NAPBS Conference Focuses on Criminal Background Checks

Jason Morris

The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) met last week in Washington D.C. for the 2014 Legislative and Regulatory Conference. The conference brought together over 300 background screeners, regulators, and lawmakers for an annual event in the Capitol. Note that this recap includes observations based on my role with EmployeeScreenIQ and reflects my views as a provider of background checks—the content of this post does not reflect the views of NAPBS.

The conference kicked off on Monday April 7th with two polar opposite keynote speakers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Jacqueline Berrien addressed attendees first and was followed by a dramatically different message from Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. So, how were these two speakers received? Let’s just say that only one speaker received a standing ovation—and it wasn’t Chair Berrien.

In her statement, Chair Berrien was gracious and appreciative for the opportunity to speak to a group with members who have been openly critical of the EEOC’s actions. She mentioned the importance of the EEOC’s interaction with stakeholders and the fact that NAPBS is a key stakeholder. This remark was interesting considering the Commission’s complete lack of transparency when they issued the 2012 guidance, “Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” In fact, the guidance was issued without any prior review or comment from stakeholders—including the NAPBS. This has resulted in overall confusion and uncertainty for Consumer Reporting Agencies and their clients.

Berrien repeated a message that I have often heard over the past two years from the EEOC, which is that not much changed in the new guidance. However, she then contradicted herself, explaining everything the commission had done to clarify the changes in the guidance—including a “myth busters” publication and a FAQ document.

Then in a particularly puzzling moment, she blamed the need for new guidance primarily on the Internet, downplaying the role of El v. SEPTA, a decision that is widely recognized as providing the impetus for new guidance. The EEOC continues to defend the guidance stating that it’s nothing new—merely a restatement of existing law and Title VII. The question is—where in Title VII does it say anything about individualized assessments?

Later that morning, we heard from Georgia Attorney General, Sam Olens. His message was simple—companies deserve clarity. He challenged the notion that the EEOC has been clear enough in providing employers with adequate information to comply with the law, calling out the absurdity of some of the examples provided in the EEOC guidance. He posed the question—in what universe should the Boy Scouts be required to conduct an individualized assessment for a convicted sex offender in consideration of a hiring decision?

Olens called out the EEOC and demanded that they provide greater clarity, in order to help companies avoid becoming the subject of costly civil lawsuits. While the intentions and mission of the EEOC are admirable, they are simply not based on the law. Needless to say, Olens boarded his flight back to Georgia with the sound of applause still ringing in his ears.

The NAPBS Mid-Year Legislative and Regulatory Conference also featured a panel of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff, who discussed its recent joint publication with the EEOC. While the report does very little to clarify the two agencies’ policies on many issues, the FTC has always welcomed comment and dialogue. In line with this, the FTC staff encouraged attendees to contact its office with questions or concerns.

The good news is that the EEOC and the FTC were open to attending the meeting in order to continue the dialogue with background screening companies. Overall, more than 300 representatives within the background screening industry walked away with fresh insight from federal and state officials—even if they didn’t like everything they heard.

The NAPBS Mid-Year Legislative and Regulatory Conference also featured a day on Capitol Hill for association members to meet with Members of Congress and key staff. Those meetings allowed for continued conversation with key committees and Members of Congress. The success of this annual event will continue to improve the background screening industry—which positively influences employers and job candidates as well.

 

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Jason Morris

President & Chief Operating Officer at EmployeeScreenIQ
A veteran screening and risk management professional, Jason Morris founded EmployeeScreenIQ in 1999 and acts as the company’s chief operating officer and president. Morris is a frequent speaker delivering captivating, interactive discussions on background checks, global screening, recruitment and staffing. He educates audiences in best practice initiatives as they relate to organizational employment screening programs. Morris has been quoted in numerous business and industry publications including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, USA Today, New York Times, among others. He is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.
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