How the criminal offense(s) for which the applicant was convicted affect the applicant’s ability to perform the duties to which they were hired.
  • How much time has passed since the criminal offense(s)
  • The frequency and seriousness of the criminal offense(s)

Advocacy and Opposition

Those in favor of banning the box feel that this legislation will help give ex-offenders a fair shot at employment. Most ex-offenders return to a life of crime due to the frustration of not being able to find work. It is estimated that 60,000 residents living in the District of Columbia, 10 percent of the population, have a criminal record. Advocates are quick to point out that the proposed law would not apply to sensitive jobs such as providing services to children or vulnerable adults.

Opponents argue that this bill will keep employers from adequately screening applicants. Because employers cannot find out about an applicant’s criminal history until after an offer is made, if a conviction is a deal breaker (ex: if the applicant would need to enter customer’s homes), employers will have to start the hiring process over again and previous applicants may no longer be available or interested. Companies with more than one location also need to consider that there could be different regulations depending on the legislation in that location.

Where Ban the Box Goes From Here

The bill will now head to the District of Columbia’s Mayor Vincent Gray for his signature and then to Congress for approval. If this bill becomes law, the District of Columbia will join 12 other states to pass ban the box legislation.

For more information on Ban the Box, check here.

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New Jersey Bans the Box: Criminal Background Checks

The New Jersey legislature passed The Opportunity to Compete Act (S-2500) to prohibit employers from performing criminal background checks and asking applicants about criminal records until after an initial interview.

The Bill now awaits signature by Governor Chris Christie.

What Ban the Box Means for New Jersey Employers

  • Job Advertisements: Employers cannot set requirements for job applicants in job ads that would screen out applicants with criminal records.
  • Job Applications: Employers won’t be able to include questions about applicants’ criminal record on job applications.
  • Initial Interviews: Employers are not allowed to “make any oral or written inquiry regarding an applicant’s criminal record during the initial employment application process,” but if job applicants voluntarily reveal information about criminal records, employers may then ask further questions about the applicants’ criminal records.

New Jersey’s Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development will enforce the law, fining any employer who violates the Act up to $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second violation, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation.

The Act does not reference a required posting for New Jersey employers, but the GovDocs Research Department will continue to monitor New Jersey for updates.

Ban the Box Gains Momentum in U.S.

New Jersey joins 12 other states who have passed similar Ban the Box laws. Additionally, nearly 70 cities and counties (such as New Jersey’s own Atlantic City and Newark) have passed ordinances designed to allow job applicants with a criminal record a second chance.


San Francisco Limits Employers’ Applicant Background Checks

The City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Ordinance and Mayor Edwin M. Lee signed it into law. The new ordinance (San Francisco Police Code, Article 49) limits the use of criminal history information in pre-employment screening and goes into effect August 13, 2014.

Similar language was added to the City’s Administrative Code to require City contractors and subcontractors to adhere to the same limits when making decisions regarding employment of persons for work on City contracts and subcontracts.

San Francisco is the fifth municipality in the U.S. to restrict criminal background checks during employment screening: Buffalo, Newark, Philadelphia, and Seattle are the other four. Four states also “ban the box”: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island.

New Restrictions for San Francisco Employers

Employers with 20 or more employees, City contractors, and housing providers are prohibited from requiring job applicants to disclose any conviction history or unresolved arrests until either after the first live interview with the person after a conditional offer of employment. Regardless, there are some details regarding an applicant’s criminal history that remain off limits during all stages of the hiring process. Employers are prohibited from asking applicants about or requiring disclosure of:

  • Arrests not leading to a conviction.
  • Participation in or completion of a diversion or a deferral of judgment program.
  • Convictions that have been dismissed or expunged.
  • Juvenile justice system convictions or adjudications.
  • Convictions more than seven years old.
  • Information pertaining to an offense other than a felony or misdemeanor, such as an infraction.

New Hiring Processes for San Francisco Employers

  • Posting Requirement: The City’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) produced a posting ahead of the August 13, 2014 posting deadline. The new posting details applicant and employee rights under the “ban the box” ordinance. The posting will be available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and all languages spoken by more than 5% of the San Francisco workforce.
  • Employment Solicitations: Employers must state in all job solicitations and employment advertisements that the Employer will consider for employment qualified applicants with criminal histories.
  • Copy to Applicant: Prior to conducting a conviction history inquiry, an Employer must provide the applicant a copy of the notice.

City Posting Coverage

San Francisco is one of 52 cities covered by GovDocs’ Update Program coverage for labor law posting compliance. When you need seamless compliance for the U.S. and Canada, contact us!

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E-Verify Poster Changes: Do You Need to Re-Post?

E-Verify is an employment verification system overseen by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Employers who participate in the E-Verify program must display the E-Verify posting to inform their current and prospective employees of their legal rights and protections.

The USCIS recently updated the E-Verify posting. The changes included formatting and language clarification.

Recent Changes to E-Verify Posting NOT Mandatory to Post

The GovDocs Research Department has confirmed directly with the USCIS that these changes are not mandatory to post. In other words, if you participate in the E-Verify program and your locations are displaying the previous version of the E-Verify posting, you are still compliant with E-Verify posting requirements.

What Changed? See the E-Verify Poster Changes

Would like to see a detailed look at the recent E-Verify changes? Click here to download a look at the non-mandatory changes to the E-Verify posting.

Do Interns Get Breaks?

Today, you start your new internship. You’re excited, you’re tired. You can’t imagine how you’re going to remember the names of everyone in the office… It’s your typical first day.

So… what exactly are you allowed to do? Do you take a lunch break with everyone else? Or does your status as a “part-time employee” mean you eat at your desk? It seems like such an awkward question to ask; you don’t want to be the “newbie” of the office who doesn’t know the procedures. What are the policies for break times, anyway?

Labor Laws and Break Times

There are no federal labor or employment laws that require employers to allow employees to take breaks or work meals. Fewer than half of the states have set state-level laws that specifically address work breaks or meals. If your state isn’t one of these, it may have regulations or guidelines that further address the issue, so you can contact the appropriate state labor department if you really want to know.

The Employer’s Decision

Ultimately, the employer gets to decide how many breaks employees get per shift, or how long those breaks may be, with the guidance of the state department. Employers who do offer breaks less than 20 minutes must pay the employee – but that doesn’t require the employer to offer that option.

Employers can set an employee break policy in their employee handbook or they can provide breaks on an informal basis with no predefined rest periods.


The typical “rest break” can last from 5-20 minutes while the typically unpaid “meal break” will last 30-60 minutes. Non-exempt employees (like most interns) usually have to keep track of their lunch times. Exempt employees (like the rest of the office) can take their lunch break when they find convenient time to do so.

It’s important to remember that in most situations, if the employee is taking an unpaid lunch, they cannot work for that entire period. In other words, the unpaid break period must be bona fide to be legal.

Know Your Rights

Back to your first day. If your HR rep, boss, or mentor hasn’t yet told you about your company’s break policies, take a deep breath. Look through the employee handbook or corporate website for guidance. Ask your desk-mate what she usually does for lunch. Or, if you’re lucky enough to work at a company like GovDocs, your manager may actually treat you to lunch on that first day to show you the standards.