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Criminal Background Check Compliance

To make intelligent hiring decisions, your company conducts employment background checks. It makes sense that you want to know all of the information on your candidate before making a final hiring decision. But then—it all comes down to the results. When a background check reveals that your job candidate has a criminal record, how do you respond?

Company hiring practices have fallen under increased government scrutiny and it’s critical that you understand the implications of your actions – and have a proactive process in place to address these unique hiring situations. So what are best practices for protecting your company?

On December 10th, join EmployeeScreenIQ for a complimentary webcast entitled, “My Candidate Has a Criminal Record. Now What?” This info-packed session will demonstrate the steps you must take when a candidate’s background check uncovers adverse information. Our featured panelists are, veteran HR executives L. Gordon Paisley from United Airlines, Tammy Henry from Walmart, and background screening experts Jason Morris, Angela Preston, and Nick Fishman from EmployeeScreenIQ. Join us while we discuss important legal considerations and share practical advice for developing a safe and compliant hiring protocol.

Attendees will learn:

    • Precautions to ensure their organization’s hiring practices are legally compliant with FCRA & EEOC requirements.
    • Essential considerations before making a hiring decision on a candidate with a criminal record.
    • Best practices for individualized assessments and adverse action.

By attending this webinar, you will receive 1 HRCI credit.


The use of this seal is not an endorsement by the HR Certification Institute of the quality of the program. It means that this program has met the HR Certification Institute’s criteria to be pre-approved for recertification credit.

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ALDI_Case Study

If you want to improve your company’s hiring practices and make more informed hiring decisions, there’s no better story to hear than ALDI’s. In 2006, ALDI came to EmployeeScreenIQ with a need to strengthen their overall hiring practices, particularly in the area of background checks. ALDI sought to improve store operations across the United States, in positions ranging from cashiers to district managers.

Thom Behtz, vice president of ALDI’s Jefferson, GA division, shares the steps in ALDI’s journey that lead to a strong partnership with EmployeeScreenIQ. Faced with several hiring challenges previous to partnering with EmployeeScreenIQ, ALDI found a solution to its hiring challenges with EmployeeScreenIQ.

With U.S. operations that span more than 1,200 stores over 21 divisions, find out how this grocery giant improved hiring practices and employee retention by partnering with EmployeeScreenIQ:

  • ALDI measurably strengthened its use of criminal background checks, a crucial element in filling thousands of positions from cashiers to district managers.
  • EmployeeScreenIQ’s education process helped ALDI executives interpret critical findings and better understand legal compliance issues and other key aspects of employment screening.
  • Discover why accuracy is the best indicator of value in a background check.

Download a complimentary copy of ALDI’s story here:

ALDI Case Study

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Background Checks in Texas

Earlier this week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a legal action challenging the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “enforcement guidance” that limits the use of criminal records during the hiring process. Texas is a big state, with a big reputation, so it’s fitting that this case is a big deal. The suit hits hard, claiming that EEOC guidelines unlawfully limit the ability of employers – including the State of Texas and its agencies–from excluding convicted felons from employment.

Texas Takes on the EEOC

The suit is the first direct challenge to the EEOC’s controversial criminal background enforcement guidance, which went into effect last April, 2012.  For those who follow EmployeeScreenIQ’s blog, the EEOC guidance on criminal background checks has been a frequent topic. Interestingly, Texas was not one of the states that joined in the recent letter to the EEOC from nine state Attorney’s General that protested the guidance. However, in a similar vein, the Texas complaint challenges the Commission’s statutory authority under Title VII to improperly “bully” the State and its agencies at the expense of the safety of Texans.

State of Texas Law vs. EEOC Guidance

The suit points out that under Texas law, both state agencies and private employers are prohibited from hiring convicted felons or certain types of ex-offenders for jobs that require high levels of security and public trust. The persuasive argument is that the EEOC’s guidance is harmful, damaging to both the state and private employers who are required to conduct background checks under state and federal law.

As the state’s legal action explains: “If state agencies choose to comply with the EEOC’s interpretation, they not only violate state law, but also must begin evaluating and hiring felons to serve in law enforcement, teach in local elementary schools, nurse veterans and the disabled, counsel juvenile detainees, and coach little league.”

