Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My thought on the election as a Residential Cleaning Business Owner


It is probably too late on this election day to change any votes but I felt the need to explain why despite my substantially left view on social issues I voted Republican.   Partially to my own wife who sometimes wonders what happened to that liberal 22 year old who was going to save the world that she met inn college.  Most people do not have the experience of being a business owner so it is hard to understand so I wanted to provide some very specific reasons.  

Here is a short explanation.  I am in a meeting of other business owners on this election day.  We are spending a great deal of our time, mental abilities, and money trying to find ways to grow our business without adding any employees.  I know a statement like that can be taken out of context and makes us sound like the evil businessmen in the advertisements.   But here is the truth.  I made a good living working in corporate America.   If money is all I cared about I could have stayed there and done just fine with a lot less stress and a lot more time off.  The single thing I enjoy more than anything else in owning my own business is coaching and developing my employees.  When my dad died and seemed like every employee in the company came to his funeral and they all came up and told me stories of how he encouraged them to get go back to school, to take jobs they did not think they could handle, and otherwise pushed them to be better people than they believed they could be I realized that is what I wanted to do that.  My dad died almost 10 years ago and one of his employees promised to take care of my dad’s prized car and to give to his newborn and at the time only grandchild as a birthday present when he turns 16.  One of my dad’s employees was so touched by him that he promised to keep a 16 year vigil.  That is pretty darn cool and that was my role model.   I want people to tell Lindsay those stories about me when I am gone.  A lot of my employees have never had someone believe in them or trust them.  When you give them that trust and some coaching and skills it is amazing to watch them grow in every way imaginable.  Selfishly I take great almost parent like joy when I see my people grow up and improve their lives, move their kids into better schools, and turn around a family story of failure and poverty while working for me.  

So how is it that a person that has a core value and belief in hiring people and developing them now sitting in a room trying to figure out how to not hire anyone?    Over the last four years of owning my business it has become increasingly more difficult, expensive, and personally risky to have employees.   Allow me to give you the most crystal clear example of a policy implemented under the Obama administration that makes me not want to hire anyone. 

Under this administration the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued new guidelines that state screening for employment using a criminal background check can be considered discrimination.   The EEOC says that I need to take into account how long ago the crime was committed, how that crime may effect the job for which they are applying, and I need to allow them to explain the circumstances of the crime.  That does not sound that unreasonable at first glance but that is because the people who wrote those rules have no experience in hiring people.  Here are some facts.  Theft in particular is hugely under reported.  Most people think the police will not bother with it and most employers do not want the bad press.  If theft happens the employer will often fire the person and pay the victim to just make it go away.   If there is one theft conviction there is often more like 10 – 20 times it happened before someone actually bothered to press charges and it could be proved.   Second, over 90% of all cases are settled in a plea agreement which usually results in the person being charged with accepting a lessor charge.  If I run a background check and it says possession of stolen property, 19 times out of 20 it means it was a theft or burglary charge and they plead down to possession.   I do not have access to any of this information as these cases are normally sealed.  When I run a background check all I get is the date and what they were convicted of.   I can literally only see the tip of the iceburg and have to guess what is under the surface.  The EEOC says I have to let this person explain what happened.  They do not give me access to the court files.   They say I have to give the one person in the room that has been convicted in a court of law to have a disregard for the rules of society a chance to explain themselves.  

Now here is what you need to understand on the other side.  If one of my employees steals from you, I am liable.  If one of my employees assaults you or rapes you, I am liable.  This means I can be sued for my company and as a sole proprietor it means my house, my savings, and my family is on the line each and every time I hire someone because legally my business is me.  If I am found to have not properly screened my employee I can be found negligent which voids my insurance.  If I knowingly hire a felon and they commit another crime I am going to be found negligent by a jury.   I can literally lose everything from a single bad hire.   It is a huge leap of faith and risk every single time I hire someone.   And now my own government says it may be illegal for me to look at look at the one piece of 100% proven past behavior as a factor in my hiring decision.  Has the world lost its mind?

If I do not have you convinced lets look at the specific case that caused this new rule to be created.  This case came about because a man was fired from his job once it was discovered he had a 40 year old conviction for murder which he did not disclose and once it was discovered he was terminated.  He sued his employer for discrimination.   This man KILLED someone.  When I run his check the only thing I know for a fact is 40 years ago he killed a person and was convicted of murder meaning it was planned.  When as an employee do any of you want your boss to take the risk of hiring this man?  Remember I do not get access to all the court files.   But Derek it was 40 years ago, someone has to give him a chance.  Can you tell me when did he get out of jail?   I have no idea.   Do you?   Remember this is murder so he could have been locked away for a long time, he could have just been released.  What were the circumstances of the crime?  The only person I get to ask is the person convicted of killing another man who has every incentive to lie.  If I later terminate this man what could happen to me personally?   When should I be expected to not only risk my life’s savings but also literally my life and the life of every other employee to hire this man?  I know this sounds insane and you think I am making it up because in the current political landscape that is what people do is blow things out of context but I am not.  Google it.   Look at the EEOCs own website and read the case law that caused this ruling to be put into place.  This entire rule came about due to the lawsuit of man convicted of murder.   When as an employer is it ever acceptable for me to risk hiring this man?  If he eventually kills someone how can I ever live with myself because I wanted to “give him a chance”.   My vision for the stories being told at my funeral switches instead to visions of my trying to explain to some grieving family at the funeral of their loved one why I had to hire this person because of EEOC rules said I needed to give him a chance.  But my government has created a policy that says I have to legally take into account the fact it was 40 years ago and allow him to tell some story I cannot verify about how he was just defending someone else and he had a bad attorney and so on with no way to verify what is true.  I have one and only one fact, he was convicted of killing someone and if I hire based on the one provable fact I have, it is discrimination.

