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Resume Lies

A little resume lie never hurt anyone…right? Tell that to Steve Masiello, most recently a coach at Manhattan College, now on leave due to a potential discrepancy on his resume. It’s been 14 years since he supposedly graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of Kentucky, where he played for the Wildcats from 1996-2000.

While being screened for a coaching position at the University of South Florida, they conducted a resume verification on Masiello and inevitably discovered that he did not earn the degree listed on his resume. This discrepancy could be a blatant lie or perhaps a misunderstanding, but either way keep reading to find out how this discrepancy remained hidden for so long.


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Compliance Pre-employment screening

For those interested in staying up-to-date with the latest in compliance for pre-employment background screening and the laws that affect your use of employment background checks, follow our publication, BTW: Your Guide to Staying Out of Hot Water. This compliance resource has been created by our VP of Compliance and General Counsel, Angela Preston, and is a must-read for human resources and security professionals.

The March issue of BTW features our article, No Evidence of Injury Required: Spokeo Loses Appeal in FCRA Claim. Angela shares the details of a four-year-old case against Spokeo, charged with providing inaccurate information to employers and recruiters. Read More

Our second story brings you information on the recent agreement established between the New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and four of the largest background screening companies in the country. Beginning with the accusation that these companies were sending automatic rejection letters to candidates with criminal records, this agreement was created to end this practice. Read More

Our third story shares the news that yet another city has “banned the box.” The city of San Francisco will soon limit employers from asking candidates about criminal history until after the first in-person interview. Read More   


March BTW

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Compliance Employment Background Checks

You may already know that Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) litigation has picked up some steam over the past year. While recent class actions continue to grab the headlines, an appellate ruling in a four-year-old case is causing a buzz.

Injury In Fact?

Spokeo makes an encore appearance here in BTW as the defendant in a case that has been festering in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s an FCRA case, and the issue is damages.

The last time we checked in with Spokeo, the company was losing the battle with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over whether or not it was a consumer reporting agency that could be held accountable for providing employment reports under the FCRA. The company paid a substantial fine ($800K) for its trouble, and was sued for allegedly reporting misinformation to employers and recruiters on its website.

A complaint, originally brought by Thomas Robins on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, alleged that inaccurate information on Spokeo’s website was a “willful” violation of the FCRA. Spokeo was initially successful in arguing that the plaintiff’s claims were without merit since Robins, while admittedly unemployed, had not suffered any “actual or imminent harm”—a required element of a cause of action under the statute. Read more about that decision almost two years ago here.

At long last we have a decision on the appeal. In a surprising decision, the appellate court overturned the decision, lowering the threshold of actual damages for future FCRA claims.

How low, you ask?

How about NO damages? Zero. Zip. It doesn’t get much lower than that.

The Facts About Mr. Robins

Robins alleged that his Spokeo profile included a laundry list of inaccuracies: wrong age, wrong marital status, and wrong photo. Not all of the information was negative or even unflattering. Interestingly, the website reported that he had a graduate degree (he did not), that his economic health was “very strong” and that his “wealth level” was in the “top 10%”—all false, according to the plaintiff.

Call me crazy, but if I found out that a website was misleading the world into thinking I was a member of the highly paid, elite, upper echelon of society, I might not complain. But Robins made a good point—while being financially stable is not considered a negative (at least by most people), it doesn’t exactly help your job prospects to have a web site touting your great wealth.  The unemployed Robins claimed that the inaccurate information was costing him jobs, “causing actual harm to Plaintiff’s employment prospects” as well as “anxiety, stress, concern and/or worry about his diminished employment prospects.”

The Appellate Decision

Spokeo argued throughout the litigation that Robins had no claim under the FCRA because he made no showing of actual harm. But the Appellate court found otherwise. It held that because the allegations were for willful violations and statutory damages, and statutory causes of action do not require a showing of actual harm when a plaintiff sues for willful violations, no actual harm was needed.

The court cited the statute’s language at 15 U.S.C. § 1681n(a):

Any person who willfully fails to comply with any requirement imposed under this subchapter with respect to any consumer is liable to that consumer in an amount equal to . . . damages of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 . . . .”).[i]

The court’s decision hinged on the claim of willful violations and a claim for statutory damages only. It completely sidestepped the issue of whether Robin’s alleged harm to his employment prospects or related anxiety could be sufficient injuries in fact. Robins and Spokeo now go back to the drawing board—in district court.

Word to the wise: This case is sure to add fuel to the fire for FCRA claims, opening the door for additional plaintiffs making claims for willful violations without having suffered any actual harm or injury in fact.

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Employment background checks

This week’s wrap up has it all—from background checks in the state of Illinois, to a recent agreement between four background screening companies and the New York Attorney General, to our new article with 5 steps to compliance when your candidate has a criminal record. As always, subscribe to our blog to receive immediate updates on the latest news and trends in the background screening industry.

