The Impact of Marijuana Legalization

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The growing number of legalized marijuana states indicates a public perception shift of marijuana’s role in their communities. Many states have legalized the use of medical marijuana for patients with chronic or severe medical diagnoses, but many states are also starting to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, creating an issue for employers who are now unsure whether they are legally allowed to continue screening applicants and employees for marijuana use.

Does marijuana legislation protect employers?

More than half of the drug testing laws passed in 2016 were directly related to marijuana regulation, and a large percentage of the current regulation revolving around marijuana is heavily favored toward employer and business protection.

Currently, California regulation (Health and Safety Code – HSC, 11362.45) states, “Nothing in section 11362.1 shall be construed or interpreted to amend, repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt: … (f) The rights and obligations of public and private employers to maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace … or affect the ability of employers to have policies prohibiting the use of marijuana by employees and prospective employees, or prevent employers from complying with state of federal law.” This allows employers in California to continue drug screening their employees and applicants in order to maintain their zero-tolerance marijuana policies.

Additionally, Florida’s regulations (Chapter 381, Public Health – General Provisions) also protect employers from many of the issues surrounding marijuana legalization: “Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any… place… of employment…”

The debate over consumption, safety, and workplace issues.

Some believe since recreational marijuana is now legal in a growing number of states, businesses should no longer be able to screen or reprimand employees for drug use, often drawing parallels between marijuana and alcohol effects. In business practice this does raise questions, as a substantial amount of research currently supports risk associated with marijuana consumption.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the potency of marijuana has risen by a factor of three in the last 30 years. This increase, coupled with the recent legalization movements, has caused numerous agencies from marijuana-legal states to report severe increases in public safety hazards.

Following the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area; an organization governed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy; whose goal is to facilitate cooperation and coordination against drug trafficking in areas surrounding Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming; have reported the following conclusions:

  • Traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana have increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012
  • The majority of driving-under-the-influence arrests involve marijuana and 25 to 40 percent were marijuana alone
  • There has been a 16 percent increase in toxicology reports showing positive marijuana driving-under-the-influence results
  • 57 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits from 2011 through 2013
  • 82 percent hospitalization increase from 2008 to 2013

This evidence strongly supports the hazards irresponsible marijuana use can cause. The cognitive impairment that marijuana imposes on the user produces a substantial risk for any employee operating or working near heavy machinery.

It also has a significant impact on a person’s ability to perform basic work functions. In a recent study, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stated that “recent cannabis use impairs the performance in cognitive domains of learning, memory, and attention” with “recent use” being defined as a 24-hour period.

There are also other major costs that employers may incur from employees who are regularly using marijuana that are related to insurance and healthcare expenses. NAS has also found that smoking marijuana on a regular basis is associated with chronic cough and may be linked to greater mental health symptoms for people suffering from bipolar disorders.

Legislation is evolving and ongoing.

There have already been more than 20 bills introduced in the post-2016 election regarding the regulation and legalization of marijuana. The landscape of marijuana legislation is likely to continue to push in favor of legalization, making the importance of developing an effective drug-free workplace policy and having an effective drug screening program a critical business decision for your organization.

If you have questions about developing a drug-free policy, or about your current screening program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. A-Check Global’s team of dedicated professionals are available to help, and can provide friendly, accurate guidance. Give us a call today at 877-345-2021, or email support@acheckglobal.com.

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A little background on background screening

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What is a Background Screen?

A Background Screen is a process—actually, a legal investigative search—to compile past information, including criminal, employment, education, credit records, etc. of an individual for the purpose of helping an organization make employment decisions.

One might think that it’s perfectly fine to just gather information from online public sources. Simply put, it’s not. Employers—and background screening providers—have to abide by laws and regulations that minimize risk to the employer, while also protecting candidates from discrimination. Companies should implement formal background screens to help keep their clients, employees and business safe.

Performing background screens help keep companies safe and minimize risk by verifying and reporting historical information, all while ensuring candidates are who they say they are.

How does the screening process work?

Prior to performing a background screen, the candidate must supply written consent and both the candidate and company must understand and acknowledge rights under FCRA guidelines. This “Authorization for Background Investigation” form is how A-Check Global receives and verifies the candidate’s acknowledgment and authorization to conduct a background screen on the company’s behalf.

