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Personal Background Checks


Resume Lies

A little resume lie never hurt anyone…right? Tell that to Steve Masiello, most recently a coach at Manhattan College, now on leave due to a potential discrepancy on his resume. It’s been 14 years since he supposedly graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of Kentucky, where he played for the Wildcats from 1996-2000.

While being screened for a coaching position at the University of South Florida, they conducted a resume verification on Masiello and inevitably discovered that he did not earn the degree listed on his resume. This discrepancy could be a blatant lie or perhaps a misunderstanding, but either way keep reading to find out how this discrepancy remained hidden for so long.


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Compliance Pre-employment screening

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

The March issue of BTW features our article, No Evidence of Injury Required: Spokeo Loses Appeal in FCRA Claim. Angela shares the details of a four-year-old case against Spokeo, charged with providing inaccurate information to employers and recruiters. Read More

Our second story brings you information on the recent agreement established between the New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and four of the largest background screening companies in the country. Beginning with the accusation that these companies were sending automatic rejection letters to candidates with criminal records, this agreement was created to end this practice. Read More

Our third story shares the news that yet another city has “banned the box.” The city of San Francisco will soon limit employers from asking candidates about criminal history until after the first in-person interview. Read More   


March BTW

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Compliance Employment Background Checks

You may already know that Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) litigation has picked up some steam over the past year. While recent class actions continue to grab the headlines, an appellate ruling in a four-year-old case is causing a buzz.

Injury In Fact?

Spokeo makes an encore appearance here in BTW as the defendant in a case that has been festering in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s an FCRA case, and the issue is damages.

The last time we checked in with Spokeo, the company was losing the battle with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over whether or not it was a consumer reporting agency that could be held accountable for providing employment reports under the FCRA. The company paid a substantial fine ($800K) for its trouble, and was sued for allegedly reporting misinformation to employers and recruiters on its website.

A complaint, originally brought by Thomas Robins on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, alleged that inaccurate information on Spokeo’s website was a “willful” violation of the FCRA. Spokeo was initially successful in arguing that the plaintiff’s claims were without merit since Robins, while admittedly unemployed, had not suffered any “actual or imminent harm”—a required element of a cause of action under the statute. Read more about that decision almost two years ago here.

At long last we have a decision on the appeal. In a surprising decision, the appellate court overturned the decision, lowering the threshold of actual damages for future FCRA claims.

How low, you ask?

How about NO damages? Zero. Zip. It doesn’t get much lower than that.

The Facts About Mr. Robins

Robins alleged that his Spokeo profile included a laundry list of inaccuracies: wrong age, wrong marital status, and wrong photo. Not all of the information was negative or even unflattering. Interestingly, the website reported that he had a graduate degree (he did not), that his economic health was “very strong” and that his “wealth level” was in the “top 10%”—all false, according to the plaintiff.

Call me crazy, but if I found out that a website was misleading the world into thinking I was a member of the highly paid, elite, upper echelon of society, I might not complain. But Robins made a good point—while being financially stable is not considered a negative (at least by most people), it doesn’t exactly help your job prospects to have a web site touting your great wealth.  The unemployed Robins claimed that the inaccurate information was costing him jobs, “causing actual harm to Plaintiff’s employment prospects” as well as “anxiety, stress, concern and/or worry about his diminished employment prospects.”

The Appellate Decision

Spokeo argued throughout the litigation that Robins had no claim under the FCRA because he made no showing of actual harm. But the Appellate court found otherwise. It held that because the allegations were for willful violations and statutory damages, and statutory causes of action do not require a showing of actual harm when a plaintiff sues for willful violations, no actual harm was needed.

The court cited the statute’s language at 15 U.S.C. § 1681n(a):

Any person who willfully fails to comply with any requirement imposed under this subchapter with respect to any consumer is liable to that consumer in an amount equal to . . . damages of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 . . . .”).[i]

The court’s decision hinged on the claim of willful violations and a claim for statutory damages only. It completely sidestepped the issue of whether Robin’s alleged harm to his employment prospects or related anxiety could be sufficient injuries in fact. Robins and Spokeo now go back to the drawing board—in district court.

Word to the wise: This case is sure to add fuel to the fire for FCRA claims, opening the door for additional plaintiffs making claims for willful violations without having suffered any actual harm or injury in fact.

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Compliance Criminal Background Check

To hire, or not to hire…that is indeed the question. Employers review qualifications, skills, and typically, the results of an employment background check to determine if a candidate is not only eligible for a position, but if they would be a good fit for the company.

For most companies, it goes without saying that you should conduct employment background checks to verify education and employment, confirm credentials, and search criminal history. However, when the background check results come in and a criminal record is found on your candidate’s background check—what steps should you take?

Our new guide, Keep It Legal: 5 Steps to Compliance When Your Candidate Has a Criminal Record, will help you to develop a policy designed to improve your hiring practices and keep legal peril at bay.

Download the article to learn more about:

  • EEOC and FCRA regulations and other legal considerations
  • Developing a hiring matrix with consistent guidelines
  • Navigating the ins and outs of individualized assessments
  • The two-step adverse action process
  • Handling candidates who dispute background check results

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Last week a press release from the New York Attorney General’s office raised some eyebrows about background screening practices—not an uncommon headline these days. The release announced that “four of the nation’s largest background check agencies” entered into an agreement with New York A.G. Eric T. Schneiderman concerning compliance with New York laws designed to protect job applicants from discrimination.

