Q&A with Alonzo Martinez, Associate Counsel, Compliance at HireRight
Today we are pleased to share an interview between Alonzo Martinez of HireRight and CCI’s Publisher, Maurice Gilbert. Alonzo shares his thoughts on some of the key staffing- and employment-related challenges companies currently face.
Maurice Gilbert: How did you get started on a career in compliance?
Alonzo Martinez: I began my career as an attorney in a startup environment working for a company creating mobile HR applications. A lawyer in a startup has to wear many hats. While the business was focused on innovation and growth, my job was to ensure we were operating in a fashion that provided for our longevity by avoiding legal and regulatory minefields.
When it comes to background screening and compliance, I’ve been on both sides. I have seen how companies implement screening programs internally and the role third-party vendors play in facilitating a compliance program. On HireRight’s side, my role is to monitor and advise on key legislative and regulatory developments globally affecting HireRight’s service delivery as a consumer reporting agency and data processor.
MG: Who helped shape your views on risk?
AM: Personally, I believe that parents shape their child’s appetite for risk. More conservative parents may result in a risk-averse kid, whereas carefree parents may allow for a kid who likes to dabble in danger. I’m somewhere in between. Professionally, I’ve had the opportunity to work with experienced counsel that have helped to shape my risk tolerances. I understand the needs of the business while also understanding the risks presented to an organization and try to balance the two.
MG: How do you stay current on ethics and compliance issues?
AM: Professional organizations such as the Society for HR Management, National Association of Professional Background Screeners, the Consumer Data Industry Association and the Association for Corporate Counsel help to provide insight into regulatory issues affecting organizations. Beyond that, I’ve found that simple tools like subscribing to RSS feeds hosted by major law firms and setting up Google News alerts for topics affecting my organization help me to stay informed on compliance-related issues.
MG: What are some of the significant issues you see facing compliance departments today?
AM: The depth and breadth of regulations present major challenges for compliance departments, especially when you consider the lack of omnibus compliance regulations. Without comprehensive “single-source” legislation, organizations have to prepare themselves to comply with a patchwork of regulations often overseen by lean compliance departments.
There are a number of areas where patchwork legislation is impacting hiring efforts, and companies must keep abreast of these and evaluate their compliance programs to ensure they are adhering to the appropriate legislation. Some examples impacting employers are ban-the-box legislation, which impacts when and how criminal history is considered when evaluating a candidate; pay equity legislation, which restricts if and when employers can request salary history from candidates; and marijuana legalization, which highlights the importance of having a well-defined workplace policy that addresses drug-testing, on- and off-site usage and accommodation.
MG: Can you give an example of how HireRight helps customers’ compliance efforts?
AM: Sure. A recent example is a completely new legislative effort: pay equity, which is picking up steam in many jurisdictions in the United States. The legislation prohibits employers from asking about or verifying compensation history until later in the hiring process, with the thought that asking the question will perpetuate the gender wage gap. In 2017, HireRight amended our services to help mitigate risk from noncompliance with pay equity laws by eliminating inquiry into and verification of a candidate’s salary history as a standard practice. Our solution allows employers who are not impacted by pay equity legislation to request salary inquiry and verification, but we have been pleased to see that less than 1 percent of our clients have opted back in.
MG: How does your company affect change within your clients’ environments? How does HireRight shape culture?
AM: Clients engage HireRight’s services based on their risk profile. More risk-averse employers choose a larger gamut of searches and verifications, whereas less risk-averse employers may have simpler tastes when it comes to a background check. Risk profile is what shapes workplace culture, as the candidates that they screen and that ultimately comprise their employee pool are directly reflective of the tolerances imparted by the screening they conduct.
MG: How do you see the role of compliance departments evolving within the next three years?
AM: More and more organizations will see compliance departments as value-adds to their clients and not as a budgetary line item. For example, at HireRight, we consider compliance to be the cornerstone to a good candidate experience in that it affords the candidate the legal and regulatory rights they’re due. Compliance isn’t just an obligation – it’s a competitive advantage that organizations will more readily recognize in the near future.
MG: What do you see as the greatest business risks facing companies today?
AM: When it comes to hiring top talent, brand and reputation are critical, and with the prevalence of social media, these elements can become tarnished even faster and with greater impact. Companies need to be mindful of how they protect themselves from disruptive events such as breaches or hacks and how they handle communications after the fact, because in addition to the immediate damage done to the company, the long-lasting reputational impact could change the talent pools they’re able to create.
MG: What do you see as the greatest regulatory risks facing companies today?
AM: Compliance with the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) should be at the forefront for all multinational employers. The GDPR sets a high bar with respect to compliance requirements, and there are stiff penalties for noncompliance. Multinational employers would be remiss to take this regulation lightly, as it will change the way global employers operate and has the potential to alter the course of business for those who do not comply.
Within the U.S., the inconsistency between employer-facing laws at the state and local level, such as pay equity measures and ban-the-box laws, creates real risks to employers who hire across the country. When it comes to pay equity legislation, HireRight has taken a holistic approach to complying with the law: adhering to the most conservative legislation on a company-wide level versus adapting individual offices to their local regulations. We no longer ask about salary history as part of our recruiting process and feel it is a best practice, as that is where much of the U.S. seems to be heading.
MG: How might Chief Compliance Officers, Chief Audit Officers and Chief Risk Officers prepare to face these risks?
AM: Individuals responsible for setting the course toward compliance for an organization should evaluate the company’s appetite for risk and implement measures accordingly. For risk-averse businesses, this may mean adopting the most stringent measures across the board, whereas other companies may be able to segment their risk within the business. It’s helpful to partner with vendors who understand the compliance environment, such as a trusted agency for background screening.
MG: How does your company help its clients mitigate risk?
AM: HireRight provides background screening solutions that can help employers throughout the globe tailor screening programs to meet their specific requirements. While the exact solutions may differ from country to country, HireRight’s solutions help our clients mitigate risk through identity verifications, criminal checks, employment and education verifications and services like drug testing and employment physicals. This provides organizations with a single provider of risk mitigation for many of their most fundamental screening and onboarding processes.
Alonzo Martinez, Associate Counsel, Compliance at HireRight, is responsible for monitoring and advising on key legislative and regulatory developments globally affecting HireRight’s service delivery. His work is focused on ensuring HireRight’s performance as a consumer reporting agency and data processor complies with relevant legal, regulatory and data furnisher requirements. Alonzo obtained his Juris Doctorate from the University of Colorado and is licensed by the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado. He is a member of the Colorado Bar Association Employment Law Division, the Association of Corporate Counsel and the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.