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Immigration Compliance and Background Screening

USCIS Announces New Form I-9 Desktop Widget

Posted in Form I-9

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the release of a new downloadable Form I-9 Desktop Widget that allows employers to automatically launch the Form I-9 from their desktop. Seemed like a good idea, until I tested it.  I downloaded the widget to my desktop, but when I clicked on it I was directed to the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification webpage, where I had to click on more time to access the Form I-9.

I would be curious to know if others experience the same thing and their thoughts about this new tool.  From a HR perspective, I could simply save the webpage in my Outlook Favorites rather than cluttering my desktop with another shortcut.  But perhaps others feel differently about the new widget.


Colorado Employers – Revised Mandatory Affirmation of Legal Work Status Form

Posted in State Immigration Laws

The Employment Verification Law (C.R.S. § 8-2-122) requires both public and private employers in Colorado to complete the Affirmation of Legal Work Status form within 20 calendar days after hiring an employee.  The revised form, with a date of 09/01/14, must be used for new hires after October 1, 2014.   The employer, not the employee, is responsible for completing and maintaining the form.  The form must be retained for the duration of the employee’s employment.

The Affirmation of Legal Work Status form is separate from employers’ requirement under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification form — the Form I-9.  The latter form must be completed within three business days of hire.   The retention requirements are also different in that the Form I-9 must be maintained for three years after date of hire or one year after termination, whichever is later.

To learn more about the Colorado law, click here.

FCRA Litigation Continues for Employers Using Background Reports

Posted in Background Check

Two recent developments related to litigation and background screening.  First, a major fast food restaurant chain became the subject of a class action complaint  recently, and second, a major business technology and services provider settled a class action complaint, the terms of which are sealed.  In both cases, plaintiffs alleged willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for:

  • Failure to provide individuals with a pre-adverse action disclosure containing a copy of their consumer report and a description of their rights under the FCRA as well as the opportunity to dispute the accuracy of the information contained in the consumer report (15 U.S.C. § 1681b(b)(3)); and
  • Failure to make the proper disclosure regarding a background check in a stand-alone document, separate from the employment application, and obtain the proper authorization (15 U.S.C. § 1681(b)(2)(A)(i)).

This is not the first suit alleging these violations and it won’t be the last.  Employers need to be aware of the requirements under the FCRA to provide job applicants with a disclosure and authorization requesting a background report in a separate document which isn’t muddied by other terms related to employment or releases of liability.  Second, job applicants must be afforded the opportunity to review the background report if an employer will use information contained therein adversely in case the information is incorrect.  This is part of the pre-adverse action process and it affords the job applicant the right to correct inaccurate or incomplete information with the background screening company that provided the information.  It also provides the employer with the opportunity to be made aware of such.   Companies who need advice in this area can contact us here at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP.

To read the complaints in their entirety, see: Anya McPherson v. Cannon Business Solutions, Inc., 1:12-cv-07761 (D.N.J., Sep. 16, 2014) and Sheryl Hornsby v. McDonald’s USA, LLC et al, 8:14-cv-02288 (M.D. Fla., Sep. 12, 2014).

Private Litigation and FTC Enforcement Actions Affecting CRAs Operations

Posted in Background Check, Criminal History Records

Plaintiffs’ counsel have targeted a wide range of employment and tenant screening firms’ operations practices in recent litigation, alleging violations of state and federal requirements for user onboarding, report accuracy, file disclosures, data obsolescence, and data privacy requirements. Meanwhile, Federal Trade Commission enforcement actions and amicus briefs reveal important clues to agency thinking on obsolescence, privacy, and other requirements.

To stay ahead of the curve, how do smart CRAs and Resellers learn from these developments in reviewing their operations practices?

Join me and Jay Harris, Senior Director, National Background Data, for a complimentary webinar to learn more this Wednesday, September 10th at 1 p.m. EST.  Click here and then click on Webinars to register.

How Does the Use of “Big Data” Impact Consumers and What Does the FTC Have to Say About It’s Use?

Posted in FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will host a public workshop entitled “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” in Washington, D.C. on September 15, 2014, to further explore the use of “big data” and its impact on American consumers, including low income and underserved consumers.    This is one in a series of workshops the FTC has held this year.

