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Candidates sue LinkedIn over lost job opportunities

LinkedIn is facing a class action lawsuit in California over its premium “reference search” function that allows employers to identify and approach applicants’ former colleagues.

Resourcing professionals who pay for premium LinkedIn account status are able to find people in their network who have worked at an organisation at the same time as a job applicant. Without informing them, the recruiter can then contact those individuals to ask about the candidates’ previous employment.
Four LinkedIn members, Tracee Sweet, Lisa Jaramillo, James Ralston and Tiffany Thomas, have filed a lawsuit claiming that the system violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a 1970 law enacted amid concern of potential misuse of consumer credit history.

According to the “Premium Help Centre” on LinkedIn, “a reference search locates people in your network who can provide reliable feedback about a job candidate or business prospect. You’ll see a list of people who have worked at the same company during the same time period as the member you would like to learn more about.”

Court documents outline that in July 2014, one of the plaintiffs, Tracee Sweet, submitted her CV for a role in the hospitality industry through LinkedIn. She received a LinkedIn notification that the general manager of the potential employer had viewed her profile.

Shortly thereafter, the general manager contacted Sweet on email, and later that week interviewed her. At the end of the interview, Sweet told the general manager to let her know if he wanted a list of references.

No references were sought from Sweet, but she was informed that she had got the job. However, the company later called her back and said it had changed its mind and she would not be hired.

When Sweet inquired as to why, the general manager told her that the company had checked some references and, based on those references, had changed its mind. The other plaintiffs also had similar experiences.

A LinkedIn spokesman said the company takes member privacy very seriously and intends to fight the lawsuit. He told the New York Times: “A reference search, which is only available to premium account holders, simply lets a searcher locate people in their network who have worked at the same company during the same time period as a member they would like to learn more about.”

Susie Munro, senior employment law editor at XpertHR, said: “In the UK, many employers have a policy of giving references that set out limited factual information only, such as dates of employment and positions held.

“An employer might want to set out clear rules to ensure that its staff do not go further than this, if contacted for a reference via LinkedIn reference search. If staff are allowed to give such references, it should be made clear that the reference is provided in a personal capacity rather than on behalf of the organisation.”

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Recruitment and dismissal in Europe what employers need to know

Recruitment and dismissal can be problematic for businesses, particularly when employers are unaware of the legal consequences of their actions. When a company has a presence in multiple jurisdictions across Europe, navigating the myriad legal requirements can be daunting. Although there are various employment laws that apply at the European level, the implementation of those laws can vary significantly from country to country. Ann Bevitt and Caroline Stakim from law firm Morrison & Foerster explain.

Legislation around background checks, employment documentation and terminating relationships, to name just a few, can require a different approach in each member state. Understanding these differences is crucial for any successful international business, especially considering the extensive financial costs and management time associated with legal disputes.

Background checks

The journey begins before even hiring an individual. Background checks involve the collection and processing of personal data and, quite often, sensitive personal data. In this case, the principles of data protection are paramount. Helpfully, across Europe, there is some degree of similarity, but not in all cases.

Requesting reference letters from former employers is commonplace across Europe and generally forms part of the recruitment process. However, there are exceptions. In Estonia, Serbia and Spain, for example, they are not typically used. In Estonia, a written employment contract is required if the employment is to last more than 14 days. In France and Germany, a written employment contract must be used if the employment is for a fixed term. In Belgium, a written employment contract must be used for part-time employment relationships and for the employment of students and trainees.

In most countries it is possible for employers to request medical history checks and drug and alcohol testing where necessary, but this is not the case everywhere. For example, a current proposal in Sweden could restrict an employer’s right to request medical information; while in Austria, drug and alcohol testing will – in general – infringe an applicant’s privacy.

In some countries, it will be common for employers to ask for details of an applicant’s criminal record, such as in Austria and Belgium. But in contrast, in others such as Finland, France and Germany, these will be only permitted for certain positions, such as those involving children.

Given such discrepancies across Europe before having made an appointment, it is easy to be caught out.

Employment documentation

Once candidates have been recruited, employers need to consider what documentation they must issue in respect of the employment. In most countries, a written statement confirming terms and conditions of employment must be issued – in many countries, written employment contracts containing these terms and conditions are commonplace, and must be used for certain types of employment.

By law, the statement must include a variety of information, including the names of the parties, start date of employment, duration of employment and notice, although the content varies from country to country. There are also different timescales for issuing these statements. In the UK and Ireland, employers have two months from employment commencing, whereas in Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, employers have only one month to comply. Others, such as Austria, require the statement to be issued immediately on commencement of employment.


Once employed, benefits are often the most discussed topic of employment law among employees. Added benefits, ranging from company cars to gym membership, can be swaying factors in jobs and vary from company to company, but some of the variances between countries can be the most problematic for those otherwise unaware.

Eight things you might not know about Europe

In Belgium, under new notice periods which apply from the start of this year, termination notices can extend to more than a year depending on length of service.

In Italy, expectant mothers must not work for two months before the birth, and then three months after the birth.

