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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Smoke 'em if you got 'em? {Marijuana in the workplace}


Florida recently passed a medical marijuana bill becoming the twenty-ninth state to do so. State by state the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes is gaining ground. Eight states have decriminalized marijuana, allowing recreational use. (Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) However, the drug still remains illegal under Federal law. In fact, it remains a schedule I drug alongside opiates and synthetics drugs. The court battles that were expected with the U.S. Justice department after Colorado legalized marijuana have not occurred. The chances of employees being high at work are definitely increasing. Businesses are scrambling to adapt.

A survey of 10,000 California cannabis users revealed 58% of working professionals use daily and 31% consume while working. (Eaze Insights) Some businesses not only allow the consumption of marijuana at work, they encourage it. Those that do say that it helps employees with stress and anxiety promoting longer work days and creativity. These businesses are mainly in the legal cannabis industry or tech fields.

What is at odds are company drug policies and making accommodations for those with disabilities. Companies want to be inclusive but want to maintain standards as well as workplace safety. Medical marijuana users are looking to the American Disabilities Act for protection.

American with Disabilities Act

The American with Disabilities Act  (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. Succinctly, the ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against those who are disabled and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential duties of their job. Illegal drug use is not covered as a disability. However, the ADA does allow for the use of drugs taken under the supervision of a health care professional. Marijuana may be legally prescribed under a state law but remains illegal Federally. Then there’s the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988 requiring that Federal contractors provide drug free workplaces as a condition of receiving a contract.  The ADA states that employers can require employees to conform with the Drug Free Workplace Act. Further, under the ADA drug testing is not considered a medical examination, allowing employers to test for the use of illegal drugs.

With state law in conflict with Federal law regarding the legality of marijuana, tests of the ADA are definitely heading to the courts.

Court challenges

Rights of the employer and the employee vary state by state. As examples: Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who use medical marijuana and must make accommodations, some further citing-unless the employee is under the influence at work. Florida’s recently passed law does not require an employer to accommodate on site medical marijuana use. California passed Proposition 64 in 2016, which allows for the recreational use of marijuana. However, the law protects an employer’s rights to enforce workplace drug policies. Rhode Island’s law protects the employer’s right against accommodations for on site consumption but protects the medical marijuana cardholder against hiring discrimination.

A 2017 Rhode Island court case ruled that employers could not refuse to hire medical marijuana cardholders even though the person would knowingly not pass the employer’s pre employment drug test required of all applicants. (Callaghan v Darlington Fabrics Corp., No. PC-2014-5680, Rhode Island Superior Court, May 23, 2017)

Another twist to the saga is the off site or off duty use of marijuana which may be legal in the specific state but against company policy. In one of the first court cases of off site medical marijuana use the Colorado Supreme Court heard the case of Coats v Dish Network in 2010. The court upheld the firing of a man who failed an employer random drug test for marijuana use. Briefly, in 2010, Dish Network fired a telephone operator who was also a medical marijuana patient after he failed a random drug test. Although the employee claimed that he never used marijuana at work nor was he ever impaired while at work. The case was the first to look at whether off duty marijuana use, legal under Colorado state law, is protected by Colorado’s Lawful Off Duty Activities Statute. The statute states that employers cannot fire employees for doing legal activities while not at work. Although medical marijuana use is legal in Colorado, the court ruled that its use is still illegal under Federal law. The ruling supported employer rights to enforce their drug policies. Since this case, courts in California, Oregon, and Washington have also ruled against employees.

The most recent case regarding this issue occurred in July 2017 and went against the employer. In Barbuto v Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled in favor of an employee to use medical marijuana outside of work. The employee claimed that since they have an ADA qualified disability (Crohn’s disease) the employer must make accommodations for employee to use medical marijuana off duty. The ruling was based on the state’s anti discrimination law. The court rejected the employer’s argument that marijuana is illegal under Federal law and to allow accommodations would be unreasonable.

Maryland

Maryland is still getting going on its version of medical marijuana. The law was passed in 2013 and took effect in 2016. However, there have been legal challenges to the dispensary licensing process that has slowed implementation. Maryland decriminalized possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana in 2014.  Marijuana is still considered illegal but possession of smaller amounts will result in a civil citation rather than arrest. Each year since there have been bills introduced to further decriminalize marijuana. In 2016, a law passed making possession of paraphernalia a civil offense. In 2017, those convicted of marijuana offenses may petition to have their records expunged.

