Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Protecting your company’s good name!

Recently, Radio Shack Corporation made the news when it was learned that CEO, David Edmondson, had falsified his resume. Edmondson had worked his way up within the organization and had been with the company several years before resigning late last week. Apparently, the CEO claimed a college degree he never earned. Could a simple background check have prevented the public embarrassment and organizational disruption that befell this local Fort Worth business icon? Probably.

Often we see a reluctance to conduct routine background checks for executive positions, especially at the senior executive and board levels. I know this first hand, after having spent over 30 years in the corporate world developing and implementing employment background screening programs. I have seen many corporate executives hired without so much as an employment application or a release authorizing an appropriate investigation. As one CEO explained to me, “you just don’t embarrass executives at these levels by asking them to submit to a background check”. Later, this same CEO had to fire her newly hired CFO for discrepancies that a routine background check would have revealed. The notion that higher level executive candidates have somehow been vetted as a result of their tenure within the industry is prevalent. Moreover, this attitude is not just present in the private sector. Witness the controversy over discrepancies in biographical claims made by former FEMA Director Michael Brown - discrepancies that ultimately resulted in his downfall and a certain amount of embarrassment for the Bush Administration.

For any successful company their good name is their leading asset. Risk of loosing your reputation in the industry is only one of the many reasons to conduct executive level background checks – but it is a darn good one! Executive and board level packages should include a credit report, degree verification, local and federal criminal record searches as well as civil record searches. An SEC search should always be conducted for finance or senior accounting executives. The SEC has records of literally thousands of senior executive types who have been sanctioned for cooking their employer’s books. Remember, once the cooking’s done these executives have to work somewhere. It doesn’t have to be for you!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Know How to Detect Illegal Workers!

With the increased focus on terrorism and the need for enhanced internal security, clients have become even more aware or the importance of checking the validity of the INS documents applicants present. Producing counterfeit documents and stealing legitimate documents for alteration has become big business. While falsified documents are becoming increasingly difficult to detect, the potential costs of hiring illegal workers has increased dramatically as the result of September 11. But your risk goes beyond the potential to hire a terrorist. Criminals such as child molestors and other felons often falsify their identity or work eligibility to gain access to children or other assets. Expertise in verifying work eligibility has become a required skill for Human Resource and security managers alike.

Document counterfeiting is an art and the organized crime rings engaged in this activity have perfected their craft. This is one reason why detecting counterfeit INS or other documents has become extremely difficult. In some cases documents are produced on stolen, official stock. Notwithstanding, employers should be aware of these basic detection points:

1) Determine whether the information on the document pertains to the individual presenting the document (if the person appears to be 18 and the identification says 40, there is a problem; if a man presents the document with a woman’s picture, there is also a problem). Look for discrepancies between the information depicted on the documents and the information provided on the employment application.

2)Look for alterations as evidenced by erasures, photograph substitutions, etc. Official documents are never altered, they are replaced.

3) Check to be sure the document is squarely cut.

4) Determine that the printing and engraving is parallel with the edges of the document in addition to being sharp, clear, and unbroken.

Being alert to questionable documents and falsifications on the employment application is only the first step toward hiring safely. There are a number of reasonable, no cost or low cost measures available wich allow employers to screen out illegal workers. In fact, the use of some of these measures is absolutely necessary. Your employment screening agency will be able to advise you which of these measures are appropriate for you.

1) The "SAVE" program, an official ICE initiative, allows employers that conduct business in certain high risk states to immediately determine the eligibility of those they hire. Employers can participate in SAVE themselves, or through an authorized employment screening agency. Applicants are screened through the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

2) Ask your employment screening agency to run a Social Security Number Verification as part of your routine pre-employment screening program. This search will give you a 7 year residence history for your applicant. In many cases this is enough to detect documentation discrepancies. Additionally, this search will help your employment screening agency determine where to conduct court record searches. This search will help identify purchased, stolen or shared SSN's.

3) Verify the Social Security Number through the Social Security Administration after the employee has begun work. If the name and date of birth provided by the employee does not match the Social Security Administration records, a problem most likely exists.

4) Employers can verify work eligibility status by completing INS form G845. Complete instructions for the use of this form can be obtained at http://uscis.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/index.htm. This process is free. Please beware of official looking web sites that charge fees of up to $20.00 to file this form. These sites may appear to be government sites but they are not. Get your information from the aforementioned government site only. Legitimate background screening agencies may charge a small processing fee to file this form on your behalf if you do not have the administrative capability to do so. Ask you employment screening agency to assist if needed.

Remember, contact the local INS Office of Investigations to verify the document number before denying anyone employment based upon documents you suspect to be bogus. Know and follow INS regulations for verifying employment eligibility. If you need further support call your local INS office or the INS National Customer Service Center at 202-514-2000.