Originally published in The Frederick News Post

By Jan Makela

Each year there are changes either at the federal or state level that affect employers in the State of Maryland and this year is no different.

One major change is as of September 18th employers must switch to the new I-9 form which was released in July by the United States Custom & Immigration Service.  Changes to the form include

  • Name change of the of the Office of Special Council for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment  Practices to its new name, Immigration and Employee Rights Section
  • Will remove “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.”

In addition there will be revisions related to acceptable documents on Form I-9:

  • Consular report of Birth Abroad (FormFS-240) to list C.  E-Verify users will be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.

A newly revised Handbook for Employers Competing Form I-9 (M-240) has been created to make                         it easier for user to navigate. Also they have made available a desk top application that can be used to fill out the new I-9 Form. It has a drop down menu for each section.

The EEOC has announced the Strategic Priorities for this year as well. Included are

  • Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring driven by
    • Growth of the temporary workforce
    • Lack of diversity in certain industries and workplaces, such as technology and policing
  • Focus on class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against
    • Racial, ethnic, and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities.
  • Issues being investigated to prevent systemic harassment:
    • Lack of anti-harassment policy
    • Policy does not address non-sexual harassment. Fail to mention = fail to cover.  Many attorneys have written handbooks that say ‘the employer complies with all federal and state laws.’ That is not good enough any longer.
    • Accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the American Disabilities Act and Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Employers need to have a statement in their handbook stating they will reasonably accommodate pregnant employees.
  • Qualification standards and inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
  • Complex employment relationships like joint employers & independent contractors. Independent contractors have been under scrutiny for several years. If an independent cannot pass the test for an independent contractor (even though the employer thinks they have) that contractor becomes an employee and the employer will have to pay penalties and fines for the error of the contractor.
  • Biggest target areas: credit and criminal background checks. Doing background checks prior to making a job offer is seen as discriminatory.  If the employer is a federal contractor you have to remove from your application the box that says “check here if you ever been convicted.” This is called ban the box and it is not allowed at federal level. Maryland passed Ban-the-Box legislation for state government employees in 2013. The following year, Baltimore passed legislation restricting employers with 10 or more workers from asking a candidate about criminal records until after a conditional employment offer is made. In addition Montgomery and Prince George Counties have it instituted a statute as well. Credit checks should only be done on people with fiduciary responsibility.
  • Screening tools that disproportionately impact workers based on their protected status. Examples are pre-employment tests, background checks impacting African American and Latinos, date of birth inquires affecting older workers, and medical questionaries’ impacting individuals with disabilities. You can only ask age and health questions post job offer. An employer can ask does the applicant meet the age requirements for the position they are applying for prior to hiring. The age requirement should be in the job description and the job ad as well.

Jan Makela is a Score Fredrick Chapter mentor. In addition he travels the country doing seminars, keynotes speeches as well as on-site training for organization in HR Management and organizational management issues. He is the author of two books “Cracking the Code To Success” and “Be The Manager People Won’t Leave.”

SCORE Frederick is part of a nationwide volunteer network of 310 chapters dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. SCORE Frederick provides free and confidential business advice and mentoring to start-up businesses and to established small businesses in Fredrick and Carroll counties. SCORE Frederick also offers business workshops for both start-ups and established businesses. For more information go to http://www.scorefrederick.org