What to do, what to do…

Confused? Don’t feel bad. It’s a tricky topic that is evolving almost monthly. Employer’s need to have hiring policies as well as policies to guide employees. These policies have to be living documents and open to change. Having employees and dealing with human resource issues is difficult, especially for small businesses. The rules are constantly changing. There will always be challenges to any policy or rule. You have to stay ahead of the curve and aware of what’s taking place.

See the blog archive for other posts regarding workplace discrimination.
Ban the Box update August 2016



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Skimmers


We’re not talking about water bugs, tools to clean your pool, or skipping rocks. These skimmers steal your financial identity. The news had reported that skimmers were discovered on a local gas station’s pumps. This particular station consistently has problems with pump maintenance and just the overall condition of the pumps seems to be “beat up”.  It was not a surprise that skimmers had been installed. Not that the owners had any involvement, but meaning that the owners/operators are not paying attention to the condition of the pumps. Or what is going on at the pumps. This station is also known to allow third party vendors to sell their goods on the lot and accost customers at the pumps. Big personal security peeve-Do not approach me while I’m using a gas pump or ATM. These little things add up and go back to not being surprised. The condition and environment of a business can be both a determent and invitation to criminals.

Not everyone may know exactly what a skimmer is or the extent of the problem. I thought some background might help us from becoming victims. A little education goes a long way.

Skimmers

So what are skimmers?  Credit card skimmers or skimmers are electronic devices that are attached to machines with credit card slots. Mostly ATM’s or gas pumps. The parasite device usually fits over top of the original slot so that the customer believes they are inserting their card into the machine’s card slot. When in reality the card is swiping through the criminal’s device. The device retrieves the credit card data from the magnetic strip and stores it until the criminal retrieves the device. Newer, more sophisticated devices attach internally to the machine’s card slot or transmit the data via Bluetooth.

Although criminals can make use of debit card information, it is much easier with the associated PIN. To gather this information there will also be a camera attached somewhere to video the customer entering the PIN on the keypad. Or a fake keypad accompanies the slot reader and records the keystrokes. Most times the operation of the machine is not affected. If the machine fails to work, you may have already become a victim.

History of skimmers

The idea of the use of credit card skimmers was mostly urban myth. In the late 1990’s, we were just getting use to personal computers, let alone tiny devices that could steal data from a magnetic strip. Nobody believed that such things existed or could work.

The skimmer myth also gained notoriety in restaurants. Wait staff would be issued a small skimming device to carry with them. They covertly slide the card through the device to collect the data from the magnetic strip on the way to cash register. The device holds all of the data until the end of the shift when they pass off device and are paid for their efforts. The victims then start seeing charges on their cards.

If you think about it, a restaurant is the only place you hand a stranger your credit card and let them walk out of sight.

Gizmodo.com featured a good 2014 article on skimming history, The Evolution of ATM Skimmers 

Here is a synopsis:
2002- A CBS report confirmed the existence of skimmers when they reported devices that could record the names, account numbers and other identifying information from credit card magnetic stripes.
2008-Naples Police Department investigated a rudimentary device jammed over an ATM's actual reader. The thief inserted a "micro camera" under a plastic sheet to capture the victims' keypad strokes. This was one of the first times a device had been recovered.
2009-Skimming really takes off as the devices, in different shapes and sizes began being discovered on ATM’s.
Over the next few years the technology progressed. The Internet allowed for distribution networks to manufacture devices and kits that were identical to the machine the criminal hoped to crack. 
            2011-ATM manufacturers began cracking down on skimming by installing anti-skimming devices on their machines. These consisted of translucent, circular casings over the card reader, which the criminals quickly learned to replicate.
2012-Skimmers become too small to be detected. Some being paper thin and inserted into the card slot.
2013-Gas pumps became targets.  A series of scams in Oklahoma saw thieves take home $400,000 from a chain of Murphy's gas stations before they were eventually caught. The thieves used a card skimmer and fake PIN pad overlay to obtain the necessary information. Even more eye opening, these skimmers used Bluetooth enabled devices that sucked power from the pumps themselves allowing them to run indefinitely, and allow remote access to the data. ; once it was installed, the thieves would never need touch the skimmer again.

