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Personal Background Checks

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Employment Background Checks National Criminal Database

The debate about national background checks has been in the headlines every day since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The focus has been on background checks for gun purchases, but some of the same points that have been made in the context of guns carry over into our world—employment screening.  One of the biggest hiring concerns for any employer is an applicant’s criminal history, thus almost every background check includes a criminal component.  The most frequent questions we field from both clients and the public have to do with “national” background checks and criminal databases. Why is this topic so confusing? Well, it’s complicated.

The National Association of Background Screeners (NAPBS) recently published a paper to shine some light on the subject. The bottom line is this: there is no single source for a national criminal check. The FBI database is incomplete. For a record to be located and housed with the FBI’s Interstate Identification System (also known as “III”) it must have a fingerprint associated with it. But unfortunately, fingerprints aren’t associated with all criminal records indexed at county or state repositories. To complicate matters, while all states currently participate in submitting some records to the III, criminal record reporting is extremely irregular across counties and states. We know that not all state criminal records or fingerprints meet the FBI’s standards for inclusion in the III, and not all state records are submitted to the FBI.

To make matters worse, even if records are included, they might not tell the true story. In a June 2006 report from the Attorney General, titled “The Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History Background Checks,” it was noted that only 50 percent of III arrest records contained final dispositions. And with any database, no matter how aggressively updated, there are inherent lags in updates. According to data from the 2005 study, “A Review and Evaluation of the NCIC,” the average number of days for repositories to receive and process information: Arrest Information = 24 days, Court Disposition = 46 days, Prison Admission = 31 Days.

We recommend that national criminal databases—whether derived from private or public sources, be verified at the source.  A combined approach allows for the broadest breadth of sources without compromising accuracy.

Don’t just take my word for it. Here is what other major news outlets are reporting on national background checks:

The Wall Street Journal

“The National Instant Criminal Background Check System…doesn’t include millions of people legally barred from owning guns, researchers and advocates say. Fourteen states list fewer than five people flagged for mental-health issues. Researchers also found major gaps in filing records of known drug offenders, who are temporarily prohibited from buying firearms.”

“Many states are still failing to do the bare minimum,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which studied the matter in a 2011 report. “We know they have hundreds of thousands of records sitting in state agencies.”

(Source: “Spotty Records Weaken Background Checks” reported online January 15, 2013)

The Huffington Post

“The database is incomplete because many states have not provided federal authorities with comprehensive records of people involuntarily committed or otherwise ruled mentally ill. Records are also spotty for several other categories of prohibited buyers, including those who have tested positive for illegal drugs or have a history of domestic violence.”

“Despite improvements in recent years, state governments are failing to submit records to the Federal Bureau of Investigations of people with mental illnesses who have been institutionalized or otherwise deemed by authorities to be dangerous to themselves or others, The New York Times reported Friday. The Times cited a 2011 study by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 700 city officials that is co-chaired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), an outspoken proponent of stricter gun control laws.”

(Source: “FBI Gun Background Check Database Missing Millions of Records on Mentally Ill” reported online December 21, 2012)

The New York Times

“The database is incomplete because many states have not provided federal authorities with comprehensive records of people involuntarily committed or otherwise ruled mentally ill. Records are also spotty for several other categories of prohibited buyers, including those who have tested positive for illegal drugs or have a history of domestic violence.”

(Source: “Gaps in F.B.I. Data Undercut Background Checks for Guns” published online December 20, 2012)

CNN

Universal background check: What does it mean?

“(H)uge gaps” exist in the database, which is called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.” Lindsay Nichols, an attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

(Source: “’Universal Background Check:’ What Does it Mean?” reported online January 14, 2013 and updated January 28, 2013)

McClatchy

“President Barack Obama acknowledged problems with the system in January when he unveiled a series of legislative recommendations and executive actions to curb gun violence.

He instructed federal agencies to submit information, write regulations to lift legal barriers that prevent states from reporting data and increase incentives for states to share information.”

“But the reporting still lags. Besides the lack of mental health data from states and the federal government, 44 states had sent fewer than 10 drug abuse records each as of October 2011, the mayors’ report said. That’s even though a single failed drug test, drug-related arrest or drug use admission might disqualify a person from buying a gun. Only three federal agencies have submitted drug use information.”

(Source: “Gun Background-Check Database Missing Vital Information” reported online March 13, 2013)

Mason Globe Gazette

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is only as good as the information fed into the system, according to local and state officials.”

“One of the issues it has faced, especially with today’s technology, is that it is just a data base and it is not a psychological or psychiatric assessment tool. And so a background check is only as good as the data that it houses.” said Ross Loder, bureau chief for the program services bureau of the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

“NICS may also be incomplete because some states do not enter all criminal convictions.”

(Source: Background Checks Reliable but Limited” reported online March 16, 2013)

Azfamily.com

“The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission released a nearly 90-page study Thursday that examined the state’s reporting system. A task force found inefficiencies and missing information from the database. As a result, a number of felons, domestic violence offenders and mentally ill may not have been entered in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System used by gun dealers, as well as law enforcement and employers.”

Paper “disposition reports” filled out by the various law-enforcement agencies are submitted to the Department of Public Safety by mail. DPS then submits them to the state, which then submits them to the national database. However, the lag time could be days, weeks or months, according to the task force, which also found large amounts of missing information on criminal records. “Statewide, Arizona is missing disposition information on 33.6 percent of felony arrest counts and 25.1 percent of misdemeanor domestic violence arrest counts,” according to the report, titled ‘Arizona NICS Records Improvement Plan.’

