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As you’ve probably heard before, there are many cases of school employees having criminal records that are not revealed until after they have worked for a school system for a significant period of time. In some instances, this might be because the background check that was conducted was not thorough enough, however, in other cases, previous regulations allowed those with criminal records to work for a school district, as long as enough time had passed since they were convicted. As laws and regulations are narrowing down to prevent these employees from working for the school system, there are many situations that do not have a black or white answer.

One such case reported by WTAE Pittsburgh, is the employment of Art Johnson, a counselor for young fathers at a community center in Penn Hills. In 1982, Johnson was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and served five years in prison. He says he now uses his experiences from when he was younger to educate the men he counsels. Johnson stated, “I’m not coming at them with what I found out in a book. I’m sharing my experience, my strengths and my hopes…” At the time Johnson was hired, the law did not prevent him from getting the job. However, under a new state law, there will be a lifetime employment ban for certain criminal offenses. While a judge ruled that Johnson could keep his job, the Department of Education appealed the decision. In addition, 53 people working in schools have been reported for criminal records that are covered under this new law. While some of these cases may be a grey area, the state of Pennsylvania does not allow employment to anyone with a criminal record that relates to children. The Pennsylvania Department of Education also has an extensive section on their website regarding background checks for school employees.

Another article from The Daily News in Jacksonville, NC covers the strategic plan for Onslow County Boys & Girls Club and Onslow County Schools, in addition to other local programs. Not only do they conduct national background checks, county records searches, and checks for sexual offenders, but they also institute a program that regulates employees and volunteers from being left alone with children one on one.


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I’ve taken the weekend to collect my thoughts and think about the expose that aired on NBC’s Today Show that called into question the accuracy of employment background checks.  And truth be told, I’m somewhat torn.  On one hand, I am very proud of the service that our industry provides.  We help employers make informed decisions about the people they want to hire.  In doing so, we help them protect their businesses, their employees and the clients or the people they serve.  It’s an honorable profession, but it is hard to know the impact of what we do.  How do you prove that you prevented a violent crime in the work place when the employee background check you provided included a record that caused the employer to move in a different direction?

So fine, we don’t get to bask in the glory of our work the way others do by celebrating the wins.  But we do care deeply about the work we perform and care about getting it right for our clients and their job candidates.  It doesn’t serve anyone well to provide inaccurate reports.

So, here’s the other side of the equation.

There are companies in our industry who report inaccurate information from time to time.  It isn’t their goal to do so, but it’s faster and less expensive to do it that way.  And guess what?  It’s legal.  The practice is referred to as contemporaneous notice and it requires employment background screening companies to report criminal records as is and without verifying the information.  They then have the responsibility of sending the applicant a copy of their record and allowing them to dispute the results if they are incorrect.


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In case you’re not in the know, next week (November 11th-17th) is International Fraud Awareness Week 2012. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners sponsors this awareness week and encourages companies to become more educated in the hazards of fraud in the workplace. Both small and large companies are at a greater risk of employee fraud, claims The Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing, and training firm focusing on intelligence, security, and investigations. Statistically speaking, “fraudulent activity occurs within the 23 million small businesses in the United States that account for 54% of all U.S. sales and provide 55% of all jobs.” Whether you’re a small, medium, or large company, you can’t afford this kind of loss.

Cynthia Hetherington, founder of Hetherington Group, offers a few tips to prevent fraud from happening in the first place. A few precautions to consider:


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The Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ruled that Section 1681c of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is not an unconstitutional restriction of free speech.  The case, King v. General Information Services, Inc., Case No. 10-6850 (E.D. of Penn.), upholds the enforceability of FCRA Section 1681c, which requires accuracy and bars disclosure of potential adverse information after a defined period of time. The defendant in the case, a consumer reporting agency conducting background checks, argued that this section of the FCRA was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. The Court disagreed, saying that 1681c embodies Congress’ dual interests in meeting business needs and protecting consumer privacy. “By barring consumer reporting agencies from disclosing adverse pieces of information after a certain period of time, section 1681c directly advances the governmental interest in protecting individuals’ privacy in potentially harmful and embarrassing information”.

So when it comes to reporting out-of-date arrest information on a background check, free speech is not a defense.  Makes sense, right? I think so. GIS had argued that Section 1681c was unconstitutional in light of a recent Supreme Court case, Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc., 131 S. Ct. 2653 (2011), which struck down a Vermont law on First Amendment grounds because that law had speaker-based and content-based restrictions.  GIS unsuccessfully argued that Section 1681c was overly restrictive by limiting speech about arrest records– speech that it claimed was subject to a stricter level of protection under Sorrell.

The King court disagreed, finding that CRAs have a unique impact on personal privacy, compiling otherwise publicly available information in a single source. This practice is a form of commercial speech that is much different from when the information is publicly available in many sources, as evidenced by the fact that employers are willing to pay for consumer reports.

This court shut the door on the argument that consumer reports should be protected as free speech, even though the reports are comprised of public record. Nice try, GIS. It was a stretch, in my opinion. But now we know how at least one court interprets the question.