I will be a speaker on Panel 3: Surveying the Legal Landscape.  Our panel will  review various antidiscrimination and consumer protection laws and discuss how they may apply to the use of big data, and whether there may be gaps in the law.  Other panels will consider the current environment and uses of big data and how these uses impact consumers, benefits and harms of the uses of big data on particular populations of consumers, and best practices for the use of big data to protect consumers.  The FTC’s goal with this workshop is to address the following issues:

  • “How are organizations using big data to categorize consumers?
  • What benefits do consumers gain from these practices? Do these practices raise consumer protection concerns?
  • What benefits do organizations gain from these practices? What are the social and economic impacts, both positive and negative, from the use of big data to categorize consumers?
  • How do existing laws apply to such practices? Are there gaps in the legal framework?
  • Are companies appropriately assessing the impact of big data practices on low income and underserved populations? Should additional measures be considered?”

The workshop is free and the day is filled with interesting panels.  Chick here to view the agenda.


Form I-9 Preparors – USCIS Is Using New Ink Color for Certain Documents Which May be Used for the Form I-9

Posted in Form I-9

If you prepare Forms I-9 for your company, note that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has switched the color of ink it uses to stamp certain documents that could be used for I-9 purposes from red to blue ink.  This would be relevant, for instance, in a scenario where you have a high population of new hires that are refugees and they provide you with a refugee document.  Just because the color of the ink has changed, doesn’t necessarily mean that the document is not valid.   Therefore, moving forward you may see government documents with stamps in blue, red and black.

See below from a Customs and Border Protection post:

“As of July 1, 2014, U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began using a new secure blue ink for many of its secure stamps. The older secure red ink will be retired and no longer used by USCIS on the effective date.

USCIS stamps with secure blue ink:

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Parole Stamp
  • Temporary I-551 Alien Documentary Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) Stamp
  • Refugee Stamp (Section 207)
  • Asylum Stamp (Section 208)
  • Initial / Replacement I-94 Stamp

USCIS will continue to use regular black ink on the following stamps:

  • Approval Stamp (Applications Received)
  • Denial Stamp (Applications Received)
  • Director’s Signature Stamp (Certificates of Naturalization, Certificates of Citizenship)
  • Other USCIS similar documents”


Ban the Box Measures — Overview of Measures to Remove the Criminal History Question on Job Applications

Posted in Background Check

Roy Maurer from the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) has written a good article entitled Ban-the-Box Movement Goes Viral which describes Ban the Box measures nationwide.  These measures impact private and public employers during the recruitment and hiring process and therefore must be considered as a part of a company’s overall hiring policies and procedures.  Read the article by clicking here.

New Ban the Box Measure for Employers in New Jersey and Best Practices

Posted in Background Check, Criminal History Records

New Jersey is the latest state to enact a ban the box measure applicable to employers.  Meaning, employers cannot ask about a job applicant’s criminal history on the initial job application.

Governor Chris Christie signed The Opportunity to Compete Act (A1999) on August 11, 2014.  This brings to 13 the numbers of states with a statewide ban the box measure in effect which in some way limits employers ability to ask a job applicant about their criminal history on the initial employment application.

Key provisions of the new law are:

  • The law applies to an employer with 15 or more employees and prohibits that employer from requiring a job applicant to complete any employment application that inquires about the applicant’s criminal record during the initial employment application process.  “Criminal record” includes arrests, detentions, indictments or other formal criminal charges, and any disposition arising from those. (Section 3)
  • With certain exceptions for law enforcement or where required by law, an employer cannot publish any advertisement which explicitly provides that the employer will not consider any applicant who has been arrested or convicted of one or more crimes or offenses (Section 5)
  • Violations of the law carry civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. (Section 9)
  • The law is effective March 1, 2015.

The newly enacted law preempts the Newark ordinance on ban the box, effective March 1, 2015.  Note that this version of the law is not as onerous to employers as prior versions — click here for a prior posting on this issue.

