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Update: The commission has been disbanded and has 90 days to leave NJ, and it is only a matter of time before they leave NY as well.


I know an individual who is trying to get a labor job in NYC. This particular industry has in the past been associated with organized crime, and now is trying very hard to prevent that from happening again. It's a good union job, & part of the hiring process has involved multiple drug tests (urine, then a few weeks later hair), a background check, information on household members, etc. I don't think this is necessarily unreasonable, but it's escalated quite a bit - with the running joke by current employees being that it'd be easier to get a job with the FBI. One individual was denied a position because they determined his family is "connected," while the guy's brother is a Supreme Court Judge.

They've completely dissected his life, and are asking such bizarre questions and making unbelievable jumps: Do you know John Smith? No? Well, before your father worked at his current place of employment, John Smith worked there. How'd your father find out about the job? Do you know anyone who participated in XYZ? No? What about [friend's brother's friend]? Do you know anyone who was accused of participating in XYZ crime? No? Well your neighbor was and you were at his BBQ last summer. How well do you know him? Have you been in their house? Do you know their parents?

The whole process has taken months, and they keep calling my friend in for follow-up interviews. During this time they record sessions, have a lawyer present, make him swear under oath, and threaten sue if they determine he is providing any false information. They've asked the names of his parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, name of spouses & ex-spouses. More recently they've also asked for copies of the license of his parents and their cell phone/landline numbers.

My friend is being compliant because it's a good job & he has nothing to hide, but it seems they're going to do background checks on his parents also. Who knows what his parents' friends' cousins' neighbor was accused of 40 years ago! It seems like a witch hunt. Are these legal hiring practices?

  • "Has in the past been associated with organised crime". "Has nothing to hide". These statements directly contradict each other. – Studoku Apr 25 at 12:05
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    @Studoku-ReinstateMonica The industry has been associated with organized crime - not my friend. – user71118 Apr 25 at 14:51
  • @JoeStrazzere Honestly I'm not sure. I can maybe find out more, but I'm pretty sure they had him sign some 20-page form before the hiring process began. – user71118 Apr 25 at 14:52
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    @user71118 My bad. I read "individual" rather than "industry". – Studoku Apr 25 at 15:34
  • sounds stricter the DV or TS clearance – Neuromancer Jun 9 at 18:38
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I believe that I would take up this matter with either the State or the US Department of Labor.

Your friend might also find it more expedient to engage an attorney who is a specialist in matters of labor law. Because, "these are the people who really know." Internet discussion groups can only go so far. Sometimes, you need a professional. This might well be one of those times. Go ahead and buy a few hours of his or her time. Get answers.

For what it's worth, I met "my personal attorney" several decades ago when he helped us with a problematic estate. Today he is my trusted and trustworthy counselor about pretty-much everything. "Let me Ask Tom." Well worth his hourly rate. "Tom knows." (Plus: he loves to collect "lawyer jokes!")

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  • Probably not a bad idea. I'm looking into the commission that's doing all of this, turns out that multiple lawmakers and the governor of NJ actually tried to shut them down and they turned around and sued the governor. Also, I believe their interviews are considered "Public Hearings" and "any person called to testify as a witness, or who avails himself or herself the opportunity to be heard, may be represented by an attorney who is a member of good standing of the Bar." – user71118 Apr 25 at 17:37
  • @user71118 If this is a "commission," then what sort of entity is it? If it's a government agency, they might have considerably more power to do intrusive background checks. – cpast Apr 26 at 3:32
  • @cpast they have a .gov website. The labor union itself is international, but the commission only oversees the business in NY/NJ because of its history. – user71118 Apr 26 at 16:20
  • I guess that answers the legality question of it all. Just the manner of interrogation for a labor job was so ridiculous I couldn't believe it. Anywhere else in the counrty this process doesn't exist for hiring the same position, though anywhere else in the country also doesn't get the salary. – user71118 Apr 26 at 16:31
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    @user71118 I might edit the question to add that the background check is being done by a regulatory agency -- that has different expectations (and a different legal situation) compared to a private employer doing the check. – cpast Apr 26 at 16:41
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This seems like an XY problem- you don't want the legal answer, you to know how your friend should deal with this.

Legal or not, this practice is not normal and is a major red flag. While extensive background checks exist in certain industries, they are usually outsourced to proper agencies with legal oversight.

Considering some of the information you mentioned, especially the part about family members' IDs, this sounds like a scam.

Even if this job was legitimate, it's not worth jumping through hoops for. Instead, your friend should spend the time they would have spent on this riggamarole to apply to other companies.

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  • I know individuals working there, so it's definitely not a scam (though they were hired before this vetting process began). In addition, he had his name put in by his in-laws who also work there, and has been on a waiting list for years so there's a bit more pressure for him to continue the process. IMO this whole thing seems like a class-action lawsuit waiting to happen, but I'm looking into it now & it turns out the lawmakers & governor of NJ tried to shut the whole thing down and they turned around & sued the governor. – user71118 Apr 25 at 17:24
  • "I know individuals working there, so it's definitely not a scam (though they were hired before this vetting process began)." Sounds like they're in on the scam. Everything you say is red flags on red flags. – Studoku Apr 25 at 23:42
  • You underestimate the number of people as well as my relationships with them. The multiple individuals I know have been working there a minimum of 20 years, during which time the company was forced to change their hiring process. – user71118 Apr 26 at 0:53
  • My point is the job, its salary, and its benefits are legitimate. Once your hired you don't deal with the commission again unless you get in trouble. My question was simply: can they actually do this? Is it legal to look into applicants' lives in this ridiculous manner? – user71118 Apr 26 at 1:03
  • Update: The commission has been disbanded and has 90 days to leave NJ, and it is only a matter of time before they leave NY as well. joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/… – user71118 Jun 9 at 15:53
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Your friend is having a joke at your expense and it is getting more outrageous the longer it lasts.

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    Unfortunately not. The most recent interview was online due to the quarantine and I was present when it occurred and heard all the ridiculous questions, went on for over an hour. I'm also close to individuals working there currently. We were warned the interview process was more of an interrogation. – user71118 Apr 24 at 23:49
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    Now you're having a joke at our expense which started off outrageous and is heading into space cadet territory – Kilisi Apr 25 at 2:16
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    I agree the situation is 'outrageous,' but it's certainly not a joke. The process has been incredibly frustrating for my friend who is only trying to get a better job. That's the whole reason I decided to see if I could even determine these practices as legal. – user71118 Apr 25 at 2:42
  • I'm telling you they look into everything. Here's a man who was denied a job because of the restaurant he had his daughter's sweet 16 in: wcnyh.gov/newspage293.html – user71118 Apr 26 at 1:19
  • Update: The commission has been disbanded and has 90 days to leave NJ, and it is only a matter of time before they leave NY as well. joc.com/port-news/longshoreman-labor/… – user71118 Jun 9 at 15:53

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