We begin this blog with a bold-faced disclaimer. THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG IS NOT A LAWYER. HE HAS NO LEGAL TRAINING. HE IS NOT AWARE OF ANYTHING THAT IS NOT WRITTEN IN THE POLICIES DISCUSSED BELOW. THIS BLOG EXISTS ONLY HAS AN OUTLINE OF HOW HE PLANS TO HANDLE A RECENTLY ANNOUNCED POLICY. DO NOT TAKE THIS AS LEGAL ADVICE. DO NOT ASK THIS AUTHOR LEGAL QUESTIONS. CONSULT YOUR LOCAL LAWS AND A QUALIFIED ATTORNEY TO SEE HOW TO BEST HANDLE THIS IN YOUR JURISDICTION. Yesterday, Hasbro (remember, we have decided to stop pretending they exist under any other name as a company) decided it was incumbent upon retailers to prove their play spaces are safe. You can read the article about additions to the to the Retailer Agreement here, and today I'm going to share some brief Friday thoughts on it.
Section 5b: To protect players of all ages, to the extent permitted by applicable law, you agree to conduct background checks to meet your obligations under Section 15 on your Staff as well as those you engage with that interact with the public
Section 5h: You will refrain from violating the WPN Code Conduct and you agree to display in your Retail Store and/or Event Locations, player and community policies as designated by Wizards from time to time.
Section 15: You will not employ or otherwise engage Staff or other individuals who interact with the public on your behalf who (i) appear on a sex offender registry (or its international equivalent), and/or (ii) have been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for a violent sexual offense or a crime against children.
Those are the three new sections in the WPN Retailer Agreement, and I can't find much to get angry about. I believe that small business owners should run background checks on their employees anyway, both because of the large amount of money and product they deal with, and the large number of children they deal with through the course of their daily work in a hobby game store.
My staff all is background checked, and that was completed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Two members of the staff here have lived in other states (myself and one part-timer) and I will now run FBI fingerprint checks on both of us. Where things get sketchy, and I understand why some retailers are unhappy about this, are in Section 15. I mostly use judges who are members of my staff. PPTQs aren't worth running these days, for us, so it's Standard Showdown, FNM, and Prereleases. My staff handles 90% of those events, and two judges handle the rest. Am I supposed to background check those people as well, because it can get expensive. So, let's not talk about whether or not we agree. Frankly, you can disagree with their policies all you want, but your options are to stop running sanctioned Magic, or comply. So, here are my compliance steps. Employees - As stated, I already do this. Check with your local Bureau of Investigation, most states have one. If your employee has only lived in one state you can run this background check relatively easily, and the costs I've found in random Google searches is $20.00 or less. Alternately you may need the FBI to do an Identity History Summary which will fill in the national background for you. Those require a fingerprint card to have been completed. Those cards can sometimes be done in your local municipality, and other times will need to be done by the state bureau. Judges - I pay my Magic judges for their time, but for the two that have been with me for a long time and I use regularly I'm going to pay to have these checks done. Any future judges who come to me as independent contractors will be required to pay for these themselves. I will be informing my judges during the Prerelease that they will need to submit to either a CBI or FBI background check (depending on their residency) after Prerelease weekend. Volunteers - All volunteers who run events for Wizards of the Coast (which in this case means my Adventurer's League DMs) will be informed that I need full names and that I will be running those names through both the national and local sex offender database. As Wizards is not providing any sort of funding for this endeavor they're getting free searches of publicly available databases. Other Volunteers - Wizards doesn't get to tell me how I run Savage Worlds, Warhammer, or any game they don't make. WPN policies haven't applied to these people in the past, and until Wizards hands me a pile of money, they will not apply to these people in the future.
I am not a lawyer. I have no legal training. I read way more than I should, and I think we need to discuss something important here. "The decision not to hire someone based on his or her criminal record must be related to the job, meaning the criminal record indicated that the person could be a liability in that position."
We're clearly covered here if we don't hire someone because we deal with a vulnerable clientele (children) if their background check includes any of the aforementioned crimes. So, John, you may ask, how will you handle new hires? From here on out I will be asking new hires to pay for their own background check. If it comes back clean and we hire them we will reimburse them on their first paycheck. If, after I explained to them why they are being asked to do a background check and then they fail it, they will not be reimbursed.
The Safety Of Our Guests
As specialist hobby retailers we have placed ourselves in a position of trust. We ask parents to trust us with their children. I mean, actively, some of us do this. I tell parents of 13 year old children that they're welcome to get some coffee, or have a date night, while their children play FNM or a Prerelease. The store is so crowded I don't actually want them looking for a chair to sit in because they get pretty scarce around here. (I tell parents of 12 year old (and younger) children that they must be here to supervise their kids.) This policy has the potential to bring about a great deal of good. This policy has a chance to change the way that some people see our industry, and our stores. This could be a fantastic force for positive change. Yes, I just said 'potential', 'has a chance', and 'could be', which brings us to our final section.
Any policy is only as good as its enforcement. If you have a reputation for letting shoplifters walk free, you will get more shoplifters. If you have a reputation for allowing racist and misogynistic comments in your store, the racists and misogynists will all show up at your store (while all the women and decent people run away). For this policy to matter even a little bit it must be enforced by Wizards. I will gleefully provide these background checks when requested, and any store that can't provide these things should have all of their events unsanctioned and their store removed from the WPN website until they are able to provide the needed information. Creating a policy is a nice first step. Wizards now has to prove they're willing to enforce the policy, even if it means half the stores in the WPN being removed. The first step is to better spell out what is expected in these backgrounds checks. I've provided them with my plans right here in this blog. If that's inadequate they need to let me know pretty quickly, and if they're only going to accept the most expensive option in all cases (the FBI fingerprint check) then they better be prepared to pony up approximately $55 in wholesale product for each test I have to have done.
I'm fine with this. I like the idea of being held to a higher standard. I'll change my tune pretty quickly if Wizards doesn't put in the time and resources to enforce this. Enough about this! Starting on Monday we begin a four-part (published Monday through Thursday next week) look at a realistic budget for the aspiring game store owner. We'll talk about the things you need to buy, and the money to need to have, in order to join our fraternity. See ya then!