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April 18, 2005
New Notices and Posters Are Now Required

Federal agencies have been staying up nights, busily revising and devising new ways to require employers to keep their workers fully informed about their rights.

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First, just before its March 10 deadline, the Department of Labor (DOL) published the particular form of notice that must be posted regarding the rights of any employee who performs qualified military service. The poster lists new or extended benefits for U.S. veterans in the realms of education, housing, healthcare coverage, reemployment, and others, under amendments to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. The amendments were specified in the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004, signed last December. You can find the poster by going to our website at http://hr.blr.com/pdf/userraposter.pdf or on DOL's website at http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/poster.pdf. You can also order paper copies at no charge by calling this DOL toll-free number: 1-866-487-2365.

While employers are required only to put up the poster in one or more prominent places where employees are likely to see it, DOL added that organizations "are free to provide the notice to employees" in other ways, such as by handing it, mailing it out, posting it on a company intranet, or distributing it by e-mail.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has chimed in with a requirement for employers. As you probably know, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has been interpreted to include as consumer reporting agencies not only credit trackers and evaluators but also third parties that conduct background checks, explore motor vehicle records, or verify education and credentials. As an employer, then, if you buy a report about a candidate from such an agency, you must notify the candidate immediately upon finding any information that might lead you to reject him or her.

The most onerous of these requirements--the ones related to investigations of suspected employee misconduct--were pulled out from under FCRA by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. But that law also required FTC to update its summary of consumer rights. Referred to as a "pre-adverse action notice," it is the information that you must give any candidate if you receive a report that might lead you to reject the person. You can find the new summary on FTC's website at http://www.ftc.gov/os/2004/11/04119factaappf.pdf.

Tip: Because the focus is on credit reports, the summary says you cannot use negative information more than 7 years old to make a hiring decision. But check laws in your own state regarding what specific information can and can't be used for making employment decisions.

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