In Belgium, a written employment contract must be used for the employment of students.

In Serbia, maternity pay is payable at 100% normal pay for the full 365 days of leave.

In Austria, a system of shared leave applies under which either parent can use the maternity leave benefit.

In Belgium the use of probationary periods ceased at the start of 2014.

In Germany, reinstatement of the employee into their old position (complete with back pay in respect of the interim period) is the only remedy for unfair dismissal.

Reference letters from former employers are not generally used in Estonia, Serbia or Spain.

For employers hoping to harmonise their remuneration packages, there are certain benefits offered in each member state.

Across the board, employees in each European country are entitled to minimum levels of paid holiday. The minimum level of 20 working days’ paid annual leave applies in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Serbia and Switzerland (although in each of these countries, additional public or bank holidays may be offered).

Employees are also entitled to minimum levels of maternity leave following the birth of a child. The period of such leave and the timing of any compulsory leave, however, varies. For example, in the UK, the two weeks following birth are compulsory, while in Italy, expectant mothers must not work for two months before the birth, and then three months after the birth.

Levels of pay during maternity leave also vary greatly. For example, in Serbia, maternity pay is payable at 100% normal pay for the full 365 days of leave. Contrast that with Ireland, where there is no obligation on an employer to pay employees on maternity leave, but employees may be entitled to state social welfare payments.

The rights of fathers to take leave following the birth of a child also very. In Austria a system of shared leave applies under which either parent can use the maternity leave benefit. In others, the fathers’ rights are more restricted – for example, in Belgium, France and Latvia paternity leave of up to only 10 days can be taken and in the Netherlands fathers can take only two days’ leave. In Serbia and Switzerland, however, no period of paternity leave needs to be offered.

Termination of employment

In some cases, the working relationship goes sour. While there is much to focus on when it comes to the general process around recruitment, there should be equal emphasis placed on the period where an employee’s contract is terminated.

One key difference between the European approach and the approach elsewhere, which includes the US, is that employees tend to be entitled to minimum notice of termination (other than in limited circumstances). Employment at will is not generally permitted.

The level of notice afforded to any particular employee varies widely from country to country and is typically governed by legislation, the employment contract itself or an applicable collective bargaining agreement. Often, the length of notice required will increase with the employee’s length of service.

For example, in Belgium – under new notice periods which apply from the start of this year – termination notices can extend to more than one year depending on length of service – one of the longest notice periods in Europe. In the UK meanwhile, minimum statutory periods of notice increase by one week per year of service, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

Probationary periods are commonplace in Europe. During this time, lower periods of notice, or none at all, will be required. But it is not the case everywhere. In Belgium, the use of probationary periods actually ceased at the start of 2014.

When it comes to the process of termination, unfair dismissal can often be an issue. While there is no European-level legislation granting employees the right not to be unfairly dismissed, most employees are afforded some level of protection.

This means employers often need a justifiable reason for dismissal and must follow some form of fair procedure. This generally involves issuing a prior warning and conducting some form of consultation. The reasons used can vary from poor performance to misconduct.

Where an employee is dismissed without a valid justification, employees are frequently entitled to claim financial compensation before the courts or tribunals. Even further, in some countries such as Germany, reinstatement of the employee into their old position (complete with back pay in respect of the interim period) is the only remedy for this. In others, such as Austria, this is at least a potential outcome of a claim.

Business is global

As the world becomes increasingly digitised, breaking down barriers across the board, businesses are increasingly global in nature. It is what has enabled, for example, the Cambridge Satchel Company, a company founded by a working mother in Cambridge, to sell to buyers across the world. It is also what has enabled an 18-year-old app designer to have his app downloaded on a global scale.

This all means that, for businesses, global expansion is increasingly on the agenda. And while marketing plans, category strategies, and broader business objectives will occupy much of the focus when a business spreads itself across multiple jurisdictions, keeping a firm grip on the legal issues, particularly around employment law, can often be the deal breaker.

Article from http://www.personneltoday.com/

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Hiring times almost double in four years, claims Glassdoor

Research by Glassdoor Economic Research has revealed that hiring times in the UK have almost doubled over the past four years.

The employer review site’s report Why is hiring taking longer? Shows that the average UK job application took 28.6 days to process in 2014, up from just 14 days in 2010.

A similar upward trend was evident for other countries included in the survey, with hiring times also growing in Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the US. After controlling for economic factors including industry sector, job type and geographic area, the length of the recruitment process has grown, on average, by between 3.3 and 3.7 days.

French candidates reported the longest wait for employment, at an average of 31.9 days, followed by Germany at 28.8 days and Australia at 27.9 days. By contrast, Canada takes the least amount of time to hire new employees, only taking 22.1 days, on average.

The longest recruitment processes were reported for jobs in government, academic or senior executive positions.  Police officers in the US reported the longest wait (127.6 days), followed by patent examiners (87.6 days), assistant professors (58.7 days) and senior vice presidents (55.5 days).

