Weekly HR News - Hiring Practices
Before Performing Preemployment Background Checks Read This!
When hiring a new employee the city may need to request additional information in order to make an informed decision. Some of that information may include requesting credit reports and criminal records checks. And in some cases, as with police officers, background checks are a requirement before hiring.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers must obtain permission to get a credit or criminal background check. In addition, if any of the information is used in the decision-making process, the city is required to notify the applicant to give them the opportunity to dispute any incorrect information. More information on notice requirements can be found on the Bureau of Consumer Protection website at http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/bus08-using-consumer-reports-what-employers-need-know.
In addition, KRS 335B.020, which was amended by SB 120 in the 2017 legislative session, states that even if an applicant has been convicted of a crime, he or she cannot be automatically disqualified for public employment, which includes employment with a city. The only exception is when the crime “directly relates to the position of employment sought ...” And even if it directly relates to the position, an employer can still hire if they believe the person has been rehabilitated. To consider whether or not an individual has been rehabilitated, the employer should consider the nature and seriousness of the crime for which the individual was convicted and how much time has passed since the conviction; how the crime may relate to the position of public employment; and the relationship of the crime to the ability, capacity, and fitness required to perform the duties and discharge the responsibilities of the position.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) violations can also be a possibility when using background checks in hiring decisions. Follow EEOC guidelines to be certain that you are not using convictions as a basis to refrain from hiring someone, especially in regards to a person’s race or national origin. For more information on avoiding EEOC violations when using criminal background checks, see the EEOC website at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm.
Keep in mind that any information used to make a hiring decision must be related to the job and the job description. When you must make a hiring decision based on information from any type of background check, make sure that you work with your city attorney to be certain you are making the right decision for all involved.
For questions on hiring or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist.
Weekly HR News - Hiring Practices
Hiring, Employee Retention, Wage and Hour Issues… Oh My!
Hiring and retaining the best employees can be one of the most important tasks that a city can undertake. Employees can be the heart and soul of a successful city. Therefore, it is essential that cities hire the best employees and work to retain them.
Another reason to do this right the first time has to do with the costs of hiring and training new employees, not to mention the time that this takes. The costs to publish an advertisement, background checks, drug tests, as well as the time it takes to sort through applications and the interview process can be detrimental to the city budget. In addition, there are the costs associated with and time it takes to train a new employee and it can also place added pressure on the remaining employees that must take on additional tasks. To avoid these issues make sure you make every effort to hire right the first time.
Some of the ways to hire the best employees start with a current and accurate job description. When creating the advertisement for the position, having a current job description is crucial. The advertisement should be based on the essential functions of the job. What must the potential employee have in order to qualify to do this position? By identifying these requirements prospective candidates know whether or not they have the skills, education, training and background to do the job, and it enables the city to weed out those who do not.
The next step is the application and the interview process. Be certain that both the employment application and the city interview process do not contain any questions that may violate state, federal or local law. Don’t ask any questions that may be related to race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, age or their status as a smoker or nonsmoker (only in Kentucky).
Interview questions should be prepared in advance and should be based entirely on the ability of the candidate to do the job for which they are applying. Make sure that the interviewers know what questions are completely off limits.
Once the interviews are complete, have a process in place to guide the decision makers to identify the best potential employee. Also, be aware of any required preemployment testing or background checks that the city may have to do once an offer is made. Ascertain ahead of time what can and cannot be done as well as what information should be gathered from the testing and used in the final decisions.
After the employee has been hired, have an onboarding process that assimilates the employee into the city work environment. Don’t give him or her a stack of papers and leave them alone. Make this an interactive process where they are immediately made to feel like part of a team. Make sure that the new employee understands the personnel policies, the city ethics ordinance, and how the city’s form of government works.
One of the most important things that a city can do to retain good employees is to make sure that anyone in a supervisory position has management skills training. Do they know their roles and responsibilities? Do they have effective communication skills? Do they know how to effectively delegate job assignments? Can they provide effective performance reviews? This information is crucial to a successful supervisor and for happy employees.
Other important issues to consider are wage and hour laws and the misclassification of employees. What is required in regards to meal and rest breaks? What is considered a full-time employee? How do you determine if the employee is entitled to overtime? What about compensatory time? Are you ready for the new overtime laws? What is considered the city’s workweek? Do we have to pay for travel time? (As well as hundreds of other laws!) Failing to follow the state and federal laws, as well as the city policy, or the misclassification of city employees can cost the city in back wages, court fees, fines and penalties. Knowing what is required of you as a city official is your responsibility.
All of these things combined put your city in the best possible position to hire and retain the best employees and to limit your liability exposure. Being proactive on the front end will make your job as a city official a little easier, as the best employees will have to be disciplined less and the city can avoid hiring for the same positions over and over.
For questions, or customized supervisor training, on this or any other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, KLC personnel services specialist.
Weekly HR – Workplace Violence
How to Identify Workplace Violence Before It Turns Deadly
On June 5th, a recently discharged and disgruntled employee in Florida came back to his former employer and killed five employees before killing himself. It is our job as an employer to take steps now to prevent tragic situations such as this from occurring, or at least to be prepared to handle it if it does occur. You can start preparations by reviewing Violence Free, a global violence prevention firm’s list of seven factors that can lead to workplace violence, which are listed below:
- A weak, misunderstood or nonexistent policy against all forms of violence in the workplace.
- Failure to educate managers and supervisors in recognizing early warning signs or symptoms of impending violence and their responsibility to take action.
- No appropriate and safe mechanism for reporting violent or threatening behavior.
- Failure to take immediate action against those who have threatened or committed acts of workplace violence.
