Background Checks Gone Wild Hurt Us All

Nick Fishman

An Illinois man is suing both his former employer and their background screening provider because they errantly reported that he was a registered sex offender and didn’t take the time to ensure that the record found actually belonged to him.

Stories like this really get my blood boiling because they make us all look bad.  The perception is that all employment screeners don’t care whether they report accurate information or not and that employers blindly make hiring decisions without allowing the candidate to refute the information.  It is also stories like these that cause government agencies and advocates to scream that employers are misusing background checks and that the practice requires further regulation and guidelines.

Here’s the story according to ABC News:

“In October 2010, [Samuel] Jackson was offered a job as a live chat response specialist for Optics Planet, an Illionois-based online catalog for binoculars, camera lenses and other optical equipment. The company then contracted Infotrack to run a background track, and Infotrack returned information tying Jackson to seven ‘possible matches’ from the national sex offender registry, according to the suit.”

“The background check misidentified Jackson, who is a white male in his twenties, as a black male in his fifties who had been convicted of sex crimes in states where Jackson has never lived.”

We’ve talked for years about the importance of confirming and verifying the information that is found before reporting it to an employer.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires Consumer Reporting Agencies to follow reasonable procedures to assure accuracy and to notify individuals when a report may adversely affect their job application.

In EmployeeScreenIQ’s case, we won’t report a record without confirming the proper identifiers.  We look for a combination of the following matches name, date of birth and, or social security number.  That means a name match only is not sufficient to authenticate a criminal record.

Furthermore, we work with our clients to ensure that they provide the candidates’ with proper notice when they take adverse action and allow them to dispute any information they believe is erroneous.

In this case, it seems that neither of these things happened.  And rather than face the negative publicity, the expense of litigation and potential damages, it would have been a heck of a lot easier to just follow the proper protocol.

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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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    I agree with this. We have to be very careful when we provide red reports against candidates. Reporting a candidate a sex offender is much more serious. Background checks in India are really tedious. They are all physical. Online records still are way behind in India. But when I see issues like this I feel its good that we dont have online records. We have to physically conduct checks and and red reports reported go with proper attestations and evidence.
    Thanks for such posts. Keeps us informed………..