Category Archives: Hiring

Quirky Question #218, Minnesota Ban-The-Box

Question:

We are a private employer in the State of Minnesota and are expanding rapidly.  In years past, we have received hundreds, sometimes thousands, of applications for each position advertised.  In an effort to increase efficiency in the identification of qualified candidates, as well as in preparation for an anticipated round of hiring in the New Year, we plan to update our applications for employment.  We would like to incorporate a number of new questions, including whether the applicant has a criminal history.  Are we prohibited from including this question in our application? Answer→

Quirky Question #204, Unpaid Internships

Question:

I am a Human Resources representative of an independent for-profit company that publishes multiple travel and vacation magazines.  Some of my company’s executives have expressed an interest in hiring interns for next summer and for a possible year-round program, if the program is successful.  Currently, we aren’t sure what we would like our interns to do exactly but one thing is clear – the company wants to save costs by having an unpaid internship program.  I am generally aware of recent litigation involving unpaid internships, but I am not sure what this means for my company and our potential unpaid internship program.  Can you provide some guidance? Answer→

Sexual Harassment and Negligent Hiring, Can Same Conduct Justify Two Claims, Quirky Question # 152

Quirky Question #152

One of our employees complained of sexual harassment. We investigated, though admittedly not as promptly as we should have. We discovered that the harasser had engaged in some seriously problematic conduct. Our investigation also revealed that the harasser had engaged in similar conduct at a prior employer and previously, at our company, with a different employee who had elected not to report.

The victim of the harassment is now threatening to sue us and demanding settlement compensation. Her lawyer suggests that if we do not settle, he will sue us for multiple claims, including both sexual harassment and negligent hiring. (Apparently, his investigation also revealed the past problems.) Is this legit? Can we be sued for multiple claims based on the same conduct?

Answer→

Employee References, Quirky Question # 124

Quirky Question # 124:

We have a long-standing policy of providing only job title and dates of employment when a prospective employer seeks information about one of our current or former employees.  Our policy seems to be “the rule” in the healthcare industry in Alaska.

We know that under Alaska law, we have immunity from liability if we disclose information about a former employee to a prospective employer and act in “good faith” in providing that information.  Despite that immunity, we, and virtually everyone else in the industry, continue the policy of supplying only the most basic information about an employee’s work history and avoid any substantive comments, positive or negative, about the employee’s job performance. This situation concerns us for a number of reasons.  First, as an employer, we are not receiving information about potential new hires that could affect our hiring decisions.  As you are well aware, we have unknowingly hired individuals who turn out to have had “checkered pasts” and we have ended up terminating them for the exact same problems they had with their previous employers.  Second, in not sharing substantive information about job performance with a prospective employer, we are potentially passing on a problematic employee to an unsuspecting employer.  This situation is not good for our industry or for the patients we serve.  Third, it also occurs to us that an employer, or even a patient, could argue that because we have immunity in providing truthful information under Alaska law and fail to provide that information, we may be liable for any harm that a former employee may cause.

Do you have any suggestions on how we can address these concerns and reach a balance that protects us and other similarly situated employers? Answer→

Negligent Credentialing, Quirky Question # 121

Quirky Question # 121:

Our organization is responsible for evaluating the credentials for employees at certain medical facilities.  I have reason to believe that one or more of the individuals we have referred out may have been less qualified than we were led to believe.  Does that present any risks for our organization? Answer→

Unauthorized Job References, Quirky Question # 27

Quirky Question # 27:

We recently terminated our Controller.  We had concerns about the way in which he was managing his department.  Certain funds (not an insubstantial amount) were not accounted for and our firm’s accounting records designed to track various purchases and expenditures were largely inscrutable.  We lost a lot of money due to these problems.  My perception is that he was either incompetent, or, possibly, dishonest.  Despite that fact, we terminated him without cause.

I just learned that several weeks ago, he asked our CFO to write him a job reference and our CFO did so.  None of us in the Law Department had a chance to bless this recommendation before it was provided to our ex-Controller.  I recently obtained a copy of the reference and it’s quite enthusiastic (perhaps an understatement by me).  This situation makes me somewhat uneasy on a couple of levels.  Are my anxieties misplaced or is this something I should worry about? Answer→

Racist Ideas, Quirky Question # 16

Quirky Question # 16:

I am both disappointed and embarrassed to report that one of our employees is an outspoken White Supremacist.  His views are abhorrent to me personally, as well as to nearly all of our company’s employees, both minority and non-minority.  The organization to which our employee belongs advocates violent conduct toward minorities.  Given that fact, should we take any action?  Can we fire this idiot?  (That’s my preference but I admit he has never engaged in any violent conduct in the workplace.)  If he ever engaged in any violent conduct in the workplace, as espoused by the organization to which he belongs, could the company be held liable? Answer→