The agreement prohibits the firms from engaging in the automatic disqualification of applicants who have criminal backgrounds—something that we can all agree is a bad practice. Based on the information contained in the press release, the named companies were called out for sending automatic rejection letters to candidates with criminal records.


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Candidate Experience Background Checks

Behind every employment background check is the employer who requested it, and behind every request is a nervous job candidate. It’s important to remember that each background check represents a real person seeking a job, and that the information reported could make or break a job opportunity. Our panelists address the essential role background screening plays in creating a red carpet experience for every candidate. In addition, they share the steps employers should take to ensure their screening program meets this high standard.

As an employer, you might wonder, how can I ensure that my candidates have a positive experience? While you’re probably not conducting the background checks yourself, you should follow a few key steps to calm your candidate’s nerves.

As a background screening provider, we keep the impact that our services have on individuals at the forefront of our minds. Hiring managers conduct a background check to qualify candidates for a position. The experience candidates have could affect the company as these candidates might be customers of the company where they apply. If they have a negative experience, there’s no doubt that they will tell everyone they know—which could directly impact your brand. At the end of the day, we want to help employers provide job candidates with the best possible experience as it relates to employment background checks.

How do you create a positive candidate experience?

1. Transparency

  • For our clients, we work with them to ensure they are ordering the services that they really need. In addition, we encourage clients to share with their candidates the kind of background check they are doing as well as the information they are looking for. Candidates might have questions too, so we want to equip employers to answer those questions.

2. Accuracy

  • As a key part of our company mission and No Shortcuts philosophy, EmployeeScreenIQ works to provide the most accurate background check results. Related to the candidate experience, we want to assure clients that we are giving them the most accurate report so that the results do not lead to a candidate disputing the information, which could prolong the hiring process.
  • If inaccurate information is reported, it’s important to inform applicants that they will have the opportunity to dispute information. This includes sending pre-adverse and adverse action notifications.

3. Disputes

  • If there is a dispute, be sure to provide frequent updates to your candidate.
  • Make sure that your background screening provider is addressing the dispute in a timely fashion and is responsive to your candidate.

So employers, the bottom line is that you should recognize that applicants are nervous—whether or not they have something to hide. Be transparent about the process with applicants and also ensure that you are receiving the most accurate results from your screening provider. And if you do see recurring problems, it might be time to reevaluate your provider. And lastly, be understanding about disputes—sometimes you can’t leave a position open for very long, but in some cases, the applicant’s information could be incorrect and you want to allow time so that the dispute can be settled.

Quick Takes is a video series blending together bits of experience and expertise from EmployeeScreenIQ’s background screening experts. With a newsroom feel, discussions surround the latest issues in the background screening industry. All of the videos were filmed unscripted-giving you the opportunity to hear genuine responses from the professionals. Topics range from social media background checks to conducting a thorough criminal records search. We’re releasing a new video every month, so stay tuned.

Related EmployeeScreenIQ Content:

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Background Check Company

You know that feeling when you’re watching a horror movie? That creeping feeling of anticipation, knowing that at any minute something will go wrong? If you think horror movies are scary, just imagine how a hiring horror story might feel for your company. Maybe a candidate’s criminal record wasn’t found in the screening process…or you didn’t send an adverse action notice to your applicant and now you have a lawsuit breathing down your neck. And you’re left wondering, how could this happen?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—an employment background check is only as effective as the background screening provider behind the results. Are you confident that your company is receiving the most accurate results? You rely on these results to ensure that you’re making informed hiring decisions and that the candidate you choose is the best fit for the position. Are you placing your trust in less-than-reliable background check results?

If you’re unsure about the quality of your employment background checks, we have two resources that will help you determine if you should start searching for a new screening partner.

Take our quiz to find out if it’s time to break up with your background screening provider:

Pre-employment screening

Our article, HR’s Guide to Effective Evaluation of Background Screening Providers will provide you with the five key areas to evaluate a current or potential provider:

HR's Guide to Evaluating Background Screening Providers



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Compliance Employment Background Checks

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

Our February issue of BTW features Avoid a Lawsuit: 5 Things Employers Should Know About the FCRA. Angela shares the five things employers must be aware of in their background screening program in order to avoid becoming one of many companies facing a lawsuit. Read More.

And speaking of lawsuits, Whole Foods Market is the latest example of a company being targeted by the FCRA for their improper use of employment background checks. Read More.

This issue also brings the story, State of Texas vs. the EEOC: Is Timing Everything? The state of Texas recently went after the EEOC for its guidance on criminal background checks, but the outcome has not proven successful. Read More.

Lastly, in response to several questions we receive on the EEOC Guidance, Angela provides answers for specific questions related to the guidance in this month’s Ask Angela response, Two Years Later: Questions on the EEOC Guidance.

Read the February issue of BTW here.


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Whole Foods Market was just inducted into a growing club where no one wants to be a member. The giant food retailer is the latest target of a class action law suit for alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Whole Foods is in good company, joining other reluctant club “members”—national companies like Disney, Domino’s Pizza, CVS, K-Mart. One of the big trends we are following in 2014 is the deluge of FCRA-related employment background screening lawsuits. This week the trend continues.


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EEOC Guidelines Employment Background Checks

Despite the two years that have passed since the EEOC clarified its guidance on the use of criminal background checks, there’s still a lot of confusion out there. I am hearing from many employers struggling with how to draft and implement a background screening policy that 1) protects their organization 2) is fair to job applicants, and 3) will stand up to an EEOC enforcement action. Below are a just a few of the questions that I’ve been hearing recently.


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