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Background Checks
2014 Legislative Session: Running Updates

Each year, the Hawaii Employers Council provides its members with updates on labor and employment law bills that are being addressed by the legislature. One of those documents, the Legislative Digest, is actually currently available to the general public, and can be accessed here:  HEC Legislative Updates.

Bills that are still alive as of the Second Lateral deadline address (1) the minimum wage, (2) payment of wages via direct deposit and pay cards, and (3) workers’ compensation drugs, fee schedule and settlements.

For the 2014 Legislative Session, the Legislative Digest is available for the following key deadlines:

  • Bills Introduced (available)
  • First Lateral (available)
  • First Crossover (available)
  • Second Lateral (available)
  • Second Crossover (available)
  • Sine Die  (available)
  • Veto Deadline (available)

As more deadlines pass, I will update this blog entry to indicate when the most recent Legislative Digest is available.

Other updates, such as articles providing a detailed explanation of several of the significant measures and talking points on certain bills, however, are available only to HEC members.

NASA Background Checks Of Contract Employees Not Unlawful

Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court ruled that background checks conducted by NASA for contract employees were not unlawful.  In NASA v. Nelson (S. Ct..  January 19, 2011), a group of contract employees sued NASA and alleged that background checks conducted by NASA violated their constitutional right to privacy.

Until recently, contract employees at NASA were not subject to background checks when they were hired.  Rather, only civil servants were subject to background checks.  Recently, however, the government adopted uniform identification standards for both federal civil servants and contractor employees.   The background check included the use of Standard Form 85, the Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive positions, which asks whether an employee has “used, possessed, supplied, or manufactured illegal drugs” within the past year.  The background check also included the use of an open-ended questionnaire that was sent to the employees’ references, and asked about the employees’ “honesty or trustworthiness.”

The NASA contract employees filed suit against NASA, and argued that such a background check violated their right to privacy.

The Supreme Court ruled that the background check conducted by NASA was “reasonable” in light of the government’s interests at stake.  The Court also noted that the government’s interests were not diminished simply because the plaintiffs were “contract employees.”  In the Court’s mind, there was no meaningful distinction between a civil-service and contract employee that would render NASA’s background checks unreasonable.

The court also added that although such information was collected by NASA, it was not shared with the public.  Therefore, there was no disclosure to the public of such information.

A copy of the Court’s decision can be read here.