How it works

The devices used come in all shapes and sizes. Most fit over the card slot. Some actually are big enough to replace the machine face. The closer to resembling the original card slot the less chance of being detected. Home 3D printers are making these deceptions a lot easier. As with everything else electronic, these devices are getting smaller everyday. Some skimming devices are so small and thin, they slide inside of the card slot itself. Newer devices attach to the internal wiring of the card slot. These are mostly used on gas pumps. How do criminals get inside the pumps you ask? Universal keys are available that open the pump faces exposing the card readers. The criminal will have one or more accomplices to block camera/attendant views while they install the device. Victims never know what hit them.

Once collected, the numbers are used in different ways depending on the criminal. Some are sold on the Internet for around $50 a piece (+/-).  Some criminals use the collected numbers to make counterfeit cards, which they use to purchase items, usually electronics, for resell. (Similar to Melissa McCarthy in the movie Identity Thief) The more advanced organizations use the cards to purchase gas. They drive around in specially outfitted passenger vehicles filling up covert gas tanks. This gas is then off loaded into tanker trucks and sold to less than scrupulous gas stations. 

There are thousands of iterations of card skimmers. If you’d like to see what they look like just search “credit card skimmers” in Google images.

Protection

Criminals and the technology they use are getting more sophisticated. The Internet provides enough intelligence that consumers can protect themselves. But criminals are sharing information as well. Once law enforcement or consumers defeat one strategy, criminals learn and improve their methods. So what can you can do.

Some gas stations are installing seals to cover the seams that hold the payment box. A broken seal is obvious, but multiple seals overlaid is a clue and, of course, enterprising thieves can replicate seals. Another clue can be the condition of the machine in which you are about to slide your card. If the payment box area is not maintained or appears to have been forced open, be wary. Inspect the card slot. Give it a tug. If anything is out of sorts or the slot comes off in your hand report it to the station and the police.

If your transaction attempt doesn’t work, don’t keep trying. Stop and perform an inspection. The skimmer may be causing a malfunction.

Some habits to get in to help protect your card security:
  • Use Pumps/ATMs near attendants. Less chance they were compromised.
  • Pay inside
  • Pause before you swipe, inspect car slot, look for security seal
  • Feel for difficulty inserting or sliding card
  • Wiggle slot housing. Don’t have to break it. Criminals aren’t going to install anything that takes time or is permanent
  • Check nearby pumps, compare slots for differences
  • Guard the card number
  • Use Apple/Samsung/Android pay whenever possible
  • Check accounts regularly

Any suspicions report to the business owner, the police, and the issuing bank.

This post focused mainly on gas pumps. Another area of concern is the new style parking meters that allow you to swipe at the meter. Seems like easy targets. Get back to you on those.

Please feel free to share. See the blog archive for more articles on personal security


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Employee implants



In 1985, Dr. Hannis Stoddard invented an injectable microchip based pet recovery system. In the last decade Hollywood picked up on the theme by injecting humans with microchips. Who knows what goes on in the secret world of the military and espionage? This week a Wisconsin company made the news when it announced that employees had been offered microchip implants to use as a method for building access and food purchases. This is something that’s happening and is going to change the workplace.

What are Microchips?

Microchips are rice-sized radio frequency identification devices that use passive Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to transmit data when held a few inches away from readers. Passive meaning that the microchips hold data that the reader recognizes but the devices cannot receive data. The devices were popularized in the 1990’s for recovery use in pets, being injected under the skin in the neck/shoulder area.

The technology was tested for office uses in 1998 when British scientist Kevin Warwick experimented with microchip implants to open doors, and switch on lights. The technology has been experimented with since that time for commercial and medical uses with little success or popularity.

In January 2015, the Swedish company Epicenter began offering voluntary implants to its employees. The chips are used as a replacement for magnetic key cards to access secure areas and for use as payment in company stores. For human use in this manner, the microchip is inserted in the fleshy area between the thumb and forefinger. Three Square Market, a Wisconsin technology company, have partnered with the same Swedish company who conducted the inserts for Epicenter and plans on using the technology in the same manner.  This is the first time the technology has been used in a broad setting tagging workers.

Microchipping issues

All new technology brings concerns of privacy and security, which begets legal debate and regulation. In this instance the technology also raises religious concerns.