The shortest processes were typically found among entry-level or unskilled job descriptions, with the quickest hiring times reported for entry-level positions in marketing (3.9 days), sales (5.4 days), and account management (5.9 days). Servers and bartenders also reported a short wait of just 5.7 days.

One reason for the increased wait could be the higher number of pre-employment screening processes that are being conducted, Glassdoor suggested. These include more background checks, skills assessments, drug tests and personality profiles. Each of these additional employer “screens” was found to add a significant amount to the average time required for candidates to go through the recruitment process, in some cases adding a full week.

“Right now hiring delays can represent money left on the table both for workers and employers. There has been surprisingly little research on ‘interview durations’ from the job seeker’s perspective, and how company HR policies influence delays in job matching throughout the economy,” said Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.

Article from http://www.personneltoday.com/

Ubers Background Checks Failed 

Ubers Background Checks Failed To Catch A Murderer And Other Felons, Prosecutors Say

Prosecutors from San Francisco and Los Angeles continue to say that ride-hailing service Uber misleads its riders on the rigor of its background checks. Uber’s Los Angeles-area drivers included people driving under false names and those convicted of sex offenses, kidnapping and murder, the prosecutors said.

The revelations about the drivers come in an amended complaint filed Wednesday, in a suit the district attorneys originally filed against Uber in December over allegedly misleading business practices. Prosecutors settled a similar suit in December against Lyft, an Uber rival, for $250,000.

At the heart of the lawsuit is the language with which Uber describes the rigor of its driver background checks. After hearing from prosecutors, Uber has softened its claims over the past year, downshifting from saying it has “industry-leading” background checks and “safety you can trust” to its current message, which is that “every system of background checks that is available today has its flaws.” Lyft made similar adjustments to its language as part of the settlement agreement.

Prosecutors maintain that the company is overstating how safe it is. They looked at the criminal histories of drivers cited for illegal pickups at the Los Angeles International Airport and found that they included 22 drivers with past felony convictions or misdemeanor drunken driving convictions and three drivers who were using another person’s account to drive — that of a cousin, brother, or the person leasing them the car. Uber says it does not allow people with drunken driving or felony convictions in the past seven years to drive on the platform.

“We learned of systemic failures in Uber’s background checks,” said San Francisco district attorney George Gascon. “We have learned they have drivers who are convicted sex offenders, thieves, burglars, kidnappers and a convicted murder.” Those drivers are just from Los Angeles, he added. “This is only really scratching the surface.”

Article from Forbes


Mental health background checks: new guidance issued by Home Office

Detention under Mental Health Act alone may no longer be included on criminal record certificates under latest guidelines.

New guidelines to be issued by the Home Office will make clear the factors that must be considered before mental health crises are disclosed in background checks made on people applying to work with vulnerable groups.

Police will be required to examine issues such as a person’s behavior at the time and how long ago the crisis happened when assessing whether detention under the Mental Health Act should be included on criminal record certificates.

The instructions relate to disclosure and barring service (DBS) checks required for certain jobs and voluntary roles, including those that involve working with children.

Campaigners say a lack of clarity in the current system has meant that people held under the act could be unnecessarily excluded from posts.

Equality at work is still a pipe dream for people with mental health problems. A review conducted last year found that in some cases, irrelevant or partial information about detention under the act is being released.

The Home Office said the guidance, which will be issued on Monday, states:

Detention under the Mental Health Act, which does not constitute a criminal investigation, is unlikely in itself to be sufficient to justify disclosure.
The behavior of the person during the incident must be a key consideration for officers when considering checks. This could include assessing whether the person presented a risk of harm to others or whether they were involved in multiple incidents.

The date of the incident is an important factor. In cases where it took place a long time ago, officers should consider giving the applicant an opportunity to make representations about their current state of health.
If information is disclosed, the certificate should provide an explanation so the employer or voluntary organisation clearly understands the relevance of the information to the application.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, welcomed the move. He said: “The nature of the current process means that people who are perfectly able to do a job may be unnecessarily excluded because of a lack of clarity about what should and shouldn’t be disclosed.

“There is no reason why having a mental health problem or having been previously detained under the Mental Health Act should necessarily be a red flag when it comes to DBS checks.

“This guidance is an important next step in providing greater clarity, but there is still room to go further.”

Home Office minister Karen Bradley said the guidelines aim to make the system fairer without lessening protection. She said: “It is important that checks provide employers with the information they need to protect children and vulnerable groups.

“At the same time, police disclosure of information relating to mental ill health can have a significant impact on the lives of those concerned, including their employment opportunities.

“We want to support the police in their decision making by providing additional statutory guidance on mental health. This will help ensure that chief police officers take the right factors into account when considering each case and that any information disclosed is relevant and proportionate.”

Alistair Burt, the care minister, said the changes will help prevent people being stigmatised as they attempt to find work or volunteering opportunities. He said: “Having a mental illness is not a crime – your medical history wouldn’t be flagged to your employer, so it’s right that we make the same true for someone who’s had a mental health crisis.”

Article by the Guardian.com