Dee DePass has been a Star Tribune business reporter since 1993, covering small business, financial institutions, manufacturing and, most recently, the economy. Originally from New York, Dee came to Minnesota after earning her master's in journalism at the University of Maryland and her undergraduate degree at Vassar College.

Posts about Employment

EEOC issues new guide on how employers should screen job candidates' criminal records

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: April 26, 2012 - 3:47 PM


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission did employers a huge favor Wednesday when they freshened guidelines on how companies should use criminal background checks in deciding whether to hire a job candidate.
An EEOC commission voted 4-1 Wednesday to approve the new enforcement guidance. The rules now come with a question and answer sheet and some "best practices" to adopt. Take a peek at
 "The new guidance clarifies and updates the EEOC's longstanding policy concerning the use of arrest and conviction records in employment, which will assist job seekers, employers, and many other agency stakeholders," said EEOC Chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien. 
Turns out, using only an arrest record to disqualify a candidate is NOT all right. Anyone can be arrested for any number of reasons. A conviction? Now that's another matter.
"The fact of an arrest does not establish that criminal conduct has occurred. Arrest records are not probative of criminal conduct," EEOC officials said in the new guidance materials. In contrast, "conviction records are considered reliable evidence that the underlying criminal conduct occurred."
The EEOC's main concern is that a job candidate not be denied employment for some meaningless arrest that happened ages ago and that had nothing to do with the job opening at hand. That is particularly important if the job candidate is a minority. 
In issuing its revised enforcement guidance EEOC officials explained the following:
"There are two ways in which an employer’s use of criminal history information may violate Title VII (“disparate treatment discrimination”). First, Title VII prohibits employers from treating job applicants with the same criminal records differently because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Second, even where employers apply criminal record exclusions uniformly, the exclusions may still operate to disproportionately and unjustifiably exclude people of a particular race or national origin (“disparate impact discrimination”). If the employer does not show that such an exclusion is 'job related and consistent with business necessity' for the position in question, the exclusion is unlawful under Title VII."
In short, having too rigid of a screening process may disproportionately affect certain jobseekers decades. Employment attorneys in the Twin Cities said they coach their corporate clients to be on alert.
Say a 30-year-old job candidate is applying for a data entry job at a company that will require no travel. The HR manager at that firm would have a hard time justifying denying the candidate because he was convicted 12 years ago of driving while under the influence of alcohol. The conviction has nothing to do with the job at hand, attorneys said.
 In an effort to clarify how companies should screen potential workers, the EEOC held public meetings, took written comments and answered countless questions. Its new guidance now discusses:
•         How an employer’s use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions could violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII;
•         Federal court decisions analyzing Title VII as applied to criminal record exclusions;
•         The differences between the treatment of arrest records and conviction records;
•         The applicability of disparate treatment and disparate impact analysis under Title VII;
•         Compliance with other federal laws and/or regulations that restrict and/or prohibit the employment of individuals with certain criminal records; and
•         Best practices for employers.
 The EEOC has made its testimonies and transcripts and other materials from public meetings available at   



Federal Reserve Bank and MEDA look to broaden contract bidding for women and minorities

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: April 5, 2012 - 7:04 PM

One of the Federal Reserve’s mandates is to boost employment opportunities using the agency’s power to raise or lower interest rates.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is also taking a more direct approach.

The Fed's year-old Office of Minority and Women Inclusion recently met with the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) in Minneapolis to see about doing more business with local  women and minority-owned businesses. 

MEDA, comprised of hundreds of such businesses, is in a unique position to spread the word and get more members bidding on Fed supply contracts.

The Minneapolis Fed employs more than 900 workers and buys goods from hundreds of contractors and suppliers. Currently about 5 percent of those contracts go to firms owned by women and 18 percent go to businesses owned by people of color. The Fed wants to increase those numbers and expand its vendor pool in accordance with a White House initiative, said MEDA spokeswoman Jan Jordet.

In a newsletter e-mailed to members Thursday, MEDA officials noted that the bank already "buys all the typical things a corporation buys, including" toilet paper, light bulbs, cleaning supplies, and construction services. Many MEDA members are in such businesses and could participate in the bidding process. New contracts can lead to expansion and hiring, officials said. 

MEDA advised members to start by registering with the Fed as a vendor.

