Archives For Lindsay Shearman

Have You Ever Been Convicted of a Felony?

If you’ve ever applied for a job, you’ve probably been asked this question before. But in many states, this question is going the way of the dodo.

In January 1, 2015, NewHire’s home state of Illinois added its name to the growing list of states with Ban-the-Box; a new legislative practice for employers, Human Resources professionals, and recruiters to be aware of.  To put it simply, Ban-the-Box prohibits employers and recruiters alike from asking about a candidate’s criminal background in the early stages of their application.  This means that all of the job ads out there with a, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony” question, are now considered unfair or discriminatory.Discrimination in Hiring Practices

So what does this mean for hiring processes in 2015?  It means that hiring discrimination laws are tightening to keep candidates from being disenfranchised by their past, or their present, and from getting to the future they deserve.

Hiring discrimination is something all HR professionals and recruiters are acutely aware of, but these rules can be full of pitfalls for organizations hiring without the help of professionals.

All of us are aware of the more obvious areas of hiring discrimination, like race, religion, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, or national origin. However, there are plenty of more obscure discriminatory practices that your business may be using without realizing it.


The newest of these anti-discrimination laws, Ban-the-Box is not yet a federally applied law.  The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has released an informational packet with a map of states that have cities or counties where Ban-the-Box is in effect for 2015.  This law is unfortunately enacted differently in each jurisdiction, however there are some more common applications to aware of when hiring.  As mentioned, employers and recruiters can no longer ask questions about prior convictions in the early stages of the application process, but they also can no longer perform background checks at the early stages, which are now legally reserved for finalist candidates.  The final most common aspect of Ban-the-Box in effect is that background checks are now only required for some positions.  While unfortunately vague, the “some positions” aspect of the law means that you can’t check someone’s credit score unless they are in the final stages of applying for a role that handles money.  Fundamentally it moves all background check or history related questions to the end of the hiring process, allowing candidates experience and personality to avoid an early “knock out” for unfair reasons.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

The most recently enacted and federally applicable discrimination law, known by the acronym GINA, ensures that employers cannot obtain or ask for information regarding applicants’ or employees’, or their family members’, genetics or medical records.  Patton Boggs details that in the case of EEOC V. Fabricut, Inc., among others, that the EEOC sued the employer for allegedly rescinding an offer of employment after a candidate was found to be predisposed to carpel tunnel syndrome after a medical exam required after an offer, where the candidate had to disclose details of their family’s medical history.  A settlement was reached where this candidate received a whopping $50,000 for the unfortunate practices utilized in that specific hiring practice.  GINA protects employees and candidates from being discriminated against on private, inconsequential, and even “potential predispositions to” disorders.

Using Social Media to violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Social Media allows us to find out an alarming number of things about people we don’t know. While it’s tempting to browse a candidate’s social media profiles to get a sense for their character, businesses have to be sensitive to the fact that information like race, age, gender, religion, and national origin are also available via these platforms. These are all protected categories under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which dictate the use of any of these (and some other) categories in making hiring decisions as a violation of federal law and are grounds for legal action.  If hiring discrimination on these grounds is properly proven, this can be a clear infringement of employee/candidate rights.  As Heather Weaver, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said to the National Journal, “Employers are not allowed to discriminate … whether they do it secretly or openly.”

Arrest Record Discrimination – A less well known and commonly utilized hiring tool

Also covered in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the inability to make hiring decisions based on arrest records.  As is detailed by the EEOC, “The fact of an arrest does not establish that criminal conduct has occurred, and an exclusion based on an arrest, in itself, is not job related and consistent with business necessity.” While it may be tempting to look up your potential candidate’s arrest records – and let’s face it, we’ve all looked up our neighbors – you can incur a hefty charge for such a discriminatory hiring practice, much like in the case of EEOC V. Fabricut, Inc..  However, the EEOC adds, “an employer may make an employment decision based on the conduct underlying an arrest if the conduct makes the individual unfit for the position in question.”

To help understand this gray area, let’s take for example, a hypothetical employee called Sean.  Sean left work for lunch with friends and had a couple of beers.  An officer pulls him over on his way back to work and asks if Sean has been drinking.  Sean says, “Why yes, officer, but I’ve only had a couple of beers.”  As many of us know, even if you pass a breathalyzer test, but fail the field test (those of us lacking coordination or the ability to say the alphabet backwards will always fail the field test), that you can still be arrested for a DUI.  Even if Sean isn’t convicted, the employer knows that Sean has been drinking during work hours against company policy and could inhibit his ability to function on the job so they are able to terminate his employment.

Wrapping Up – A Good Rule of Thumb to Avoid Hiring Discrimination

In all of your recruiting efforts of 2015, be sure to go on the merits of your employees and candidates, not what you can unearth about them through the archives of information on the internet.  While conducting background checks is an important step in the recruitment process, you can only use that information to inform a position relevant decision, not an all-encompassing, everyone-that-has-a-record-of-anything-is-out type of decision.  Happy Hiring!

If you’ve been to a café, bike shop or microbrewery recently, you were probably struck by the thought that the young folk sure love their tattoos and piercings. And you’d be right. One in five Americans has a tattoo, up from 14% in 2008. So how does all of the ink and jewelry affect your recruiting process, and where should you draw the line? And if you’re thinking about getting a tattoo or piercing yourself, how can you do so without limiting your career choices?

On the hiring side, Karla Dobbeck, President of Human Resources Techniques, Inc., says there are no known HR policies that forbid tattoos or piercings in the workplace. However, often times something considered to be “distracting” to clients or coworkers will be recommended to be covered or removed. Which brings up the question: Who defines “distracting?”

