MAHONING VALLEY Terrorism brings changes to hiring

Many local businesses and agencies said they had been running criminal background checks on employees before Sept. 11.
YOUNGSTOWN -- As the country responds to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, local airports and transportation authorities are re-evaluating their hiring policies, but the trend hasn't trickled down into other local industries.
At the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, administrators are adapting to new Federal Aviation Administration regulations. But employees already undergo a background check before hiring, said Tom Nolan, director of aviation for the Western Reserve Port Authority, which operates the airport.
Beyond that, Nolan said, different employees are scrutinized at different levels.
Employees of the Western Reserve Transit Authority bus service always have been subject to a background check, said Mike Diaz, director of human resources. Diaz said the check searches applicants' records in the county where they live. He said he would like to expand the search to include other areas connected to the applicant.
Nationwide: Robert Mather, president of Inc., said his company has had a record number of requests since Sept. 11 to perform criminal background checks on employees for companies across the country. In the days after the attacks, his business received 2,000 requests per day, and checks performed increased 67 percent.
"Everyone is just looking at what they can do to protect themselves from everything," Mather said.
He said he has received calls from all areas in the country. He has been contacted by 194 companies of 1,000 employees or more in Ohio and 191 companies in Pennsylvania but declined to identify those companies.
As usual: But many local businesses and agencies said they have not changed hiring procedures since the attacks. Many already perform background checks on prospective workers.
A trend among members of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber was to step up security procedures at the start of 2001, said Theresa Pinto, manager of human resources and safety at the chamber.
Pinto said ongoing cases of workplace and school violence prompted local business owners to conduct more thorough checks of employees.
"This year overall, employers are taking their responsibility to make the workplace safe for their employees more seriously," Pinto said. "We've had people around this Valley recognize the importance before that. I don't think we needed Sept. 11 to show us."
At the Snelling Personnel employment service in Youngstown, Kim Angelo, personnel manager, said criminal background checks have long been a policy. She added that more of the service's clients have been requesting the checks if they are not already aware that it is done.
Nothing has changed in hiring policies at Humility of Mary Health Partners facilities, said Angie Boyle, recruitment manager.
She said complete criminal background checks are performed on all employees and have been for years. Over the past three years, she said, policies have been tightened.
In Mahoning County, also, all prospective employees have undergone criminal background checks for years, said J. Kevin Sellards, the county's human resources director. They also must pass various tests, he said, including a psychological exam.
Steve Chase, vice president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Eastern Ohio, said he had not heard anything new about strengthening hiring policies from member dealers in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
"Will it come to that?" he asked. "Perhaps."

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