- Inadequate physical security.
- Negligence in the hiring, training, supervision, discipline and retention of employees.
- Lack of employee support systems.
In addition to being aware of the signs, be sure to address the specific safety needs of all your city departments. Are your locks, alarms and emergency exits all in working order? Do you have a procedure for preventing unauthorized access to city buildings? Are your walkways, parking lots and other outdoor areas well lit? Can an employee easily signal for help? Be certain to consider preventative measures and safe practices for the following specific situations within your violence prevention policy:
- Exchanging money with the public
- Working with volatile, unstable people
- Working alone or in isolated areas
- Providing services
- Working late at night
- Working in areas with high crime rates
Take the time now to look at your own city. Have you addressed the specific safety needs of all your departments? Do you have a policy? What do your policies state about workplace violence? Does the policy provide an appropriate mechanism for reporting violent conduct? Are your employees and supervisors trained on your policies? If an employee files a complaint of workplace violence who should handle it? How do you handle it? If you ignore it and say “It couldn't happen here,” you may come to regret that decision.
For policies and training on workplace violence or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist.
Weekly HR News –
Cell Phones in the Workplace
The use of mobile devices in the workplace is more popular than ever before. Because of this, cities may find it necessary to enforce proper mobile phone etiquette at work and in many cases incorporate cell phone policies within the employee handbook.
Here are some tips for cell phone etiquette at work:
DO turn your ringer to vibrate or silent. Remember that you share a space with others, so keep your ringer off when bringing your mobile phone into meetings. Doing so will help keep calls or notifications from being disruptive. If you must keep your ringer on, select a discreet, professional ringtone and keep it on the quietest setting possible.
DO remember to include an email signature on messages that come from your mobile phone or tablet. This is often overlooked and emails from mobile devices only have your name and the type of device the message was sent from. It’s important to include your city contact information so people can easily respond to you.
DON’T take personal calls at your desk if you share close space with co-workers. This can be distracting to those sitting near you and can make for an uncomfortable atmosphere if you’re discussing private matters.
DON’T take a call or text if you are having a face-to-face conversation with someone. Let the call go to voicemail and read your text after you finish your conversation.
DON’T talk or text and drive. If it is a call or text that you have to make, pull over to do so!
Lastly, keep in mind that as we discussed in last week’s article, electronic messages that are created, received, used, or disposed as part of city business can be considered open records and must be treated as such in regards to retention and disposal.
For sample policies or more information on this or any other personnel matter, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, Personnel Services Specialist, with the KLC Legal Department.
Excerpt with changes from Michael Swearingen’s June 6, 2014 article Cell Phone Etiquette at Work
Weekly HR News –
Use of Email in City Government
The use of email, especially personal email, by government officials can easily become the latest in headline news. Keep in mind that emails are like any other public record in that each one, outside of an exception found in KRS 61.878, can constitutes a public record subject to the Open Records Act and the Record Retention Schedule. Because of this, the city must be certain to evaluate each electronic message to see if it fits into an exception and if not to be certain to follow the most recent record retention requirements set out by the Department of Libraries and Archives.
The Attorney General clearly states that public officials should avoid the use of a personal email account to conduct city business. In 2014, the Attorney General stated that using private email accounts is a practice that raises “significant records management and retention issues.” As an alternative to using a private account, the Attorney General suggests that public agencies can establish “separate email accounts for employees through a free service, such as Gmail, using a common naming convention that identifies” the government (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org). Another alternative is “to set up a single dedicated open records account, using a free service, to which all responsive email maintained on personal accounts could be forwarded, saved, and exported in the event of an open records request.”
In whatever way the city decides to handle email retention, a written policy needs to be in place that delineates the information for all city officials. At the very minimum, the policy needs to address:
- That the Open Records Act as well as the Department of Libraries and Archives Record Retention Schedule is applicable to the city and its agencies;
- That the policy applies to all electronic messages created, received, retained, used or disposed of related to city business or used in the name of the city; and
- User responsibility in regards to retention and disposition of electronic messages.
Deciding which electronic records must be retained is not an easy feat. Electronic records will have to be gathered and a decision made as to whether or not they are exempt based on one of the open records exemptions. More information on how that process works as well as a model policy can be found at http://kdla.ky.gov/records/recmgmtguidance/Pages/elecrecmgmt.aspx
For additional sample policies or more information on this or any other personnel matter contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, Personnel Services Specialist, with the KLC Legal Department.
Weekly HR News – City Personnel Files
Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention
The last installment of this series addresses something that can be disastrous for a city. If not handled properly, manager desk files can wreak havoc with the city personnel system as well as be an issue in regards to open records requests and lawsuits.
The debate over whether manager desk files should be permitted is a long-standing issue. Personnel records, as well as any other city-generated document, should be kept at city hall as the city clerk, by statute, is the custodian of all city records. If managers do have desk files, they need to be certain that the original document is maintained by the city clerk and that only a copy is contained within their files. Managers also need to be aware that any confidential records must be securely maintained. In many cases, this requires that managers be trained on what is confidential and what is considered an open record.
Personnel policies should also address this issue and provide guidance on how the desk files will be maintained, if they are allowed at all. Explanations in regards to statutory requirements should be given so that managers fully understand the importance of these procedures.
Lastly, be aware that manager desk files are also discoverable in the event of a lawsuit. Because of this, managers need to know what is and is not acceptable in regards to their recordkeeping. A periodic review of what a manager is keeping can assist a city in addressing potential issues before they arise.
For questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist and be sure to attend the Personnel Files 101 webinar next week on May 11th.