A common misconception of the background screening process is that a comprehensive report can be completed and presented within 24 hours or less. In reality, a team of trained professionals work seamlessly together, utilizing both electronic and manual processes to gather the most current and accurate information available.

An average background screen usually takes 2-5 days to complete. However, there are variables that can impact the timeline, such as insufficient or incomplete information provided by the candidate, or the type of screen component(s) requested. Take for example, a county criminal search which can be a lengthy effort depending on where the county is located and on the county resources available to provide information to A-Check.

Let’s take a look at screen components.

Typically, an employer will ask for fairly common types of pre-employment screens: a Social Security Trace, Criminal History Records, Employment History and Education Verification, and perhaps Motor Vehicle Records, Credit Reports, and Drug Screening.

The Social Security Trace can aid in validating the candidate’s identity. It can be used to uncover previous address history and even alias names affiliated with a social security number.

Sources of criminal history records include: county, statewide, and federal criminal records, the national criminal locater database and state and national sex offender registries.

Employment verification requirements—how much historical information is requested—tends to vary from client to client, and A-Check Global tailors this search to meet the employer’s business needs.

Education verifications validate an applicant’s high school, college, or trade school diplomas and degrees.

State laws vary regarding retention of driving records. Generally, this search will reveal the candidate’s 3-5 year driving history and may provide insight into any potential areas of concern.

A-Check Global’s substance abuse testing programs aid in protecting employers from the negative effects of workplace drug and alcohol abuse. Our services include a complete range of drug testing, alcohol screening and medical screening management for both regulated and unregulated industries.

Reviewing the results.

Once a background screen is complete, the employer can review the results and make an informed employment decision based on this information. Keep in mind that using this information for hiring decisions must be done in compliance with Federal and state regulations including the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Likewise, candidates must have ample opportunity to review their completed background report if requested prior to the screen, and dispute any specific items they question.

If you’re tasked with analyzing your current screening program, or just have questions about your background screening process, we would welcome the opportunity to be part of that conversation. A-Check Global’s team of dedicated professionals are available to help, and can provide friendly, accurate guidance. Give us a call today at 877-345-2021, or email support@acheckglobal.com.

The Great Recession of 2008 and its Impact on Credit Reporting

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Welcome to the second Blog article in our CRAsh Course on Credit Reporting. In this article, we’ll focus on the lasting impact a changing financial landscape can have on credit reporting legislation.

It’s 2017—nearly a decade since the Great Recession ended—and while things have recovered for many people financially, the lasting effects of the catastrophic financial event continue to be felt by some.

Due to more than 7 million foreclosures and the high rate of unemployment during, and shortly after the recession, a large percentage of the US population has negative information on their credit reports caused directly by the economic downturn.

To ensure those who experienced financial stress during the Great Recession could continue pursuing employment opportunities, important—and popular—regulations were implemented to limit the use of credit reports on pre-employment background screens.

Legislation now defines when and how credit reports can be used for employment decisions

11 states and the District of Colombia have placed regulations on the use of credit screens when hiring. Additionally, while there’s no law CURRENTLY in place, Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights recommends that a credit check is only done when money handling is an essential job function.

In states where no laws are in place, cities have stepped in to limit use of credit reports when making a hiring decision. Philadelphia and New York both have these rules in place.

These laws are fairly common sense. They typically bar employers from analyzing an applicant’s credit history unless the position deals significantly with money. Money handlers, accountants, managers and other financial positions are usually exempt from protection under the law.

Even when hiring in a state with no limits on credit reports, it is recommended that credit is only reviewed for individuals with significant access to finances. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that “An employer must not have a financial requirement if it does not help the employer to accurately identify responsible and reliable employees . . .

While you may argue that knowing your new stock person or receptionist’s money handling abilities gives you a better idea of their potential to be a reliable employee, the candidate and EEOC may argue differently and claim the process is discriminatory. Even if you’re right, battling this in court costs time, money, and stress that’s easily avoided by simply limiting credit screening to personnel with financial responsibilities.

