The four article series, “In the Workplace 2016,” written by the Wright Lindsey Jennings Labor & Employment Team and published by Arkansas Businesslast week, examined key trends for employers and the workplace in 2016.
Workplace Violence Moves to the Forefront
With the shootings in San Bernardino and Colorado Springs dominating the news, employers are justifiably asking questions about what can be done to make the workplace as safe as reasonably possible. Part of that includes what to do if a business is faced with an active shooter.
Has anyone at your business seriously thought about what to do if there is an active shooter on premises? All sorts of questions should be covered, including:
- How should an employee report an active shooter situation?
- How would you notify your other employees of an active shooter situation?
- Should your employees evacuate or shelter in place?
- Who is responsible for calling the police?
- How would you train your employees on the emergency plan?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a general checklist for developing emergency action plans. The Department of Homeland Security has training information available.
Most employers have emergency action plans that cover fires and tornadoes. Unfortunately, it might be time to talk about what to do when a workplace violence incident occurs.
—Regina A. Young
The Move to ‘Ban the Box’ on Employment Applications
Should employers be forbidden from inquiring about the criminal records of prospective employees in the early stages of the hiring process? Some state and local governments think so, and they are part of a movement to “ban the box” on initial employment applications.
The “box” is a shorthand reference to the inquiry, sometimes appearing in the form of a box to be checked, as to “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” The initiative is not intended to prevent employers from learning about and considering the criminal history of an applicant, but delays the inquiry until later in the hiring process.
Proponents of the trend contend this gives applicants a more fair chance to make their qualifications known. Opponents of the proposals contend that the “ban the box” movement could place employers at greater risk for claims of negligent hiring and failing to keep workplaces safe.
The issue is significant because some estimates that as many as 70 million Americans (about one in four adults) have a criminal record. Recently, President Obama directed the federal Office of Personnel Management to “ban the box” in the early stages of the federal employment process.
The move is intended to “delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process.” The policy does not apply to federal contractors.
According to the National Employment Law Project, more than 100 cities and counties, as well as 19 states, have adopted some form of “ban the box” policies. Some government entities prohibit inquiries about conviction in the initial application for public agency employment; some apply to private parties. Some private employers, like Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have adopted their own policies against inquiring into criminal records early in the job application process.
While ban-the-box legislation has not been adopted in Arkansas, private sector employers would be well advised to monitor the trend — especially those who do business with public entities.
—Troy A. Price