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Sex Offender Question Answer

Last week, we offered a list of over 800 registered sex offenders in the Eugene-Springfield area. A large number of you requested the list.

One LegalBrief subscriber asked:

"Alan: We hired a sex offender because we were not able to get specifics on the guy . . . We try to hire disadvantage workers, but have had problems. . . What can we legally ask during interviews?"

There are things you can do to screen employees. You must, however, take action carefully or you can inadvertently create problems for your organization.

DO: Do ask potential new employees if they have ever been convicted of a crime. When you do this, you need to inform the candidate that conviction of a felony will not necessarily disqualify them for the position. It is best to do this in a written form with the appropriate wording and the reply signed by the applicant.

DO: Do conduct background checks. There are releases you can have prospects sign that authorize you to contact former employers and release the former employers for any information they provide to you. Former employers can be reluctant to provide candid information. We have created a form that you can have candidates sign that will increase the comfort of former employers so that they are more likely to provide you with the honest information that you need.

DO: Do conduct more extensive background checks as appropriate. The more important the job, the more sensitive the job, the greater the exposure to the general public, the more appropriate it is to conduct extensive background searches. You need to be aware, however, that if you receive information from certain sources and you decide not to hire a candidate based upon that information, there are some federal notice provisions you must follow. We are happy to guide you through this process.

DO: If it is appropriate, do conduct criminal background checks and check the sex offender list. We have the ability to perform these checks for you if you would like.

DO: Do utilize online services to perform preliminary checks. Remember, however, that the online information may or may not be accurate. There are steps you should follow if it appears there are problems. These steps include the notice discussed above and, to be fair to the candidate, an opportunity to set the record straight if the information you have is in any way misleading or inaccurate. In this day of people with similar names, ID theft and clerical errors, this is an important step. One online source of information on registered sex offenders is:

DON'T: Don't ask about arrests. This can be used as evidence of discrimination. It has been argued that since members of some ethnic groups are arrested more frequently than others, asking about arrests can be part of a pattern of impermissible racial discrimination.

DON'T: Don't ask about misdemeanor convictions. Limit your questions to felony convictions.

DON'T: Don't fail to provide the notices required by federal law if you obtain information from third parties that cause you not hire a particular candidate. As stated above, if you discover information that causes you to reject an applicant, we can give you some general guidelines to follow.

The argument can be made that hiring employees is one of the toughest jobs there is. Granted, it is easy to hire just anyone. What is more difficult, however, is hiring the right people for your organization. If you hire right, then the odds of needing to eventually fire that person go down, . . . way down.

As always, we are here to help you with your employment and business law questions. Feel free to contact us at any time by phone, email or mail.__

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