Cold Weather Be Darned: Illinois is Great for Employment Background Checks

The state of Illinois has it going on when it comes to employment background checks. Unlike its border state Michigan, there are very few obstacles to conducting criminal background checks. There are no counties that mandate clerk research, and court access fees are few, inexpensive, and far between. Read More

New York Attorney General Blasts Background Screening Process

Last week a press release from the New York Attorney General’s office raised some eyebrows about background screening practices—not an uncommon headline these days. According to the release “Four of the nation’s largest background check agencies” entered into an agreement with New York A.G. Eric T. Schneiderman concerning compliance with New York laws designed to protect job applicants from discrimination. Read More

To Hire or Not to Hire: 5 Steps to Compliance When Your Candidate Has a Criminal Record

For most companies, it goes without saying that you should conduct employment background checks to verify education and employment, confirm credentials, and search criminal history. However, when the background check results come in and a criminal record is found on your candidate’s background check—what steps should you take? Read More

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Compliance Criminal Background Check

To hire, or not to hire…that is indeed the question. Employers review qualifications, skills, and typically, the results of an employment background check to determine if a candidate is not only eligible for a position, but if they would be a good fit for the company.

For most companies, it goes without saying that you should conduct employment background checks to verify education and employment, confirm credentials, and search criminal history. However, when the background check results come in and a criminal record is found on your candidate’s background check—what steps should you take?

Our new guide, Keep It Legal: 5 Steps to Compliance When Your Candidate Has a Criminal Record, will help you to develop a policy designed to improve your hiring practices and keep legal peril at bay.

Download the article to learn more about:

  • EEOC and FCRA regulations and other legal considerations
  • Developing a hiring matrix with consistent guidelines
  • Navigating the ins and outs of individualized assessments
  • The two-step adverse action process
  • Handling candidates who dispute background check results

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Last week a press release from the New York Attorney General’s office raised some eyebrows about background screening practices—not an uncommon headline these days. The release announced that “four of the nation’s largest background check agencies” entered into an agreement with New York A.G. Eric T. Schneiderman concerning compliance with New York laws designed to protect job applicants from discrimination.

The agreement prohibits the firms from engaging in the automatic disqualification of applicants who have criminal backgrounds—something that we can all agree is a bad practice. Based on the information contained in the press release, the named companies were called out for sending automatic rejection letters to candidates with criminal records.


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An event held on March 6th at the US Chamber of Commerce took a closer look at employment background checks and why they matter to employers and the public. The event, titled “Background Checks and Employment: Why Background Checks Matter and the EEOC’s Current Enforcement Practices” brought together private business leaders, legal practitioners, health care providers, non-profits, and the media to discuss the current legal and regulatory climate for background screening.

Employers participating in the discussion cited public safety as the overriding and number one reason for conducting criminal background checks. Other reasons included mitigating the risk for civil liability for negligent hiring, decreasing the risk of fraud or theft in the workplace, and overall workplace safety and security. Statistics shared by the Consumer Data Industry Association showed that public opinion widely supports the use of criminal conviction information, with 90.7 percent of people surveyed supporting some use of conviction information in hiring. [...]

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Candidate Experience Background Checks

Behind every employment background check is the employer who requested it, and behind every request is a nervous job candidate. It’s important to remember that each background check represents a real person seeking a job, and that the information reported could make or break a job opportunity. Our panelists address the essential role background screening plays in creating a red carpet experience for every candidate. In addition, they share the steps employers should take to ensure their screening program meets this high standard.

As an employer, you might wonder, how can I ensure that my candidates have a positive experience? While you’re probably not conducting the background checks yourself, you should follow a few key steps to calm your candidate’s nerves.

As a background screening provider, we keep the impact that our services have on individuals at the forefront of our minds. Hiring managers conduct a background check to qualify candidates for a position. The experience candidates have could affect the company as these candidates might be customers of the company where they apply. If they have a negative experience, there’s no doubt that they will tell everyone they know—which could directly impact your brand. At the end of the day, we want to help employers provide job candidates with the best possible experience as it relates to employment background checks.

How do you create a positive candidate experience?

1. Transparency

  • For our clients, we work with them to ensure they are ordering the services that they really need. In addition, we encourage clients to share with their candidates the kind of background check they are doing as well as the information they are looking for. Candidates might have questions too, so we want to equip employers to answer those questions.

2. Accuracy

  • As a key part of our company mission and No Shortcuts philosophy, EmployeeScreenIQ works to provide the most accurate background check results. Related to the candidate experience, we want to assure clients that we are giving them the most accurate report so that the results do not lead to a candidate disputing the information, which could prolong the hiring process.
  • If inaccurate information is reported, it’s important to inform applicants that they will have the opportunity to dispute information. This includes sending pre-adverse and adverse action notifications.

3. Disputes

  • If there is a dispute, be sure to provide frequent updates to your candidate.
  • Make sure that your background screening provider is addressing the dispute in a timely fashion and is responsive to your candidate.

So employers, the bottom line is that you should recognize that applicants are nervous—whether or not they have something to hide. Be transparent about the process with applicants and also ensure that you are receiving the most accurate results from your screening provider. And if you do see recurring problems, it might be time to reevaluate your provider. And lastly, be understanding about disputes—sometimes you can’t leave a position open for very long, but in some cases, the applicant’s information could be incorrect and you want to allow time so that the dispute can be settled.

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.

Related EmployeeScreenIQ Content:

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Employment Background Checks in Illinois

I have a confession to make: I hate Chicago-style pizza and I don’t get Illinoisans fascination with it. I mean come on! It’s like a slab of concrete. And what’s with the sauce on top of the cheese? Really?

So maybe we don’t know pizza, but the state of Illinois has it going on when it comes to employment background checks. Unlike its border state Michigan, there are very few obstacles to conducting criminal background checks. There are no counties that mandate clerk research, and court access fees are few, inexpensive, and far between. So whether you’re in Chicago, Springfield, Aurora, Naperville, Waukegan, Peoria, Champagne–Urbana or Rockford–that equals lower background check costs and faster turnaround time for employers.

County Criminal Searches

There are 102 counties in the state and criminal records are available each county’s circuit court. It’s no surprise that the most frequently requested counties for research are the counties that encompass the Chicago-land area: Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, Will and McHenry.

While Illinois has a state repository for criminal records, individual counties are not mandated to report all convictions. There also isn’t a unified mandate for frequency of reporting among the counties. The repository has a vast number of arrest records and because there is no standard for reporting identifiers, confirming possible records can be time consuming and cumbersome. However, as with any other state, the best practice for background checks is to conduct research at the county level.

Illinois-Specific Sentencing Guidelines

Like every state, Illinois has some interesting sentencing guidelines. In addition to guilty or not guilty, judges have the option to impose “Supervision”. In essence, Supervision means that the person was found or pled guilty, however the judge will assign a fixed time period in which the individual must meet specific criteria. If the individual successfully completes their Supervision criteria, the conviction is wiped away. During this time and upon successful completion, employers cannot treat the record as a conviction.

Consumer Laws and Regulations

There are no pre-emptions to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, so everything is straight forward there–standard release forms and consumer notification responsibilities apply.  Background screening companies must have an Illinois private investigation license to perform work in the state.

Employment Credit Checks Restrictions

The state of Illinois does impose restrictions on employers’ ability to conduct credit checks on prospective employees, however, there are reasonable exemptions for those that really need this information. See below.

  • State or federal law requires bonding or other security covering an individual holding the position.
  • The duties of the position include custody of or unsupervised access to cash or marketable assets valued at $2,500 or more.
  • The duties of the position include signatory power over business assets of $100 or more per transaction.
  • The position is a managerial position which involves setting the direction or control of the business. (5) The position involves access to personal or confidential information, financial information, trade secrets, or State or national security information.
  • The position meets criteria in administrative rules, if any, that the U.S. Department of Labor or the Illinois Department of Labor has promulgated to establish the circumstances in which a credit history is a bona fide occupational requirement.
  • The employee’s or applicant’s credit history is otherwise required by or exempt under federal or State law.

And you want to talk about swift criminal justice? The last two Illinois governors are convicted felons. But don’t despair. The state still has its beloved 1985 Bears, Iron Mike Ditka, Da Bulls, the Chicawgo Blackhawks, Hot Dawgs and Brats and the perennial cellar-dweller Chicago Cubs. So employers, between this and employer-friendly background checks, what more could you ask for?

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Employment Background Checks

Happy Friday! It’s been awhile since our last weekly wrap up, so I wanted to highlight a few posts from the last week or so. Nick shared about a recent issue we’ve seen with delayed background checks for veterans seeking employment. We also posted an update on ban the box, with San Francisco being the latest city to eliminate the question on job applications that asks about criminal history. And lastly, we posted feedback on the official statements from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding the EEOC guidance.

Military Employment Background Checks Slowing Down Hiring

Former president George W. Bush took to the airwaves this week to announce a worthy program he is launching to help veterans transition back to civilian life and treat those that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. In doing so, President Bush pointed out that unemployment rates for veterans now hovers at an alarming rate of approximately 10% and while this number has decreased since last year (11.7%), the overall U.S. unemployment rate is just beneath 7%. Read More

San Francisco Joins the Growing Number to Ban the Box

It’s official—San Francisco has banned the box. Employers in the city or county of San Francisco may no longer inquire about criminal history on employment applications or during interviews. Titled the The Fair Chance Ordinance, No. 17-14, the new law goes into effect on August 13, 2014 and prohibits both private and public employers with at least 20 employees from asking about a criminal past on the job application or in an initial interview. Read More

U.S. Civil Rights Commissioners Take EEOC to Task on Background Checks

As many of your know, I had the privilege of providing testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at their hearing on the impact of criminal background checks and the EEOC’s conviction policy on the employment of Black and Hispanic workers in December of 2012. After great debate and deliberation, the commission released their official statements regarding the hearing in mid-February. Read More

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