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EEOC promulgates guidance on employer use of criminal background checks

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance on employer use of criminal background checks. In short, the EEOC guidance does not prohibit employers from considering criminal information during the hiring process; however, it does require employers to take new steps to prevent discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Evaluating employee performance: A crack in the bell curve

For decades, employee performance has been tracked using the bell curve model with equal numbers of people falling on either side of the mean. Some managers are trained not to let anyone's rating fall too far from the rest of the group.

However, a recent study has found a crack in that theory that could have a dramatic impact on almost every HR function. In a study of more than 600,000 individuals, researchers found that individual performance doesn't unfold on a bell curve, or "normal distribution," at all. Instead, they discovered a "power-law" distribution, with a few elite performers contributing the most to the productivity of their organizations.

Here is an abstract of the research titled, "The Best and the Rest: Revisiting the Norm of Normality of Individual Performance," published in the Spring 2012 issue of Personnel Psychology.

New rule establishes database of certified CMV medical examiners

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a final rule that requires interstate truck and bus driver medical examiners to be trained, tested and certified on the physical qualifications of commercial motor vehicle drivers.

Upon completion of the training, medical examiners will be placed into a national online database of certified examiners. All certified medical examiners must be in the database by May 21, 2014 and CMV drivers are required to receive an exam from a certified professional.

Researchers recommend steps to reduce 'blue light' exposure

Nighttime exposure to the blue light from electronic devices may harm workers' health, warns the May 4 Harvard Health Letter.

The blue light emitted by electronic screens and energy-efficient light bulbs disrupts the body's biological clock, or circadian rhythms, according to the letter. The finding suggests shift workers could protect themselves by wearing eyewear that blocks blue light, the letter stated. Another recommendation was to coat the inside of fluorescent light bulbs so they produce less blue light.

In spite of lifting equipment, injuries common among CNAs in nursing homes: study

Sixty percent of certified nursing assistants who work in nursing homes suffer from work-related injuries, according to a new study from research institute RTI International. Among the findings, 65.8 percent had more than one injury in the previous year, 16 percent required a transfer to light-duty work, and 24 percent were unable to work due to their injury.

Researchers stated they were surprised to find that most survey respondents said they used lifting equipment, indicating that access to such equipment does not reduce one's likelihood of injury. They recommended providing more comprehensive initial training for CNAs and reducing mandatory overtime and job turnover.

Physicians who own ambulatory surgical centers do more surgeries

The Workers' Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) says physicians who own ambulatory surgical centers were "substantially more" likely than non-owners to conduct surgeries related to knee, shoulder and wrist injuries, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. Moreover, surgeon owners have "disproportionately increased" the number of Workers' Comp cases they handle in the past several years, compared with patients covered by group health, commercial insurance or Medicare plans.

The study concluded, "Thus, we may expect the issue of physician ownership of (ambulatory surgery centers) to be a larger issue among Workers' Compensation regulators in the next decade."

Average cost of California indemnity claim reaches $66,922

The average cost of a California Workers' Compensation indemnity claim edged up slightly to reach a record high of $66,922 for 2011, according to the California Workers' Compensation Institute. Higher medical and indemnity costs account for the rising claim severity. Among other data, the research organization estimates that Workers' Comp insurers expect to pay out $8.4 billion in claims for accident year 2011, which is an eight-year high.

California: Costs for spine disorders exceed average costs for all injuries

Spine disorders with spinal cord or root involvement account for 1.4 percent of all California job injury claims, but nearly seven percent of all Workers' Comp paid losses. The California Workers' Compensation Institute also reports that more than two-thirds of these injuries result in permanent disability.