"The first step to participate in its procurement process is to use the bank's vendor registration portal.  To be considered, prospective suppliers should use the self-registration tool," which can be found at

The 40-year-old MEDA works with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Commerce and 600 business owners to provide accounting services, business development  and loans to minority-owned businesses across the state in an effort to enhance profitability and employment. MEDA currently has a $1.2 million loan fund and recently received $500,000 in new small-business lending funds from the U.S. Treasury.



ADP reports 209,000 job gains for March

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: April 4, 2012 - 12:48 PM

The monthly report from payroll processing giant ADP had good news Wednesday - the creation of 209,000 new jobs in March at small and medium size firms nationwide.

The report follows February's report, which ADP recently revised upward to  230,000 job gains from the previously reported 206,000. Employment watchers were hoping that March would deliver at least 206,000 jobs.  Economists noted that this is the fourth month of gains above 200,000.

While ADP focuses on small and medium sized firms, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics will issue its national jobs report on Friday for companies of all sizes.

The experts from IHS Global Insight predict that the nation gained 210,000 jobs in March. If correct, that is down from February's 227,000 employment gains. Stay tuned.

New report says managerial hiring perked in March

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: March 27, 2012 - 10:38 AM

After reams of middle management layoffs during the recession, a report Tuesday signaled a possible trend reversal in certain cities.

According to's JobSerf Employment Index report, managerial recruitment rose 9.9 percent in March over February.  The index, which measures managerial hiring activity online, hit 116.9 points to reach the highest level its been since launching in 2008. The index was registered 44.1 points as of March 2009 during the depths of the recession.
“The past two months have shown a steady rebound in the job market,” said CareerCast's publisher Tony Lee.“If the upward trend continues, executives who have been out of work or seeking a change, will have an easier time finding suitable employment.”
The report found seven cities with double-digit jumps in executive hiring so far this month. Management recruitment rose in Memphis (14%), St. Louis (13%), Tampa (12%), Los Angeles (10%), Miami (10%), San Diego (10%), and Nashville (10%).

To compare, three cities saw a drop in managerial hiring for March, despite double-digit increases the month before. Detroit's management hiring fell 7 percent, Milwaukee fell 5 percent, and Cleveland fell 3 percent.

JobSerf COO Jay Martin, attributed the declines in Detroit, Milwaukee and Cleveland to "normal hiring fluctuations."  He noted that the Midwest saw an overall dip in hiring while the "entire West lags in both performance and degree of recovery.”

It is not immediately clear just where the Twin Cities ranked, but it did not fall in the top 10 best or worst categories.

CareerCast's index comes after last week's hopeful jobs report for the state of Minnesota. Employers here reported 6,200 job gains for February with much of the hiring coming from the education, healthcare and government sectors. It is not known how many of those jobs were management positions.



Mining industry predicts worker shortage

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: March 23, 2012 - 6:30 PM

The Iron Range Mining Association and the state's economic development pros predicted this week that the mining industry  could soon face a "significant"  shortage of workers. 

It's a scenario that is hard to imagine today. Minnesota's entire mining and logging industry only added 200 workers combined in the last 12 months, after laying off thousands in the past decade.

But association officials say more than 40 percent of people working in Minnesota's taconite and precious metals mines are old enough to retire tomorrow. Yet there are lots of projects in the mining pipeline that need workers for the long haul, supporters say.

"Currently, there are not enough young people pursuing the technical or vocational training to fill these and future positions," the association said in a statement issued Friday.

A new study from the University of Minnesota-Duluth estimates that 5,000 Minnesota mining jobs could be created if all the  metals-mining projects currently on the planning table pass the required environmental tests and become operational.  Some mining companies are preparing for that possibility.

Twin Metals Minnesota is working with the Northeast Higher Education District and Arrowhead University to develop customized training programs that will entice students to the field. 

A consortium of community and state colleges launched the Iron Range Engineering (IRE) plan, which places engineering students from Minnesota State University Mankato on mining design projects.

Separately, industry officials are urging the state to expand its FastTRAC job training program so that it applies to the mining trades and not just training in high-tech manufacturing.  Stay tuned.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), is working with the Iron Range Mining Association, Minnesota Mining, Twin Metals and other groups to tap prospective workers for the future.

Get Jobs Job Fair set for Eagan on March 29

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: March 15, 2012 - 12:08 PM

The state of Minnesota will hold its annual Get Jobs Job Fair in Eagan on Thursday March 29.

The job fair will feature 60 companies, colleges and agencies looking to hire, train or coach job seekers.

For more information, go to or call Mike.lang at 952-895-7641. 


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