Let’s make sure best practices are in place

To mitigate risk in your employment decisions, add these rules to your screening program:

  1. Credit reports are only conducted on candidates with significant monetary responsibilities
  2. Your screening policy includes detailed information on why credit reports are used
  3. Separate screening policies are in place for money handling and non-money handling positions
  4. Background screens are conducted the same way for all candidates based on their position
  5. Your legal team has reviewed screening policies for compliance with state and federal guidelines

Another way to help ensure compliance to ongoing changes in legislation is to utilize the services of a background screening company—like A-Check Global—with a robust compliance department. As a trusted business partner, we review our clients’ screening policies, ensure services are not being conducted in violation of regulations, track legal changes, and suggest policy updates when new rules are put in place.

For more information about this topic feel free to contact us at connect@acheckglobal.com. We welcome the opportunity to speak with you.

The What and Why of Adverse Action Notices

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When information contained in an A-Check Global background check is used wholly or in part by a requester to deny employment to an applicant, a specific process must be followed to comply with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This process affords the applicant an opportunity to review their background report and dispute any specific information, if deemed inaccurate.

We’re here to help!

As your trusted partner, A-Check Global developed an Employment Screening Adverse Communication Kit to assist clients (end users of consumer reports) with regulatory responsibilities in accordance with FCRA Section 604(b)(3)(A). This kit helps save time, minimizes paperwork, and recommends a timeline to ensure applicants receive their pre-adverse notifications in a timely manner and are given a reasonable period to review results before final adverse notification is provided.

This kit contains two documents: (1) a pre-adverse communication/applicant response form, and (2) a final adverse action letter. Please consult with your Corporate HR as you follow the Instructions to create your company’s compliance documents.

Please also keep in mind, A-Check Global is not providing legal advice or counsel, thus our kit should not be deemed as such. Consult with your legal counsel to ensure the final product conforms to the needs of your organization.

Use our 2-step process to remain compliant

To facilitate the Adverse process, simply use our sample templates, customize them to meet your business requirements, and then mail out the Pre-Adverse and Adverse Notice yourself. Or, give us a call—we would be happy to assist in managing this process on your behalf.

Note: It is vital to your organization to ensure that the Adverse Action two-step process is executed each time a decision not to hire or place an applicant is made based on the content of a background report.

To process a Self-Adverse notification:

  1. Provide the applicant the pre-adverse letter with response form and a copy of the report used to make the adverse decision. Prepare each letter by adding the applicant’s name and the Consumer Reporting Agency’s name and contact information. This letter is designed to provide the applicant the opportunity to dispute any inaccurate or missing information within the report.
  2. If the applicant does not respond to the pre-adverse letter after a reasonable period of time—A-Check recommends six [6] business days—follow up with the applicant by providing them the final adverse action letter. Again, it is very important to add and confirm the applicant’s name and Consumer Reporting Agencies contact information—ensuring the name of the Consumer Reporting Agency on the report and the name of the Consumer Reporting Agency on the letter match.

The applicant can then dispute the accuracy of the Consumer Report by going online at http://www.myacheck.com or they can email us or contact us directly.

Remember, we’re here to answer your questions regarding your Pre-Adverse and Adverse Notice program. Please feel free to call, email, or live chat us at acheckglobal.com.

Message regarding Equifax

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Dear Customer,

By now, you’ve no doubt heard that on September 7, 2017, Equifax announced a cybersecurity incident involving U.S. consumer information. Equifax discovered the unauthorized access to certain data files and acted immediately to stop the intrusion. Additionally, they have conducted an ongoing and comprehensive forensic review of the intrusion, and are working closely with law enforcement.

We’ve been asked by customers for clarification regarding the data we receive from Equifax to facilitate A-Check background screening. We currently work with Equifax to receive candidate payroll information during employment verification inquiries. Candidate information we submit to make these inquiries is not stored or archived on Equifax databases.

As an organization that works closely with Equifax, please know we’ve been in close contact with them to gather information we can in turn pass along to you.

To date, Equifax reports they have found no evidence of unauthorized activity on Equifax’s core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases. In addition, they have found no evidence that this cybersecurity incident impacted Equifax’s core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases. This report is intended to also be inclusive of A-Check inquiry data.

If you have questions, we welcome your call or email. And of course, we’ll keep you updated with any further developments as we continue our communication with Equifax.

A-Check Global