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Happy Friday (and happy November)! It’s been a beyond eventful week at EmployeeScreenIQ. If you’ve had a busy week like us, you may have missed what we’ve been talking about on our employment screening blog. And if you’re on the East Coast (like us), more than likely you felt the effects of Frankenstorm AKA Hurricane Sandy, both in business as well with possible court delays on your criminal background checks. Not only was there a hurricane this week, but Halloween happened to be Wednesday, which was also the same day EmployeeScreenIQ released our 4th Annual Background Screening Trends Survey! If you haven’t heard about our annual survey yet, check out the blog post below and learn about an exciting opportunity to win the new iPad Mini. We’ve also posted a few newsworthy blog posts this week, so whatever you may have missed, take a look at our snapshot of this week!


Your Vote Counts: Take Our Survey for a Chance to Win an iPad Mini

While you might not feel confident in your voice being heard in the presidential election, you can be confident that your voice will be heard in EmployeeScreenIQ’s 4th Annual Background Screening Trends Survey. And even better, you also have the opportunity to win an iPad mini when you complete the survey! (See More)




Frankenstorm Wreaking Havoc on Criminal Background Checks

By now, you’d have to be living under a rock not know about the devastation Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy has caused over the entire Eastern seaboard. Towns are flooded and damaged, people have been evacuated (including my sister who lives in Brooklyn) and millions are without power. (See More)




Teacher’s Aide Fired for 1965 Manslaughter Conviction

Do you think that a woman who was convicted of manslaughter in 1965 when she was 17 years old for her role in the murder of child should have been fired? What if I told you that this woman had served her time and has not run afoul of the law since? (See More)

You can also read our follow up blog here.



Just for fun, take a look at one of our ESIQ costume contest participants from Halloween this week!

Have a restful weekend everyone!




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As Election Day is quickly approaching, you might still be deciding who to vote for (whether it’s for the presidential election or other issues) or maybe you’re wondering if your vote counts in the big picture. While you might not feel confident in your voice being heard in the presidential election, you can be confident that your voice will be heard in EmployeeScreenIQ’s 4th Annual Background Screening Trends Survey. And even better, you also have the opportunity to win an iPad mini when you complete the survey!

The survey covers various issues in the industry including criminal records, resume distortions and social networking sites that reveal a little too much. You have a front row seat to the most contentious issues shaping the screening and hiring industries, all under the ever-watchful eye of federal and state regulators as well as other government agencies. Every opinion matters-we want to hear from you.

Share your insights on these and other pressing concerns facing human resource professionals in a new era of increased legislation and litigation. The survey will take just five minutes of your time and you will receive a free executive summary of the results for your participation (and don’t forget about the opportunity to win an iPad mini!) Don’t miss out on this exciting survey!


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When it comes to Halloween, there is endless fun in choosing who to dress up as and portraying someone who is the complete opposite of yourself. Halloween is the opportunity for not only children, but also adults (if you’re lucky like EmployeeScreenIQ and were able to dress up today) to go all out to shock, and perhaps appall others with your costume of choice.

When it comes to employment background screening, unfortunately, your candidate may not be as obvious with who they are. They may not be wearing a Michael Myers mask and carrying a butcher knife to their interview, but applicants might have something to hide. Whether it’s a past criminal record, or a “white lie” on their resume, an employer would never know what kind of skeletons could be hiding in the closet without verifying the truth behind their façade.

You should also keep in mind that an applicant may be intentionally covering up a record and flaunting the appearance of the “perfect candidate.” However, with so many resumes, candidates, and interviews, it is impossible to perceive every fallacy. Of course, you can’t be suspicious of everyone, but the only way to find out—uncover the truth and continue screening your candidates.

Happy Halloween everyone, enjoy your day!

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Yesterday, we wrote a blog post about a woman who was fired from her job as a teacher’s aid at a school in Iowa after it was discovered that she was convicted of manslaughter in conjunction with the murder of 16 year old in 1965.  Mainly, we focused on whether this woman, who seems to have lived a crime-free life since and held this job since 1998 should be able to keep her job.

We did however, speculate on how the school missed this conviction when they conducted an employment background check.  And now we think we know why; they didn’t conduct a background check because they were not required to do so for a teacher’s aide by the state of Iowa.  I’ll spare the outrage over why someone entrusted to the well-being of children wouldn’t be screened (it seems the politicians are already starting to do that) and focus on these comments from the state’s executive director of Board of Education Examiners.

“The system is built to have multiple checks,” said Duane Magee, executive director of the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, which issues licenses to teachers, coaches, administrators and others.

“We do a fingerprint check through the FBI, we use Social Security numbers, we use names. If there’s false information, that’s going to get caught. If there are things in other states, that’s going to get caught,” he said.

With all due respect, I think the Mr. Magee is misinformed.  As has been well documented on this blog and confirmed through the FBI, an FBI fingerprint check is not guaranteed to identify if someone has been convicted of a crime.  Research shows that maybe 55% of all convictions get into their database.  Same goes for a statewide search.  It’s not a guarantee.

Now, to be fair to Mr. Magee, the only criminal background check that would be 100% guaranteed would be one where every single court in the entire country is searched under all names used by the subject of the report.  That, however would costs thousands and thousands of dollars and could take weeks or months to complete.  But, it boggles my mind that the schools who protect our children don’t adopt the strict screening measures utilized by a majority of private sector employers.

They should be conducting an Address History Search (aka Social Security Number Trace) to identify areas where they have lived and names they have used.  The primary criminal search should then be conducted in each of those locations under each of the names identified.  In most cases, that’s where the records would have originated.  Generally, people don’t travel or go on vacation and commit the types of crimes employers would be concerned about.  And in most instances if they did, they probably would have committed similar offenses where they live.  But that’s where you can then apply a database search and an FBI check and a statewide search.

We can debate whether this woman should have been fired until the cows come home but this school was negligent in not upholding their promise to parents to take reasonable measures to protect their children.  The Iowa school board ought to take a look at this and at the same time, understand what they’re guaranteed employee background checks will and will not find.

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Wondering how a comprehensive criminal background check is done?

Download our article, Time for a Wake Up Call: Are Your Criminal Background Checks Giving You a False Sense of Security? to find out!

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Warning.  This is not a riddle and I don’t have the answer.

Do you think that a woman who was convicted of manslaughter in 1965 when she was 17 year old for her role in the murder of child?  What if I told you that this woman had served her time and has not run afoul of the law since? What if I told you that she had been working in an Iowa school as a teacher’s aide for special needs children without incident since 1998?

Guess what?  It happened and the school district recently fired her when they discovered her criminal past.

Teacher’s Aide Fired for Revelation of Role in Grisly 1965 Killing

An Iowa teacher’s aide has been fired from her job following the revelation that she was a member of an Indiana family notorious for torturing and killing a girl in their basement in 1965.

“A week ago today we got an anonymous report that the now Paula Pace was the previous Paula Baniszewski involved in this 1965 murder case in Indiana and it was a real attention-seeker out there, a heinous crime,” Grundy County Sheriff Rick Penning told today.

Paula Baniszewski was 17 years old in the summer of 1965 when a 16-year-old girl names Sylvia Likens and her sister came to stay with Baniszewski’s family. In the months that followed, Likens was beaten, burned, malnourished and branded with a hot needle. Her body was found in the basement of the home in October of that year.

The case became one of the most infamous crimes in Indiana and has been the subject of several books and movies.

Baniszewski’s mother Gertrude Baniszewski was convicted of first degree murder and Paula Baniszewski was found guilty of second degree murder for her participation in the torture. Several other family members were also convicted.

Paula Baniszewski appealed her conviction and ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter. She served time and was released from prison in 1972. She completed her parole and moved to Iowa.

Baniszewski, now 64, has been going by the name Paula Pace and has worked for the BCLUW school district in Conrad, Iowa, since 1998. She had done some custodial work and was most recently working as a teacher’s aide for special needs students.

Recently, information about Pace’s true identity began circulating around Facebook and an anonymous tipster called police to tell them they should look into her background. Police immediately notified the school and both began doing background checks.


Let’s leave how they are just finding out for now and ask the question, what would you think?  Has the woman paid her debt to society?   Would you want your children in this classroom?  I’d be interested to hear what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would say.  Really.  This is a tough call.  On one hand the conviction occurred 47 years ago.  On the other, it was a heinous crime involving a child.

As to how the schools’ employment background check didn’t reveal the conviction, I can only speculate that they did what most school districts do; they either conducted a statewide background check in Iowa (the conviction occurred in Indiana) and, or they failed to conduct a Social Security Number Trace which most likely would have revealed her given name (the one the conviction was filed under).


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This past summer, the Amateur Athletic Union announced mandatory background screening for all adult coaches, volunteers and staff as well as stricter guidelines for how to interact with children.  And earlier this week it was reported that of the 27,000 people they screened, 150 had issues that according to the AAU “could prove to be problematic for AAU membership.”

Now, opponents of employment background checks would argue that a 0.5% “hit rate” represents a needle in the haystack and proves that employers really don’t need to engage in this practice.  They would tell you that employers and their background screening companies trot out the worst examples of violent activity and crimes of abuse that could occur in the workplace and over-exaggerate their prevalence.

I would counter by saying that .05% does seem like a small amount.  I’d say that means that the AAU was smart to recognize that there was a problem.  I’d also say that it took courage to publicly commit to these checks and report their findings.  Prevent Child Abuse America’s CEO, Jim Hmrovich suggests that children who are abused are left with scars for the rest of their lives.  In many cases, they become non-productive members of society whether due to dropping out of school, drug abuse and, or criminal activity.  Even worse, many who are abused actually become abusers. Because of AAU’s efforts, 150 people that could ruin children’s lives will no longer be able to do so by preying on this organization and the children it has an obligation to protect.

So, getting to the crux of the issue, .05% is a small number.  But does that small number mean anything to a child or their family when they become a victim of that .05%?  Take a look at former National Hockey League players Theo Fluerry and Sheldon Kennedy and tell me that it would have mattered to them.  Both were abused by coaches at a young age and suffered for years as a result (note that neither were abused in an AAU program).

Check out Sheldon Kennedy’s story below.

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