I can go on with other examples.   How the health care law scares the pants off me because no one can explain it to me because the rules are not yet written and it is only 14 months away.   I have this huge looming cost that no one can explain to me .  I can tell you stories of people cheating the unemployment system that will make you want to repeal the entire unemployment insurance program.   And disability?  How about the adult male on lifetime disability for ADHD.  Or the, I am not kidding here, 4 – 5 people a month that apply for a job but then ask to be paid under the table because they are on disability.   I run a residential cleaning service so I pull from the group of people on these programs and when you see how it really works and the tremendous amount of fraud and waste, it starts to make you more conservative by the day.   Or how some of the people I try to promote and start down that path to a whole new life and they will not accept the promotion because they will lose their benefits.   It is almost a weekly occurrence in my office that someone asks me to reduce their hours because once again they don’t want to lose their benefits.  I have said before my business would make a great reality television series and I wish you could all just experience what it is like for a week because it would be an eye opening experience.

So I have spent months reading daily Facebook posts and just being quiet as people I know and love post some really nasty things about Republicans and I just wanted to explain my views.   To be clear I wish there was a third choice because I think the Republicans are on the wrong side of many social issues.   But at the end of the day there is a lot of historic momentum on the side of things going the right way on social issues in my opinion.  Gays are going to get the right to marry.   Women are not going to lose the right to abortion.  My daughter is going to grow up with more liberal social views than me just as my generation did with the one before us and so on.  I don’t think any candidate can stop it, at worst they can slow it down a little.   If I really felt any of this was at risk I may vote differently but I don’t.  However as a person who is in the trenches as a business owner day in and day out I can tell you with all honesty the momentum is completely in the wrong direction when it relates to hiring and creating jobs.   The system makes good people not want to hire people and It is getting worse by the day.  I am person who’s greatest joy is creating jobs for my people and helping them to grow beyond their own expectations.  Yet because of the environment I am in, I am find myself spending a great deal of my time and resources trying to figure out how to not hire people for all the reasons outlined above.  That bothers me a lot.  And I think it should bother you too.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Noone makes you hire a felon. Why wouldn't you just move on to the next applicant? Or are ALL the applicants that are applying felons? Are you saying there are no good people to hire? Sounds to me like you're just dwelling on the fact. Most good folks you hire proabaly have a good friend or relative that could use a job. And if you already have a valued employee, why wouldn't you look to them? There's a saying that often one is judged by the company they keep. What better reference than from a valued employee?
I don't 100% agree with the EEOC in this matter, but as a small biz owner myself it woudn't sway me to vote for flip-flopper himself Romney.
Maybe Obama isn't much better, but character goes a long way & Obama just doesn't seem to flip-flop about issues like Romney. At least Obama had stayed true to his beliefs & not dismiss 47% or wants to underfund FEMA, but now, since Sandy hit wants to make sure its still around. Just 1 of way too many examples.
my .01

Derek Christian said...

I am quite happy with my screening process and I have great employees. But I get hundreds of applications and a lot of them have criminal backgrounds. The EEOC says I need to not rely on criminal background checks. Since this policy took effect the number of businesses that do not run background checks has doubled. Is this good for you as a consumer or a business? No. Below is a excerpt from the Chicago Tribune on October 21. Note the quote from the EEOC lawyer that I need to think long and hard on why I need to run criminal background checks. I am sorry this is a stupid policy that forces me to risk the wrath of the EEOC or to put my clients, employees, and self at risk.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sent a warning to businesses: Conduct criminal background checks at your own risk.

Companies that ask job applicants if they've been convicted of a felony or check criminal histories expose themselves to potential discrimination lawsuits.

"I would suggest to (businesses) that they think long and hard about why they think they need to do a criminal background check," said John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago district.

Becky Christian said...

As Derek's wife i just want to vouch for the fact that he truly does care about his employees and their families. Don't let his voting preferences fool you; we've talked about joining the peace corps someday together when we retire. Also as one of his clients, I'm glad that the good people who clean my home are not convicted thieves or murderers.