In the press conference, Abbott got political, saying this: “Once again, the Obama Administration is overreaching its legal authority by trying to impose hiring rules on states that violate state sovereignty and – in this instance – endanger public safety. Texas has an obligation to enforce its absolute ban on hiring convicted felons for certain jobs, including state troopers, school teachers, and jailers.”

The State of Texas is pushing back—taking issue with the EEOC’s approach of sue first and sort out later, which it says simply encourages disqualified applicants to file discrimination claims in situations where they are simply not qualified. Whether other states will jump into the fray remains to be seen.

The complaint itself asks the federal court for the following relief:

  • A declaratory judgment that the State of Texas and its agencies are entitled to maintain and enforce state laws and policies that absolutely bar convicted felons – or a certain category of convicted felons – from government employment;
  • A declaration that the EEOC cannot enforce its guidelines against the State of Texas – and an injunction that bars the EEOC from issuing right-to-sue letters to persons seeking to pursue this type of discrimination charge against the State of Texas or any of its agencies;
  • a judgment holding unlawful and setting aside the EEOC’s hiring guidelines.

I will be tracking this one closely—as will employers in Texas and across the US.

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National Criminal Database Background Checks

The name National Criminal Database can be deceiving. To some the name might suggest that the database is a full compilation of criminal records from every court in the country, but the record you’re looking for might not be found there. This leaves employers wondering, should this database be used at all for criminal background checks? Our panelists discuss the best practices for utilizing this tool in employment background checks. Watch the video above for more information.

Best practices indicate that the National Database should be used, but with a few considerations in mind:

  • False positives may be reported if this source is used as a stand-alone.
  • When a record is found, it should be verified at the source, typically the county court.
  • Individual attention should be given to each search—and examined on a case by case basis.

Related EmployeeScreenIQ Content:

Are you unsure if your criminal background checks are giving you the most accurate results? Download our 5 step guide to understanding comprehensive criminal background checks, Time for a Wake Up Call: Are Your Criminal Background Checks Giving You a False Sense of Security?

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.

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Background Checks in Public Schools

In previous posts, we’ve often discussed the need for more comprehensive background checks in schools as well as a process that should be followed on a national level—not just school district to school district or state by state etc. This year alone, we’ve covered several stories on the EmployeeScreenIQ Blog involving new laws for both child care centers and schools.

Requirements for Background Checks in Schools

There is no standard of background checks for all schools in the United States to follow, nor are there federal laws that must be adhered. This results in many of the stories we hear—that teacher that was on the sex offender registry, yet worked for years in a middle school, or another who was convicted of sexual misconduct and worked with second graders. In any situation, the solution has been to step up background checks on employees in that particular school or school district, and in some instances on a state level. However, as we know, this has not been a true solution to the problem.


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Target to Ban the Box on Criminal Background Checks

In an effort to hire more ex-offenders, Minnesota-based Target Corporation has announced they are banning the box. The national retailer announced that it will be eliminating the box on the job application that asks the candidate about criminal history. Target Vice President, Jim Rowader announced that the new policy will go into effect for all U.S. applicants.

On May 13, 2013, the state of Minnesota passed a law expanding the state’s ban the box law to include private employers. The new law goes into effect January 1, 2014 and will prevent employers from conducting a criminal background check until later in the hiring process. For more details on the specifics of this law, read our post here. Target has decided to proactively take the step of implementing the policy on a national level, even though it is not required in most states.

In a report by Minneapolis Public Radio, Target is planning to work with a Minneapolis-based group Council on Crime and Justice to increase the company’s hiring of ex-offenders. In addition, Rowander announced the decision while participating as a panelist at a forum addressing unemployment among ex-offenders, organized by the advocacy group Take Action Minnesota.


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Ban the box Employment background checks

The governor of the State of Illinois has kept his promise to enact an administrative order, effectively “banning the box” for state workers.  On October 3, 2013, Governor Pat Quinn signed an executive order providing that applicants with a criminal record will no longer be asked about their criminal past when they apply for state jobs.

The governor’s administrative order doesn’t apply to private employers, who will still be free to inquire about criminal history on job applications. But applications for state government jobs will no longer include a check box indicating whether an applicant has pled guilty, or been convicted of a criminal offense, other than a minor traffic violation. State agencies will still be allowed to conduct background checks, and request information on criminal convictions, but not until later in the process.

Quinn signed the executive order after ban the box proposals failed three times in the state legislature. Without state “ban-the-box” legislation, the next governor could rescind the administrative order. Quinn is up for re-election next year.


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Adverse Action Background Checks

If you read the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as much as I do (insert nerd joke here), you might know that it allows non-conviction criminal information to be reported for up to seven years. One question that occasionally comes up is, when does the clock start on the seven year count? According to a recent brief filed jointly by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), your count may be wrong. [...]

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Accurate Employment Background Checks

After months of searching, you finally found the perfect candidate for your (insert job here) role. This guy or gal has everything you’re looking for: great experience, sterling references, and a personality that fits well within your organization. Let’s face it: they are the bee’s knees.

Now, the only thing that has stopped you from making an offer is waiting for you on your desk—the background check results. You furiously scan the document to make sure there are no red flags: verified education and employment . . .  check, stellar driving record . . . check, substance abuse test came back clean . . . check. But wait. No, this can’t be happening.  Your best candidate is a registered sex offender?


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Comprehensive Criminal Background Check

Ten years ago, it was hard to find reputable background screening companies that enthusiastically endorsed the use of commercial criminal databases with “millions and millions of records” as an effective screening tool. Quality was poor, holes were huge, information was incomplete, and prices were sky high.

Five years ago, background screening companies became, more or less, ambivalent. Results weren’t as bad and the cost dropped, but it still didn’t give enough bang for the buck. Technically called a multi-jurisdictional database search, the lingo used by the industry and employers, National Database, suggested a level of completeness and accuracy that wasn’t there in reality.

Fast forward to today. EmployeeScreenIQ, along with other background screening companies, proudly turn that paradigm on its head. In our experience, we believe that a multi-jurisdictional database search should be part of every comprehensive criminal background check. Not because of what it finds. But because of what it doesn’t.

Now why on earth would a background screening company accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) endorse a product because of what it doesn’t find? This is my explanation: At its core, the National Database is just a compilation of data assembled from jurisdictions nationwide.

There is no uniformity regarding the completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information. Some counties, towns, and states participate, while others do not. Some provide all of their records. Some don’t. Some provide data quickly…you get the point. In sum, it’s a data dump. It hits our system looking nothing like what our clients see on a final report.

What it’s not: An easy-to-read report, with 8-10 lines, clearly indicating felony or misdemeanor, guilty or not guilty, the date of the offense.

What it is: Pages of criminal cases and hundreds of lines of raw, often contradictory data. At that point, we have three tasks as the background screening provider:

  1. We filter through to determine whether the information is or isn’t your candidate.
  2. If it is, we fill in the missing details. Knowing whether it’s your candidate means little if you don’t know what the conviction is. But it’s still a database search with many holes.
  3. Our third job is to verify and corroborate in conjunction with a traditional county court search, which meets the accuracy, thoroughness and up to date standard set forth by the FCRA…and lets our clients sleep well at night.

The problem was, this process cost more, took longer, and at the end of the day, almost always wasn’t the client’s candidate. When a candidate had records, we previously found on average, 13 of them, 89% of which were false positives (not your candidate after all). We didn’t report this information on the final report, but boy did it take a lot of time to filter it out. Using new methods, the false positive rate has dropped by 71%, and the number of records our team filters through has dropped 63%. These internal enhancements mean our clients can realize faster turnaround time, without compromising accuracy or quality.

It is crucial to point out that conducting this search does not guarantee every record that could be found will be found. Significant holes still exist. Any client that uses this tool as their primary background check strategy and in lieu of county court searches will miss many, many records. This product remains simply a tool to cast a wider net.

However, since the quality of the data has improved, and the percentage of false positives has dropped, and it has now become cost efficient, this database is sufficient for use in a criminal background check, at least in part. We consider it a strong complementary tool and look forward to working with our clients who want to expand the quality of their programs.

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