New Texas law limits negligent hiring and negligent supervision suits against employers

Rather than denying employers access to potentially consequential information about a candidate’s criminal past, a new Texas law is striving to curb lawsuits against employers. Signed into law on June 14, 2013 and effective September 1, 2013, HB 1188 amends the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code to prohibit most causes of action “against an employer, general contractor, premises owner, or other third-party solely for negligently hiring or failing to adequately supervise an employee, based on evidence that the employee has been convicted of an offense.”

Notably, the statute provides exceptions that allow claims if the employer knew or should have known its employee was convicted of: (1) an offense “that was committed while performing duties substantially similar to those reasonably expected to be performed in the employment, or under conditions substantially similar to those reasonably expected to be encountered in the employment;” (2) a sexually violent offense; or (3) certain offenses specified in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 42.12- Section 3g including but not limited to murder, indecency with a child, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated robbery.

The protections under this statute do not apply in actions “concerning the misuse of funds or property of a person other than the employer, general contractor, premises owner, or third party by an employee if, on the date the employee was hired, the employee had been convicted of a crime that includes fraud or the misuse of funds or property as an element of the offense, and it was foreseeable that the position for which the employee was hired would involve discharging a fiduciary responsibility in the management of funds or property.”

Belford University: another diploma mill case from our files

So why did the applicant for a professional level position with one of our clients choose Belford University in Humble, Texas to get a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting? Maybe because Belford grants original degrees printed on traditional degree paper with a gold-plated seal which identifies it as a degree from a reputed and reliable institution. Or perhaps because the university offers free three-day shipping on a complete $249 degree package (a 4.0 GPA is $75 extra), consisting of one original accredited degree, two  original transcripts, one award for excellence, one certificate of distinction, one certificate of membership and four education verification letters. We will never know for sure. But we do know that the university’s claims on its two Web sites (www.belforduniversity.net and www.belforduniversity.org) of being “an accredited institution recognized by two renowned accreditation agencies for on-line education, namely the International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities (IAAOU) and Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA) are meaningless as the accreditations are not approved by the U.S. Department of Education. It is a bit suspicious too that on its “.org” site, the links to “University Briefs” are inactive, and thus we cannot find out the details of Belford’s “Clair’s Award for Excellence” and why Clair (spelled without an “e”) is giving out awards.

The Houston Press got on Belford’s haft in 2006 when it exposed the institution as a degree mill, operating from Humble, Texas with an indeed humble office (so humble that it’s non-existent as someone closed its account at the USA 2ME mailbox drop.) An entry in the Wikipedia stated that the degrees are actually mailed from the United Arab Emirates. The Houston Press checked out some of the names of Belford’s professors and its distinguished alums, which include Michael Fonseca, who was “promoted to the post of Divisional Head for Romuna Securities, a subsidiary of Romuna Group.” But the impressive-sounding Romuna appears to have its empire only in the mirage of Belford University.

David Linkletter of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board said that the board reported Belford to the state Attorney General’s office in March 2006, noting that “this is not a legitimate institute of higher education, as no legitimate university offers a complete degree on the basis of one’s life experience…To the extent that Belford University is in Texas, it is operating in violation of the Texas Education Code.” Since September 2005, the code makes it illegal to use a fraudulent or substandard degree for purposes of employment, business promotion or to seek admission to a university.

Despite Belford’s history of bamboozlement, as many as 500 resumes in LinkedIn, including  those of a New York-based director of human resources and  a CEO in the pharmaceutical industry, boast degrees  from this university, according to a February 2010 post on a  “consumer ally” Web site.

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