According the National Conference of State Legislatures, nineteen states have some law referencing microchipping. Five of those states (California, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin) have specific laws prohibiting the mandatory implantation of microchips. Some states currently use tag/bracelet based RFID technology to track prisoners. After some recent high profile escapes there has been legislative debate to use tracking implants on prisoners.

Mark Gasson is a British scientist who is a proponent of enhancing humans through the use of implanted technology. In 2009, Gasson inserted a microchip into his own hand and went on to demonstrate that not only could the device be hacked but could receive a computer virus. This and other experiments raise security concerns. Implanted microchips have the potential to store personal and health data. As with any data storage device, the implants would have to be protected against hacking.

Wearable technology is not new to the workplace. Watch like and other devices are used to track employees throughout their day. The November 2016 post, Employee monitoring, gave an overview of wearable tech in the workplace. The concerns raised were legality of employer access to health data as well as monitoring outside of the workplace. With implanted devices the concerns are the same except in this instance the employee cannot be separated from the monitoring device.

Another issue is of a religious concern. Christians believing that this type of technology is another step closer to the writings in the book of Revelation. The EEOC has ruled in favor of Christian employees in past cases where a company has implemented fingerprint scanning.

The few people I've spoken to have said no way. The Swedish company, Epicenter, has parties celebrating an employee's decision to be implanted. The Wisconsin company, Three Square Market, already has fifty employees agreeing to the implants.

Employers considering this or any type of employee tracking devices should do considerable research. Definitely work with an attorney to develop policies and updates to employee handbooks.
Technology is ever changing our world. Whenever any new piece of technology or approach to employee monitoring is introduced there will be legal issues. How the devices are deployed, what they are used for, how data is collected and stored, and what the data is used for will all present legal challenges.

George Orwell is probably very happy.

Read other posts regarding employee monitoring and privacy. Please feel free to share and like.
Employee monitoring November 2016

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions



During my time providing investigative services to businesses the same questions regarding pre employment screenings and background checks were repeatedly asked. To address those questions, we developed a list of frequently asked questions, which are shared below. I hope this will help answer questions you may have and guide you through the hiring process.

·      What are an employer’s legal obligations?
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). As of October 1, 1997 the FCRA requires that all employers who request background checks for pre employment screening purposes have a written consent from the applicant. 
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. Employers cannot reject or fire qualified individuals who have criminal records when the criminal history has no bearing on the individual’s fitness or ability to perform the job.
  •  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC. The EEOC is clear in its position on employers’ use of criminal background checks for employee hiring and retention: “Using such records as an absolute measure to prevent an individual from being hired could limit the employment opportunities of some protected groups and thus cannot be used in this way.”
  • National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was enacted in 1935. The Act allows for the National labor Relations Board to enforce laws that give employees the right to act together for improved pay and working conditions, even if they are not part of a union. 
·      What is a “National” record check?
  • We were always asked to conduct national criminal record checks. This request is difficult to explain because most people’s perception of the criminal justice system is marred by television. Simply put, there is no “national” database that houses criminal records. Records of arrests and adjudications are kept at the local courthouses and county jurisdictions. Conducting a non-law enforcement national background check would be better said as a “nationwide” check. To obtain a thorough picture of a person’s criminal past, all levels of government entities maintaining criminal records should be searched. Read our post "National" record checks, which further explains the subject.
If there is no national database, how do you get the most detailed information?
  • Look for companies that search both public and commercial databases within the Federal, State, and County jurisdictions. Analyzing the information to ensure the utmost accuracy for your screenings.

·      What is “Ban the box”?
  • Ban the box is national grassroots movement to remove the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime” from employment applications. Many State and local jurisdictions have passed laws removing the question from government employment applications.

·      What is Bright line hiring?
  •  “Bright line” is a clearly defined rule or standard, generally used in law, composed of objective factors, which leaves little or no room for varying interpretation. The purpose of a bright-line rule is to produce predictable and consistent results in its application. 
  • A Bright line hiring example would be to not hire someone with a criminal record. Bright line hiring practices are dangerous for any business, as you may have violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or EEOC guidelines.
·      Can expunged records be located?
  • Sometimes. The legal term “expunged” has different definitions in different states. Some allow for the records to be sealed and treat the case as it never happened. Some change the conviction to “dismissed”, but the other details of the case are the same. In Maryland, it means to remove from public inspection. 
  • Although records are expunged, they are filed somewhere.  Third party vendors purchase data from government entities before records are expunged. They then resell that data. Although records get expunged, they remain active through third party vendors.
·      Why should I do pre employment checks?
  • Avoid the expense of making a bad hire. Bad hires can cost as much as three times the salary of the job in question
  •  Reduce liability: Putting current employees at risk by placing a violent person in the workplace.
  • Find those with a propensity for violence. Workplace violence has been found to make up 18% of all crime.
  •  Reduce of workplace accidents
  •  Reduce resume puffing. One-third of resumes have some degree of puffery
  •  Aid the applicant. During the process other names associated with the applicants’ social security number are regularly discovered. This information may help the applicant thwart identity theft.
·      Why can’t I just do checks myself?
  • You can and many do. The Internet is a very powerful tool. The questions are: Do you have time? Do you know where to look? Do you know how to decipher the information you do find? Are you sure you are looking at the correct person?
See our blog archive and topic categories for more on this topic.
FCRwhat? March 2015

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Public Wi-Fi for dummies


Traveling and staying in a hotel I started to use the Internet via a Smartphone. I paused, thinking data usage might be tight so better use Wi-Fi. Logging into the hotel’s Wi-Fi I paused again, knowing better than to use unsecured public Wi-Fi. Thinking I was only checking the Internet for dining options, it was safe to use pubic Wi-Fi for that purpose. Then the browser failed to load, with a warning that the server was an unsecure network. Thank you Google or Apple or whomever installed a safety feature to moderate our temptations. The tricky thought occurred to turnoff the Wi-Fi, log into the account and then switch on the Wi-Fi. After some research it was revealed that this technique would still leave you vulnerable. After switching the connectivity your phone (the app or website) would renegotiate the connection, although seamless to the user, your login information would still be exchanged and visible.

Decided to look into the pitfalls and dangers of public Wi-Fi. A simple search returned many articles on public Wi-Fi risks. Lots of experts explaining how easy it is compromise networks and for unsuspecting users to fall victim. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops have become appendages to our busy Internet connected lifestyles. Data usage has become the new “minutes” and consumers are looking for ways to save on usage and ultimately money. Public Wi-Fi is a common way to cut back on data usage. However, there is risk to online security.

Risks

Norton reported in 2013 that 68% of people using public Wi-Fi were victims of cyber crime. The Norton Cyber Security Insights Report announced that in 2015 21% of Americans had their email hacked and 12% had their financial data stolen after shopping online. Millennials are a growing victim demographic with 40% falling prey to cyber crime in 2015. Although one of the more tech savvy age groups, Millennials are more open to sharing logons and passwords that compromise their online security.

When you leave the house you are still connected. Whether you login to your accounts via the cellular network or Wi-Fi, nothing is 100% secure. While 4G cellular networks are encrypted and are far, far better than an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection, there have been incidents of cellular networks being hacked. Although the effort is usually much greater than most cyber criminals are willing to make. Public Wi-Fi is a much easier target. Both due to security weaknesses and the plethora of devices being used on those networks.

Breaches

Most public Wi-Fi breaches are through man-in-the-middle attacks. Hackers place themselves either between two victims or between the user and the app and eavesdrop on the transmissions being sent back and forth. It is important when using apps and websites in public to ensure you are logging into the correct site or app as hackers can spoof those and trick users to logging into the hacker’s site.

Just because you need a password to login to public Wi-Fi doesn’t mean it is secure. It just means that there is an authentication step before you can access the router.  Additionally, the person setting up the Wi-Fi may not have installed all the available security features.  The hacker may be logging into the same network as you, giving them access to your transmissions.

When you are browsing, HTTPS is usually a good thing to look for. It means the data transfer between your device and the website is secure-on their end. There is still a possibility that you were hacked on your end. It’s like having a phone conversation but you have your phone on speaker.
The most secure networks offer end-to-end encryption. Financial apps usually are encrypted. Most big name apps/browsers/email/social media are probably secure from man in the middle attacks as the data being exchanged is encrypted, the session can be viewed but not the data. However, we’ve all read about the big guys getting hacked. Better safe than sorry later.

Reduce your risk

Some simple rules to live by while using your mobile devices in public.
When using any network that is not your own, consider it unsecure.
Never use public Wi-Fi to login to anything that requires a password. After using any network that is not your own it is wise to change passwords.
When you do use hotel or public Wi-Fi, make sure you are, in fact, connecting to the hotel's Wi-Fi and not hacker’s site. Look-alike Wi-Fi signals use names similar the hotel or business.  If you’re not comfortable, ask before logging on.
Keep your device OS up to date.
Use COMMON SENSE.

Review our blog archive for other articles cyber security:


Monday, June 19, 2017

License to drone


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…a… a drone. That distinctive buzz. That speck of an object in the sky, hovering, but moving slightly side to side. The popularity of flying quad copters or drones has been growing in recent years. Everyone’s heard their use for package delivery, surveillance, but they are fast becoming popular for small business promotion and an enjoyable hobby for those interested in remote control flight. As the enthusiasm grows so do sales. The FAA expects the 2.5 million drones sold in 2016 to grow to 13 million by 2020. Commercial operators could purchase another 10 million.

FAA Regulation

Popularity translates to higher percentages of a drone encounter. They are being flown in congested areas that provides for the opportunity for interference with air traffic, power lines, buildings, and crowd gatherings. Most of the larger drones have the ability to attach cameras. Which brings up the issue of privacy. Congress, state legislatures, and the FAA are scrambling to get a handle on regulating drones without trampling on citizen rights and the hobby level user. To ensure the safe operation of drones in regards to nefarious use and poor decisions the FAA released Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) regulations in 2015. These rules for drone operation were updated in 2016 and include licensing and registration requirements.

Since the requirement for drone registration 760,000 hobbyists registered approximately 1.5 million drones. However, the registration rule was recently challenged in court. The rule required hobbyists with drones weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds to register their drones with the FAA. On May 19, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. ruled that the FAA could not make that requirement as it violated the FAA’s own Modernization and Reform Act passed in 2012. The plaintiff successfully argued that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft”.  The FAA is considering its appeal options, one of which is Congress taking action on the issue.

FAA licensing requirements

So. Who needs a drone license? First, the difference between recreational purposes and commercial. The FAA defines recreational as flying for enjoyment- not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire. If you’re being compensated the use is probably under the commercial category in the eyes of the FAA.

From the FAA-
Recreational flyers are not required to obtain a pilot certificate but may if desired. If your drone is more 0.55 pounds it must be registered with the FAA.
Basic operating rules are:
  • Fly at or below 400 feet
  •  Keep your UAS within sight
  • Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
  •   Never fly over groups of people
  •  Never fly over stadiums or sports events
  •  Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
  •  Never fly under the influence
  • Be aware of airspace requirements
To fly commercially there are different levels and requirements. Basically, the pilot must be licensed and the drone must be registered.
Commercial pilots:
  • Must be at least 16 years old
  • Must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test
  • Must be vetted by TSA
Commercial operating requirements:
  • Class G airspace
  • Must keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight)
  • Must fly under 400 feet
  • Must fly during the day
  • Must fly at or below 100 mph
  • Must yield right of way to manned aircraft
  • Must NOT fly over people
  •  Must NOT fly from a moving vehicle

This was a synopsis of FAA requirements. Visit the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)-FAQ site for complete details.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Languages spoken?


As a customer of almost any business there is a high probability that you will interact with someone who speaks in accented English or speaks little English. As an employer, there is also a high probability that your job applicants will speak in accented English. Customers should to be patient and polite; Employers need to be cautious of not violating the law.

A colleague had a difficult time placing an in person order with a store employee who spoke accented English. They asked me if it was illegal for employers not to hire people who had difficulty clearly communicating with customers. The short answer is, yes. Any employer that discriminates against an applicant for their accent or attempts to establish an English only policy without establishing a business necessity would more than likely be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers cannot use English only policies to discriminate against employees or prospective employees due to their accent or lack of English skills.

A lot of small business owners that I’ve encountered do not have documented hiring policies. They have a basic understanding of hiring laws, but still hire who they “like” with little documentation. Establishing a hiring component such as business necessity can be laborious for small businesses.

The Equal Employment opportunity Commission explains language discrimination as follows.
Discrimination Based on Accent
Treating employees differently because they have a foreign accent is lawful only if accent materially interferes with being able to do the job.
  • Generally, an employer may only base an employment decision on accent if effective oral communication in English is required to perform job duties and the individual's foreign accent materially interferes with his or her ability to communicate orally in English.
  • Jobs that may require effective oral communication in English include teaching, customer service, and telemarketing to English speaking clients.
  •   If a person has an accent but it is able to communicate effectively and be understood in English, he or she cannot be discriminated against.
Speak English Only Rules
The EEOC has stated that rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace violate the law unless the employer can show that they are justified by business necessity. 
  •  A rule requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace at all times, including breaks and lunch time, will rarely be justified.
  •  An English-only rule should be limited to the circumstances in which it is needed for the employer to operate safely or efficiently.
  •   Circumstances in which an English-only rule may be justified include: communications with customers or coworkers who only speak English; emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety; cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency.
  •  Even if there is a need for an English-only rule, an employer may not take disciplinary action against an employee for violating the rule unless the employer has notified workers about the rule and the consequences of violating it.
The complete EEOC pamphlet on immigrant rights can be found at
EEOC: Immigrants' Employment Rights Under FederalAnti-Discrimination Laws
State laws may also apply to these hiring situations. Employers should always consult their employment law attorney before establishing any hiring requirements.

See the blog archive for other posts about hiring.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Students say, “Ban the box!”


NOTE: This post was originally published on April 6, 2016 and has been updated with new information.            

On May 26, 2017, Maryland Governor Hogan vetoed a bill that would have barred Maryland colleges from inquiring about criminal history on admission applications. Governor Hogan reasoning the bill, in its current state, was too restrictive on schools and jeopardized student safety.

If passed, Maryland would have been the first state to prohibit all colleges and universities from including questions about criminal history on their applications. Admissions offices could still inquire about criminal convictions of accepted applicants but could not withdraw an offer of admission based on the answer.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Many employment applications include the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime”.  For the past several years there has been a movement to have the question removed. Every year legislatures at the State, County, and City level take up the issue of whether or not to “Ban the Box”.  Advocates want job applicants to be considered for their qualifications and not rejected based on criminal past. Should the box be banned, February 2013
Currently there are 100 cities and counties that have passed legislation to have the question removed from their respective government employment applications. Twenty-one states have also passed laws-California (2013, 2010), Colorado (2012), Connecticut (2010), Delaware (2014), Georgia (2015), Hawaii (1998), Illinois (2014, 2013), Maryland (2013), Massachusetts (2010), Minnesota (2013, 2009), Nebraska (2014), New Jersey (2014), New Mexico (2010), New York (2015), Ohio (2015), Oklahoma (2016), Oregon (2015), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2015), Virginia (2015), and Wisconsin (2016). Seven of those states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island) have removed the question from private employment applications as well.
            The Common App college admissions application has over 500 member education institutions and has been in use since the late 1990’s. Since the 2006-2007 admissions cycle the Common App has also included a question as to whether or not the applicant had been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. The applicant answers yes or no and is required to submit a separate explanation if there is a conviction.
            On March 29, 2016, students from New York University (NYU) staged a sit-in to demand that the school stop receiving the criminal question data from the Common App. Although no immediate changes were made, the NYU administration and the CEO of the Common App met with the students. Much like the advocates for employment purposes, college applicants want to be considered first on their merits and not excluded because of criminal convictions.
            As the Ban the Box movement has steadily gained traction in employment circles, you can expect the issue to continue be brought up on college campuses as well.

See our blog archive for other posts relating to Ban the Box:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hiring in the millennial age



People between ages 18 to 34 are in the millennial generation and were projected to number 75.3 million in 2015, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69). That generational group fills the job pool and is highly sought after. Generational differences mean you need to adjust your job screening process. Below is an excerpt from an article posted on Society for Human Resource Managers, written by Angela Preston, which explains some legal issues you should be aware of when screening Millennials.
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Hiring this growing generation of workers introduces a whole new set of legal challenges to the HR department, and the background screening process is one of those challenges. These five legal lessons should provide a good starting place for making your screening program more compliant and Millennial-friendly.

Social Media Searches
Millennials love their social networks. In fact, social media in many ways defines this generation. Many have grown up with Facebook accounts and can’t remember a world without the Internet or even without Twitter. They chronicle their lives on Instagram. Some say Millennials share too freely and fail to appreciate the impact that social media posts can have on their careers. The oversharing can be tempting for hiring managers who are eager to tap into the wealth of online information…. employers are more likely to stumble upon protected class information that could get them into hot water. Employers need to make sure that any social media screening is done by those who are familiar with the legal risks—particularly anti-discrimination and privacy laws.

Digital Natives and Age Discrimination
Millennials are not direct targets for age discrimination. But here’s the rub—the hiring criteria you are using to attract Millennials might be at the expense of those older 40-somethings who are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and other similar state laws. Another example is the term “digital native.” It’s the new code for a recent graduate and it’s popping up in ads where companies are looking for a person who was born and raised in the digital age. In other words, Millennials. Legal experts agree that pre-screening for digital natives is a form of thinly veiled age discrimination.

Driving Records
Apparently Millennials don’t like to drive. According to AARP, Millennials drive around 25 percent less than their counterparts did just eight years ago. If a licensed driver with a clean driving record is your target, you might actually be eliminating a significant number of prospective Millennial applicants. That might not be a big deal, but like all parts of a pre-employment background check, you want to make sure that the information you are seeking is relevant to the job at hand. Before you run a motor vehicle report (MVR) on an applicant, you should be asking yourself why? Is a clean driving record a bona fide job requirement?

Credit
Millennials, more than any other generation, tend to rely less on traditional bank loans and credit cards. They are more likely to use cash, and as a group they actually spend less than Generation X or Baby Boomers. They tend to borrow less, which some experts think is related to their large amount of student loan debt. Credit is already a slippery slope, with many states prohibiting use of credit for pre-employment screening.

Job History and Verifications
Millennials job hop. According to Data Facts blog, “a whopping 91% of them don’t expect to stay at a job for longer than 3 years.” They are mobile, more likely to move to large urban areas and are less motivated by pay. Their priorities are different from those who came before them and will move on in order to find more meaningful work.

Also about millennials affect on the work force is our March 2017 post Customer service in the millennial age


Monday, May 8, 2017

What’s in your wallet?



The salary question

The movement to remove the criminal history question from employment applications has been steadily gaining popularity over the last several years. Ban the Box (referring to the checkbox asking if an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime) laws have been enacted by cities, counties, and states. Most affect only government applications but a few apply to the private sector. They are currently 26 states and 150 cities and counties. Maryland is one of those states and the laws applies to state government applications only. While it is not against federal employment laws (past bills in Congress have failed) the EEOC strongly encourages employers not to base hiring decisions based on the applicant’s criminal history.

Another interview question under scrutiny is the salary question-“What is your current and/or most recent salary?” Proponents feel that asking the question will help correct salary disparities by not basing offers on past pay. Arguing that pay should be offered for the position, based on market values, not the person. Employers feel that the new laws are more government intrusion that affects hiring and hurts their overall business.

The attention to this question comes from the equal pay for women campaign, which is gaining popularity on political platforms. Women earn roughly 80 cents per dollar compared to men based on information form the U.S. Census bureau. This pay disparity tends to follow a woman throughout her career when new salary offers are based on current or past history.

Pay equity laws

As with Ban the Box, once the wave starts rolling it does not take long for cities and states to follow suit. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists 43 states with equal pay laws that prohibit discriminating between the sexes. However, Massachusetts was the first to enact a law that specifically prohibits paying a woman less than a man.

In August 2016, the Governor of Massachusetts signed into law the Pay Equity Act, which will take effect July 1, 2018. Under this law it will be illegal for employers: to pay men and women differently for comparable work, screen applicants based on past salaries, contact the applicant’s former company reference salary, and restricting employees from discussing their salaries.

After Massachusetts big cities quickly passed laws. Philadelphia became the first to enact such a law, which was to take effect in January 2017, but is delaying implementation awaiting a federal ruling on a petition to block the law. In April 2017, New York City barred employers from inquiring about salary information.

This issue is gaining attention at the federal level as well. In September of 2016 the Pay Equity for All Act of 2016 was introduced to the United States House of Representatives and is still in committee. The original proposal would make it illegal to screen prospective employees based on their previous wages or salary histories; ask for previous wages or salary; or fire or retaliate against any current or prospective employee because the employee opposed disclosing salary information.

Maryland’s equal pay act took effect October 1, 2016 when The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2016 was enacted. The law applies to employers of any size and extends protections to gender identity as well as sex and bars employers from prohibiting employees from discussing or disclosing wages or those of another employee. The full law can be found at Maryland Equal Pay for Equal Work 
  
See our blog archive for more Ban the box and hiring discrimination posts: