Whips, Chains, Handcuffs and Background Checks in California: A Comedy of Errors

Nick Fishman

What do you get when you buy $320,000 worth of televisions, a hot tubs and gazebos and electronics, pornographic videos, handcuffs, chains and whips?  Some might call that a great night. But when the $320,000 used to buy these items was embezzled by an employee from her employer, in this case, the state of California, the answer is that she gets another job with the state.

Such is the case of Carey Renee Moore, a California civil service worker who was, in fact convicted on felony embezzlement charges and served time in prison for her transgressions. When she was released from prison, naturally she applied for another civil service job with the state. I know what you’re thinking, there’s no way she’s getting that job.

Well guess what? You’re wrong. Why, you might ask?

The state of California didn’t bother to perform an employment background check, at least not a criminal background check. Instead they simply consulted her employee file which by law didn’t include the conviction information because she resigned her position before she was convicted.

Rather than harp on a silly thing like “why didn’t you hire a background screening company?”, let’s focus on how a state ban the box law bit them in the old derriere.

In 2010, the state removed the following two questions from their job applications:

  • Have you ever been convicted by any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?
  • Have you ever been convicted by any court of a felony?”

So now, we’re 0 for 2. The state didn’t conduct the background check and they didn’t ask about past convictions. And with no adverse information uncovered in their “trusty employment screening program”, they proceeded to hire her.

After she was hired, someone brought Ms. Moore’s past to the state’s attention. The state then fired her for falsifying her application. Only one problem: she didn’t falsify her application. They never asked. And now, she’s suing the state for wrongful termination. Who think’s 0 for 3 is within striking distance?

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the state might want to take a careful look at both their background screening practices and whether ban-the-box legislation is really in their best interest.

Want to learn more about employment background checks in the state of California? Click here for an employers’ guide to state considerations.

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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  • Jay Adams

    Way to choose one isolated incident to highlight. Why not analyze the many positive examples Ban the Box has contributed in the over 50 cities and states it has been implemented? Job preservation perhaps?

  • Even if you are inclined to keep those 2 questions from the initial application, checking criminal records upon a conditional offer of employment is key. However, I have always believed that the question served a wonderful purpose. It did allow for the “lied on application” defense. Either way, doing nothing will indeed “bite you in the derriere”! I will be sharing this.

  • Brenda Allen

    Let me think if I am surprised by these turn of events…Nope, I’m not. This case illustrates the need for careful consideration of ALL sides of the “ban-the-box” issue. I totally agree that people deserve a second chance. The ONLY way they are going to rise above their past is by moving forward. Hard to do when doors close automatically when a criminal record comes to light. There are the “young and dumb” who are now a whole lot wiser that can be employed in a lot of different fields and would be totally successful if given that chance. Then there are those who will never learn no matter how many times they are given the opportunities. Those are the ones that screw it up for any who follow them. I’m not saying that discretion and caution shouldn’t be used. I am 100% convinced that the only way to ensure as safe hire as possible is by utilizing background screens. I think they should be used as part of the hiring process, not the alpha and omega of the process.

  • Kris Geraths

    I agree with Brenda. The state failed to take advantage of finding this information prior to the hire. Hiring is a process which should include proper due diligence: reference checking, background checks and good interview questions. As Nick said, 0-3. Great story!

  • Nick Fishman

    Sorry it took me so long to respond on this. I am in complete agreement with both Brenda and Kim on this issue. Jay, my guess that you wouldn’t be so supportive of the state’s actions if the person was a violent criminal.