(Source: “AZ Study Finds Serious Lapses in Criminal Background Check System” reported online March 22, 2013)

Thanks to NAPBS for source material in this post.








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Criminal Record Background Check

Last month, we released our official 2013 Employment Background Check Trends Survey report.  The report includes findings from nearly 1,000 Human Resources professionals in various industries across the United States, who responded to our survey on background checks for employment at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013.

One of the questions we asked was if their organization asks candidates to self-disclose past criminal history on their job applications.

Despite the guidance issued by the EEOC in April of 2012—recommending that employers should not ask candidates about convictions on job applications—79% of respondents say they are continuing to do so (see chart below). [...]

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Consumer Privacy Employment Background Checks

For those of you interested in keeping up with the latest in pre-employment background screening compliance and the laws that affect your use of  employee background checks, check out our latest publication, BTW: Your Guide to Staying Out of Hot Water.  This compliance resource has been crafted by our VP of Compliance and General Counsel, Angela Preston and is a must-read for human resources and security professionals.

Our March issue focuses on issues of consumer privacy particularly as it relates to employers request of their candidates’ social media passwords.  While we don’t believe many employers engage in this practice as part of their employment background check policies, congress seems poised to create a federal law banning such a request.  We also take a close look at a recent $3 million FCRA settlement and the trend of local/state governments adopting “Ban the Box” measures.  For a preview of this issue, check out Angela’s video below.

 

 

Review March Issue

 

 

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employment background screening

 

For those of you interested in keeping up with the latest in pre-employment background screening compliance and the laws that affect your use of  employee background checks, check out our latest publication, BTW: Your Guide to Staying Out of Hot Water.  This compliance resource has been crafted by our VP of Compliance and General Counsel, Angela Bosworth and is a must-read for human resources and security professionals.

Our January issue focuses on issues of privacy affecting the employment background screening industry, both from the prospective of data brokers and social media.  Are data brokers responsible for the information they aggregate?  Does it have to be accurate?  Are private Facebook posts indeed private?  For a preview of this issue, check out Angela’s video below.

Download the January issue here.

 

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My Shortest Blog Ever – Do It Right

Published on 14 January 2013 by in Compliance

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Accurate Background Checks

Background checks for the purchase of guns have been in the spotlight since the Sandy Hook massacre—the  topic has been front and center over the past few months.  We don’t conduct these type of checks, those checks are left to the inadequate FBI background screening system—a big problem but a debate for another time.  This post is about the “other” articles I have seen over the past few weeks regarding our industry.  I have seen at least five pieces about how the background screening companies should focus on accuracy, and I can’t stay silent anymore. Here is my blog, short and sweet, see below and don’t blink because you may miss it.

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In 2010, we published a white paper for employers that utilize a contingent or temporary workforce and encouraged them to ensure that their employment background check policies and practices were met.  Unfortunately, this week a charter school in New Orleans learned that a background check run by their janitorial service contractor failed to highlight an arrest record for murder that would have caused them to not to allow one of their janitors to work at the school.  That particular person is now charged with quadruple murder.  See story below as well as our original white paper. [...]

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It has been seven months since the EEOC issued new guidance on employers’ use of criminal background checks. There has been quite a bit of information released since then and we wanted to take a few moments to share some of the feedback we’ve received from our clients since May. See also our blog post and webinar on the topic.

We’re hearing that the EEOC guidelines on criminal records have caused tremendous confusion among our clients.  There are three main areas that are causing the most confusion. First, the EEOC recommends as a best practice that employers abolish the job application question that asks if the person has been convicted of a crime.  This recommendation is not feasible for many employers who have bona fide job qualifications that require exclusions based on certain types of crimes. Employers are understandably confused about when they can and should ask about criminal history and request a background check. Delaying the question can cause both the employer and the candidate to invest heavily in an opportunity or even quit their job only to be disqualified later in the process.

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I know that this post might look familiar, but there is some updated information you’ll want to check out.  You might recall that the The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued new notices this past August which would be required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act effective January 1, 2013.  Well, that’s still the plan, but we were just notified that the forms changed . . . again.  Listed below is our original post with the updated forms.  Again, please remember that these new forms are a requirement beginning on January 1, 2013. [...]

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The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), of which we are accredited member, just released their tips for conducting employment background checks in 2013.  We are particularly thrilled that see that being thorough and accurate is their number one suggestion.  I’ve listed their top recommendations below and encourage human resource, talent management, loss prevention and risk management professionals to check out the complete release.

The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and its members are committed to ensuring the highest degree of accuracy and professionalism when it comes to background checks. To that end, NAPBS offers the following best practices intended to benefit employers and job seekers who are planning for 2013: [...]

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With NBC’s Today Show report on the negative side to background screening companies, another case arose this past week with the story of Darlene T. Martinez of Arizona, who was denied a job due to an inaccurate background check. After the NBC report, many background screening companies, including EmployeeScreenIQ responded confirming that, yes, companies in our industry do make mistakes sometimes. While we can’t speak for our competitors, our company does everything possible to conduct a complete and accurate background check, especially when it comes to criminal records. However, for Darlene, the mistake in her background check not only cost her a job opportunity, but caused additional hardships for the months that followed.

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