Background Checks, Hiring Matrices & A Retraction of Sorts

Nick Fishman

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Last month, we published a white paper on the potential liabilities incurred by employers that use adjudication modules or hiring matrices to make employment decisions when adverse information is found on a background check.  And to any of you who read the material, or followed us over the years, you know that we have big concerns when it comes to this practice.  Why?  Because time and time again we see employers getting in trouble for their use.  Sometimes it’s their fault for developing a matrix that runs afoul of the law and sometimes it’s because they are using a matrix that was given to them by another company or CRA that does not fully contemplate their needs.

After publishing this white paper, I received an email from a competitor whom I know and respect asking me to recall the material.  Among other things, he felt that the material damned all employers and background screeners who employ this practice and that it suggested that adjudication modules could never be legally adopted.  He also believes that background screeners who offer this service (in full disclosure, we offer the service but are not big advocates of it), differentiate themselves and dissuade the marketplace of the notion that a background check is a commodity.

So, here’s my response.  The white paper was intended to create awareness and point out how those that engage in this practice can unknowingly take on liability.  At EmployeeScreenIQ, we’ve always taken the approach that we want employers to understand how to operate their screening program effectively, efficiently and within the confines of the law.  We also want to ensure that they understand the potential liabilities of certain practices so that they can make an informed decision about what is best for them. We see far too many employers that don’t have or are not given all of the facts make decisions without understanding the risks.  We felt and feel that this white paper pointed out those risks and even offered advice for how employers using hiring matrices can avoid some of these liabilities.

That said, we did some soul searching and decided that we would modify the content slightly to allow for the fact that a sophisticated hiring matrix can be created to address differences in job responsibilities, local reporting laws and similar charges in states that do not have the same meaning.  The only thing we modified was the following paragraph:

A matrix that doesn’t distinguish between local charges such as these [in this case, theft by check in Texas compared to the same charge elsewhere], nor consider the differences among conviction reporting restrictions or the relevance of job responsibilities, can expose the employer to significant liability.

As far as the sentiment that not providing this service commoditizes our product, I couldn’t disagree more.  When an employer looks at a red, green or yellow dot or a hire, review, don’t hire conclusion and chooses not to review the contents of a report, I believe that signifies that the information contained within is unimportant.

So at the end of the day, I apologize to anyone who read the original document and concluded that adjudication modules are either illegal or wrong in every instance.  The idea was merely to make employers aware of the potential liabilities.  I believe we did that and the modification we made makes that clear.

Feel free to download a copy here (no registration required).

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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