The trend on passage of ban the box measures will continue at the state level and should therefore be considered holistically by companies as they consider their overall hiring and retention practices with respect to the use of criminal history records. Employers need to consider not only state and local ban the box measures, but also potential applicability of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and state consumer protection laws which may limit the use of criminal history records.  Also, note that some states and localities, while not specifically calling it a ban the box measure, for all intents and purposes have a ban the box measure spelled out in state guidance.  One example is Arizona, where the Office of Arizona Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, provides examples of acceptable pre-employment inquiries on an application form, and while not prohibiting inquiring about prior convictions, states that they must be accompanied by a statement that a conviction will not be an absolute bar to employment.  State guidance in Maine, Missouri and Nevada state that inquiries about arrests are unacceptable as they may lead to discrimination.

From a best practice perspective, employers should consider moving the “question” regarding criminal history to further in the hiring process.  Remove it from the job application unless there is an absolute need to know about someone’s criminal history such as a situation where an employer wishes to avail themselves of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups including certain ex-felons hired within one year after their conviction or release from prison.

EEOC Litigation Update — Use of Criminal History Records for Employment Screening

Posted in Background Check, Criminal History Records, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

On July 29th, U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood ruled that Dollar General must give the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hiring records from 2004-2008, and explain to the EEOC the “purported business necessity” for performing criminal background checks on job applicants.  Dollar General had challenged the EEOC’s requests, arguing that the post-2008 data it had provided to the EEOC was enough, and that any information about the potential business necessity of background checks was an affirmative defense that it should not be forced to disclose.  Judge Wood also declined to shift the cost of Dollar General’s production to the EEOC stating, “the general presumption in discovery is that responding parties must bear the expense of complying with discovery requests.”   Dollar General claimed that production of pre-2008 information would require it to expend approximately 160 man-hours and $16,000.

The ruling comes as part of ongoing EEOC litigation against Dollar General which started in June 2013.  The initial Complaint alleges that Dollar General’s criminal background checks have led to a disparate impact on African-American job applicants during the time period from 2004 to present (previously reported).

EEOC v. Dolgencorp, LLC d/b/a Dollar General, No. 2013-cv-04307 (N.D. Ill. July 29, 2014).


The Obama Administration, Legalization and Work Authorization Documents — What it Means for Employers.

Posted in Form I-9

If you are an employer, keep an eye out for executive action by the Obama Administration this summer which will impact your onboarding process and completion of the Form I-9, Employment Eligiblity Verification Form, as well as require you to address how you handle existing employees who may present a valid work authorization document.

With the U.S. Congress in recess for the month of August coupled with the limited congressional calendar, at this time it’s fair to say that comprehensive immigration reform “ain’t happening” this year.  By limited congressional calendar I’m referring to the number of actual days in which Congress is in session and during which time they could take up a major legislative effort such as immigration reform.  However, Congress’ inaction in this area is leading President Obama to move forward on administrative measures.  What does that mean for employers?    Look for some type of executive action by President Obama’s administration which would provide some form of legalization for those currently present in the United States unlawfully.  Something along the lines of what he did for young immigrants in 2012 who were brought to this country as children and who were unlawfully present.   Those individuals were/are eligible for a work permit.  That program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — may be replicated on a larger scale.  That means more individuals who are not authorized to work in the United States (at least not lawfully) may see their immigration status legalized.

All of this could mean two things for employers.  First, you will have a larger pool of indivudals showing a valid work permit (Employment Authorization Document) when completing the Form I-9.  Second, existing employees could come forward seeking to “update” their employment status by presenting a valid work permit.  In the latter situation, this means employers will need to reassess how they handle such in light of their policies and procedures and also in light of the company’s honesty policy.

If you are involved in Human Resources at your company, now is a good time to consider how you would handle the latter situation and whether you need a company policy with respect to a situation where an employee presents him/herself to you with possibly a new name and at the very least a valid work authorization document.   Bear in mind that perhaps, when they completed the Form I-9, they showed a permanent resident card (List A document) or a driver’s license and Social Security card (List B and List C documents).  Now they are presenting a valid work permit issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  What would you do?   I would recommend you have such a conversation with an attorney and we can assist with such at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP.