Background checks are routine now, but one size does not fit all, explained Paul Wagner, shareholder of Ithaca, New York-based Stoke Roberts & Wagner. Know the different rules for each jurisdiction.
- Beware of process and policy around background checks, where decisions might create discrimination issues related to U.S. Title VIII, or the Fair Housing Act, said David Sherwyn, professor at the Cornell University School, of Hotel Administration.
- Ensure new hires don’t have restrictive covenants from prior employers, said Gregg Gilman, partner with New York-based law firm Davis & Gilbert LLP. Be sure to tell new hires explicitly, “We don’t’ want your former employers’ trade secrets.” “We’re seeing more and more of this kind of litigation,” Gilman said, adding it’s very expensive and disruptive to defend.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s definition of an independent contractor is not the only factor used in determining who is an employee. The courts use a more expansive test when determining who can file Title VII claims, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, Sherwyn said. “The issue here is that people sometimes relax a little bit with contractors,” he said. Even if someone is not directly employed by your organization (i.e. a contractor) that person can still bring litigation against you.
- In light of increased enforcement by the DOL, companies should have protocols in place before classifying independent contractors, Gilman said. Have a written agreement stating the independent contractor is just that. And avoid the “perma-lancer,” or those permanent freelancers, who are more likely to be classified as regular employees, he said.
- Self audit often, said Ilene Berman, a partner with Atlanta-based Taylor English Duma LLP. Annually review any exempt employee with “assistant” in the name as well as sous chefs and sales managers. Those are the positions most frequently targeted by plaintiff attorneys.
- Check local and state laws because exempt in other states does not mean exempt in California, said Nancy Yaffe, partner with Los Angeles-based Fox Rothschild LLP. California is a different beast, she added. You have to analyze employee classifications on a continuous basis.