Police Officer Reimbursement Contracts – Changes Effective June 29, 2017
Posted on July 11, 2017 by Andrea Shindlebower in Hiring

Weekly HR News - Hiring

Police Officer Reimbursement Contracts – Changes Effective June 29, 2017

When hiring police officers, many cities enter into contracts that require reimbursement for the initial hiring costs if the officer leaves to go to another law enforcement agency.  Initial hiring costs include, but are not limited to, the application process, training costs, equipment costs, salary and fringe benefits.  The time frame allowed for reimbursement is from the officer’s initial application until his or her graduation from the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT).  In addition, these reimbursement costs are required to be made by the law enforcement agency that hires the police officer away from the initial agency.

Prior to the 2017 legislation session, the public agency could only receive a prorated amount based upon the percentage of time that the officer completed during his or her employment contract and reduced by the cost of the training provided by the DOCJT for the officer. HB 337 amended KRS 70.290 by removing the prorated requirement.  The statute now states that the amount of reimbursement authorized “shall not be prorated, and shall be for the full amount” of the initial hiring costs from the officer’s initial application until their graduation from DOCJT.  This change is effective for any new hires after June 29, 2017.

For questions on this or a sample contract, contact KLC Personnel Services Specialist Andrea Shindlebower Main.   

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Before Performing Preemployment Background Checks Read This!
Posted on June 22, 2017 by Andrea Shindlebower in Hiring

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.   

 

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Hiring, Employee Retention, Wage and Hour Issues… Oh My!
Posted on June 22, 2017 by Andrea Shindlebower in Hiring

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.

 

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Ban the Box – The Fair Chance Initiative
Posted on February 28, 2017 by Andrea Shindlebower in Hiring

Weekly HR - Hiring

Ban the Box – The Fair Chance Initiative

What does it mean to “ban the box”?  This term refers to the check box or question on an employment application regarding whether the candidate for employment has ever been convicted of a crime.  Ban-the-box laws and policies require employers to avoid asking about a candidate’s criminal convictions until after an interview has been conducted or when the employer extends a conditional job offer.

Why should an employer “ban the box”? The theory behind ban the box is that an employer gets a chance to form an initial impression of an applicant’s character before reacting to their criminal history. In addition to this theory, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidelines that urge employers to consider such factors as the crime that was committed and how it may relate to the job that the employee would be doing.  For examples, an employee that has been convicted of embezzlement would probably not be a good candidate for city treasurer.  In addition, the EEOC advises that an employer consider how much time has elapsed since the conviction.  The EEOC has also taken a very aggressive stance against employers that use conviction records against an employee without justification and when the use of such records could be viewed as discriminatory in nature under Title VII, and as such are based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  The easiest way to avoid any such discrimination is to “ban the box” on all applications for employment and within the interview process.

In addition to the concerns raised by the EEOC, public employers in Kentucky are also required to follow KRS 355B.020, which states that an applicant for employment cannot be disqualified solely because of a prior conviction of a crime, unless the crime is a felony or misdemeanor for which a jail sentence may be imposed, or the conviction (even when there is no jail time imposed) directly relates to the position of employment sought. This statute goes on to say that even when there is a conviction that can be considered under this statute, a public employer can determine the individual has been successfully rehabilitated.  Anytime that a public employer is considering using a criminal conviction as a reason for denial, they should involve their agency attorney in the final decision and also be certain to follow the Federal Credit Reporting Act requirements.

Legal requirements are not the only thing to be concerned about. Many citizens within our cities have some type of criminal record and many times a job opportunity can be the one thing that can turn someone’s life around.  In addition to the impact on the person that receives the job opportunity, the person’s family and the community where they reside are impacted.   

Currently, there are 25 states that have adopted ban the box laws or policies. Most recently, Commonwealth of Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin issued the “Fair Chance Employment Initiative” executive order. This executive order banned the question as to whether an applicant has been convicted of a felony from employment applications for certain jobs at the state level.  There are also various city and county ban-the-box laws around the country that apply to private and public employers.  To my knowledge, Louisville is the only city in Kentucky that has a ban-the-box ordinance in effect at the local level. The ordinance bans the Louisville Metro Council, as well as contractors and vendors doing business with Louisville Metro, from asking about an applicant's criminal background on the employment application. Metro Louisville also only performs a background check for otherwise qualified applicants and incorporates EEOC criteria into the assessment of applicants. The ordinance also states that the city prefers to do business with vendors and contractors that have adopted policies consistent with those of the city. The City of Hopkinsville has also decided to remove the question regarding criminal convictions from their employment applications.  The city will still do background checks but the checks will occur later in the hiring process.

What doesn’t “ban-the-box” do?  It doesn’t require that you hire employees with criminal convictions.  Many employers think that ban-the-box laws and policies will prevent them from doing background checks altogether. That is simply not the case.  Ban the box language still allows, and should even require, an employer do the criminal background check, but only after the interview process, or more preferably as a conditional offer of employment, and based on specific criteria related to the position of employment. 

And even with , it is also important to note that criminal backgrounds must be considered when hiring police and law enforcement telecommunicators under KRS 15.382, KRS 15.391, KRS 61.300 and KRS 15.540. These statutes state that they may not be convicted of a felony, or in regards to peace officers that they may not also be convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.  In addition to law enforcement, criminal backgrounds must also be considered when hiring firefighters, including volunteers, as well as ambulance workers and rescue squad workers under KRS 17.167, 202 KAR 7:301, 202 KAR 7:201, 202 KAR 7:401. All of these statutes state that an applicant for these positions shall “not have been found guilty of, entered a guilty plea or Alford plea to aoffense or have completed a diversion program for aoffense.”

After Governor Bevin signed the “” executive order he said, "I want to specifically challenge each and every private employer in this state to think about doing the exact same thing."  The Kentucky League of Cities would like to add public employers to this “ban the box” challenge and to continue to encourage fair hiring practices.  If you would like more information, a sample policy and/or ordinance, contact Personnel Services Specialist, Andrea Shindlebower Main.   

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