How Do Tattoos and Body Piercing Affect Your Career

Unfortunately, for candidates or employees with tattoos, “distracting” body modifications will inevitably be defined by your employer and your clients. Highly visible and customer facing roles, such as Sales Representatives and Account Managers, are roles where your employees will be speaking with clients that don’t necessarily share your views or the views of your company when it comes to tattoos and piercings.  These roles often come along with a need to have any polarizing body modifications covered.

Policy aside, not all body modifications are created equal when it comes to the stigma they carry in the workplace. Jeffrey Paetzold, renowned and award winning tattoo artist and Reconstructive Areola Tattoo Professional with Northwestern Memorial Hospital, believes that the stigma around tattoos in particular has changed due to options.  When Jeff started his work 14 years ago, “you were limited to what you could find on a wall or from a book, whereas now tattoos are completely customized…. A beautiful custom piece with meaning is something that is or can often be regarded as an impressive piece of artwork.”

When it comes to piercings however, Jeff says, “You don’t see many eyebrow piercings anymore.” While stigma over alternative styles of ear piercings has dwindled, the remaining discomfort some people feel when looking at facial piercings has limited some employment opportunities for piercing junkies.

So how does all of this change recruitment efforts?  Most companies, culturally speaking, will have a fairly clear and open idea of what their clients would accept and what candidate would be a good cultural fit.  For candidates and employees, University of California Psychology professor Ross Avilla says “if a person really wants to get body art, they likely will, even if it makes them a bit of an outcast…the easiest trade-off is probably to get a tattoo that isn’t normally visible, or can be easily covered up at work.”

This is a trend that Jeff has also noticed, and he says that tattoos are no longer just an indicator of an “alternative” lifestyle – in fact, he has many clients that suit up for work, covering their full sleeves and back pieces for the navy or black of a business suit.

While “Corporate Culture” as an idea can often seem nebulous, having your corporate culture defined is far more important to your business and your employees than you might realize.

Darius Mirshahzadeh, President and Co-Founder of Endeavor America Loan Services, said in a recent Forbes article, “Consider your employees your first level of customers.”  In business, the customer is number one. Considering your employees your first level of customer puts a heavy emphasis on why corporate culture is important for your business’ success. Here are a few reasons why creating corporate culture is necessary for finding and keeping talent in today’s job market:

Employees that Want to Stay

corporate culture definedWhen your corporate culture is poorly defined, your odds of making a hire that stays with your company for less than a year are higher. In a study done by the University of Western Ontario, the results showed that, “commitment was greater among employees who thought that the organization considered relationship-oriented… values to be important.”

In other words, employees working for companies with a cultural emphasis on building relationships felt more committed to their companies. If they’re going to spend 40+ hours per week in a place, employees want to know that they fit in.  Having your corporate culture defined keeps employee morale high and increases productivity, which brings us to our next point.

A Productive Company is a Happy Company

Where corporations have a tendency to fall short, culturally speaking, is investing in getting their employees to invest in the company itself.  By creating corporate culture that promotes mutual investment – of the business in its employees and vice-versa – a relationship is established of mutual value. No person, inside or outside of work, wants to disappoint someone they value.

When company culture is defined, the sense of camaraderie is high and draws employees in to caring about their work, which has clear advantages for the corporation itself.  Noting the table from Forbes below from you can clearly see the drastic difference between a company’s financial growth when comparing companies with strong “Performance Enhancing Cultures” and those without:

Average Increase for Twelve Firms with Performance-Enhancing Cultures Average Increase for Twenty Firms without Performance-Enhancing Cultures
Revenue Growth 682% 166%
Employment Growth 282% 36%
Stock Price Growth 901% 74%
Net Income Growth 756% 1%

Invested Employees Garnish a Good Corporate Reputation

You may have heard from us over here at New-Hire about the importance of online reviews, in places like Glassdoor and Indeed, for being competitive in the job market.  Every company is vulnerable to criticism, both from disgruntled former employees and from competition.

However, when employees are invested in their company, they will want to make the company look good across all mediums. They will tell their family and friends how great it is to work there, and when asked, they will definitely write a good review. So, now that you know some of the important ways having a corporate culture defined can benefit you, how do you find your corporate culture?

What’s Your Mission Statement?

Take a look at what your corporation is trying to accomplish, not in terms of what you are literally doing or selling, but rather in terms of what you are putting out there as your corporate values.  Regardless if you are a high-powered private equity firm or a small, mom-and-pop grocery store, the face you present to the public should be congruent with your mission statement, which will help define your corporate culture.

corporate culture defined

Live that Missions Statement

While finding your mission statement can take a bit of creativity, making sure you bring your mission statement to life is basically the corner stone of having a corporate culture.  Find ways to let that mission statement permeate your corporation’s daily function, whether that means being flexible with your employees’ schedules to show that you value work/life balance, or by offering a corporate phone, computer, or car to show you want to make sure they have all the tools they need to be successful.

Finally, Let Your Corporate Culture Be Fluid

It is important to keep certain aspects of your corporate culture staunchly in place, especially as your business grows.  However, as our day to day lives change with technological advancement and changes in our families and goals as employees, it’s important for your corporate culture to have wiggle room for those changes.  Some corporate cultures rely on hard workers and incentivize their employees accordingly to keep them from burning out, but if one of those 70-hour-per-week employees starts a family, their values will more than likely change.

It is important for the corporate culture, defined as it may be, to allow for life changes without making an employee feel as though they have to find a new job because they no longer fit the exact mold as all their coworkers.  As we all know, seasoned employees, more often than not, have value in and of themselves and it won’t help your corporation to have a corporate culture defined so strictly that it doesn’t allow life to happen.

The task ahead of finding your corporate culture may be a challenging one, but take the time to really hash out the details and instill these values into your office.  You’ll find it’s well worth the effort!